Remember the days when you had to go monkeying around with printer driver software just to get your new inkjet to output in color? Over the years, Windows has made it so easy to use a a printer that you usually don't even have to touch the settings or insert an install disc to get things running. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft promises to make 3D printing just as easy as outputting images or text on paper.
At its Build conference keynote, Microsoft showed off Windows 8.1's new built-in 3D printer support by creating a virtual version of a plastic vase and then starting to print it on a MakerBot Replicator 2. This device costs a fairly steep $2,199, but it looks like Windows 8 will be ready to pounce as this trend spreads to the masses.
Because the printing process takes a long time, Microsoft simply showed a time-lapsed video of an object printing here at Build, rather than actually creating it on stage. However, we were able to see that, from the Windows 8.1 3D modeling program, it was just as easy for a Microsoft rep to click print as it is for us to start printing in Microsoft Word.
Microsoft also announced that is going to start carrying the MakerBot Replicator 2 in its stores. Add that to Staples' recent decision to stock another brand of 3D printer and 2013 could be the year that this emerging technology goes mainstream.