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Microsoft launches first 3D printing app

Posting in Technology
Earlier this year, Microsoft said it wanted to make 3D printing as easy as it is to print on paper with built-in 3D printer support in the new Windows 8.1. 

Now Microsoft is continuing its support for 3D printing with the launch of its new app, 3D Builder.

The new app makes 3D printing as simple as choosing a design, like an ornament or toy, from the catalog of designs already made and printing (as long as you have Windows 8.1 and a 3D printer that's compatible with Windows 8.1). According to Microsoft, desktop 3D printing companies, like 3D Systems, MakerBot and TierTime, are all expected to support Windows 8.1 "in time for the holiday season."

The new app also lets you import your own designs. But as Fast Company points out, you can't build new objects in the app. That's because "Microsoft is attempting to cater to almost anyone but the traditional maker."

3D printer sales are expected to double this year. Still, the market is currently in the hundreds of millions. So why is Microsoft putting so much energy into 3D printing? In June, Shanen Boettcher, General Manager of the Startup Business Group at Microsoft, said in a blog post, that the company sees 3D printing going mainstream. Maybe not in terms of mass production, but definitely in individual customization.

"Instead, people will use 3D printing to make custom creations. Why settle for off-the shelf trophies for your daughter’s soccer team, when you can make unique, personalized awards? Why wait two weeks to order a small plastic part for the salad box of your refrigerator, when you can just print it at home in a few minutes? Broken hinge? Make it. New product idea? Make it," Boettcher said.

And being such a major company, Microsoft is hoping it can provide a boost to that reality.

— By on November 18, 2013, 10:33 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure