For years 3D printing was often derided as a fad, or a niche market and pretty roundly ignored by all of the major tech companies. Despite that, soon businesses started to learn that 3D printing can be incredibly valuable in an office environment, and the entire 3D printing industry has been growing exponentially ever since. While software companies like Microsoft seemed content to ignore the growing role that 3D printing was beginning to play in modern businesses, that left 3D printing companies on their own to develop software or workarounds. It wasn’t until Windows 10 that 3D printers even seemed to exist in Microsoft’s world, at least not on a consumer level.
While Microsoft has been dipping their toe in the 3D printed water for a few years, it has only been recently they they seem to be taking it a little more seriously. The latest Windows operating system surprised a lot of people when it included native 3D printer support for more than a dozen major 3D printer manufacturers. Microsoft had already developed their own 3D printing software, and they even made it work with Kinect so users could capture 3D scans and turn them into 3D printable objects. Despite their 3D Builder app not being as flexible or robust as options like Cura or Simplify3D, it was at least a start.
Then last week Microsoft revealed an app that would allow Windows users to add a 3D printer to an office or home network, just like any other piece of office equipment. While the app requires a Raspberry Pi to work, and is more toe dipping, the app is likely a precursor to supporting 3D printer networking natively on a wider scale. This week Microsoft took another step into pulling 3D printing into their office workflow by partnering with 3D printing software developer Materialise to begin offering their cloud-based 3D printing services in Microsoft products.
“At Microsoft, we are developing the Windows 3D Printing Platform to improve the ease with which people can download designs or create something new and original. By working with Materialise, we aim to further improve the 3D printing experience of our community by giving users easy, direct access to the multitude of high-quality materials and finishes available through i.materialise,” says Microsoft Group Program Manager Adrian Lannin.
Users of Microsoft 3D printing apps like 3D Builder will now be able to use the i.materialise 3D printing services platform directly from within the app and get printing estimates in real time. The i.materialise platform is powered by Materialise Magics 3D Print Suite, the Belgian company’s own robust and comprehensive professional 3D printing software that gives users in office environments access to all of Materialise’s services and products, including nineteen different materials and more than a hundred possible color and finish combinations. Materialise Magics is also fully-scalable, so it will work well with any sized business in almost any industry.
“Our 3D printing technology is the connective backbone for so many valuable applications, and together with our i.materialise consumer platform, we aim to give more consumers, home professionals and small businesses access to our wide range of in-house 3D printing technology, optimized by our innovative software. Today, we are excited to be collaborating with Microsoft to expand the reach of the benefits of professional, high-quality 3D Printing to an even greater audience,” said Materialise CTO, Bart Van der Schueren.
As the preferred supplier of Microsoft, Materialise will be the first online 3D printing option available to Windows 3D printing app users, and estimating and placing orders will be a simple and painless process. While i.materialise isn’t the only cloud-based 3D printing service provider available, they are certainly one of the industry leaders, and it’s easy to understand why Microsoft would choose them. Not only does Materialise employ the largest pool of software developers in the 3D printing industry, but they operate one of the largest 3D printing facilities in the world. Discuss this latest collaboration over in the Microsoft App Users to Enjoy i.materialise forum over at 3DPB.com.