3D printing is on its way to a more commercial market with Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft investing in developing 3D technology. Last week at 3D Print Week in NYC, J Scott Schiller, Worldwide Business Director of Hewlett-Packard 3D Printing, hinted that a consortium was forming between big technology companies to streamline the 3D printing process. Recently, more details have emerged on the future plans of Microsoft’s involvement in this consortium.
Microsoft was ahead of the game, when they added 3D printing support into Windows 8.1 in 2013. They wanted to treat the process of printing 3D files the same as one would print out a word document. But, in retrospect Microsoft realized that their software was a little too simplified to capture more complex and attribute-rich 3D files. Microsoft is addressing the challenge that is plain as day: the .STL file format can no longer keep up with the complex capabilities of modeling software and 3D printers.
This Thursday, April 30th, at Build 2015, Microsoft is set to announce a new file format for 3D printing that will be built into Windows 10, which is set for release as early as July 2015. Gavin Gear, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, said recently that,“to empower people, maximize productivity, and unlock the full capabilities of this technology, a new file format is needed.”
He continued to describe the ideal 3D printing file, and it sounds pretty good:
It should align CAD software, 3D printing hardware and software on a more information-rich file format, specifically designed to support the needs of modern 3D printing. The file format must support information interchange throughout the entire 3D printing process, from CAD application to printer. The file format must contain a complete definition of the printed model, in a way that allows unambiguous and accurate processing of the model. Finally, the file format must be practical, simple to understand and easy to implement.
This new file will allow extra information that .STL files have difficulty processing, like color, surface texture, etc. This is a big step for Microsoft and 3D printing in general, as it seems Microsoft has found a way to significantly enrich one’s ability to 3D print complex objects, while significantly simplifying the process for users. We will let you know more of the details of this exciting new file format and anything else Microsoft announces about 3D printing development as soon as more details emerge after Thursday’s presentation at Microsoft’s Build Development Conference.