Windows 8.1 is fixing a lot of the problems people had with Microsoft's newest operating system last November, but it's also adding a lot of really cool features. Case in point - a native 3D printing API.
So, how big is this? In short, it's pretty big.
At its annual BUILD developer conference, Microsoft announced that it's building 3D printing right into Windows 8.1 through a native API. The change benefits pretty much everybody involved in the 3D printing space. Here's what Steve Clayton over at the Next At Microsoft blog had to say about it:
For app builders, it offers an application programming interface (API) for app developers to send their 3D models to, just like apps have been able to with 2D printing for a long time. For hardware developers, they can provide drivers that are automatically downloaded and configured when the user plugs in their new 3D printer. Windows 8.1 provides the helpful job spooling, print queue management, and UI support that it always has. And what’s great about this is that app builders can send their content to lots of 3D printers with no special work for each device – including those that haven’t even been designed when the app is shipped. For 3D printer devices, one of the challenges has been getting lots of interesting content to print. Now, these 3D printers can get content from any app that supports 3D printing in Windows 8.1, with no special work for each app, and even work automatically with apps that ship in the future.
The reason behind this development is that Microsoft believes that 3D printing is about to go mainstream. It want Windows to be the premier destination for 3D printing once it does. It's even going to start selling 3D printers at Microsoft Stores across the country.
In even more exciting news, MakerBot is coming right out of the gate with a new 3D printer driver for Windows 8.1 that offers "plug-n-play and seamless end-to-end printing from a wide variety of applications directly to the MakerBot." Speaking of which, MakerBot's Replicator 2 3D printer is one of the first 3D printers you'll be able to buy from the Microsoft Store.
Check out this video tutorial if you want to start developing 3D printing apps for Windows 8.1: