Microsoft launches free 3D printing app for consumers
Microsoft is hoping to bring 3D printing to the masses with the launch of a free 3D printing app for Windows 8.1 devices.
3D Builder hit the Windows Store in Australia and the US last week and will be progressively rolled out to other countries.
The company said it wanted to make it easy for consumers to experience 3D printing at home with one touch.
Microsoft already sells 3D printers from Makerbot through its retail stores in the US and Canada. Until now, hobbyists and 3D printing enthusiasts had to use open source software and or professional computer-aided design (CAD) systems to print models and prototypes, but Windows machines did not automatically recognise the printers they output to.
Now, the app will download drivers of three known consumer printer models including 3D Cube, Makerbot and Tiertime - to Windows 8.1 devices. It will work on Surface Pro 2 tablets, laptops and notebooks but not on Surface RT as it does not allow driver installations.
Similar to clip art, the app will have stock standard designs - from toys to household ideas like napkin rings - and will allow others to be uploaded.
A three-decade-old technology, 3D printing is only now entering the consumer market. The first home 3D printers are on sale online for about $1000-$2500 and are expected to hit big retail stores by year's end around $1500.
The writer travelled to the Microsoft campus as a guest of the company.