Companies like MakerBot and Stratasys continue to push the 3D scanning and printing initiative into the home on the hardware side, a move that isn't going unnoticed by those that build software. As such, Microsoft is stepping up to the plate with plans to make 3D printing as effortless as 2D printing through Windows 8.1.
The problem with 3D printing as it stands is that you have to content with multiple file formats throughout the process, multiple 3D printing apps and devices that may not always work well together and not losing metadata or other fine details from files / scans.
Skipping past the technical jargon for a moment, all you'll need to do in Windows 8.1 to perform a 3D print job is click File -> Print just as you would with a text file or spreadsheet then select your options and click print. Users will have access to a wealth of basic printing options including spooling and queue management, just to name a few. Windows will take care of the rest, Microsoft says.
Key to Microsoft's 3D printing is a new XML-based data format known as 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF). The format will include everything a 3D printer needs to know to perform a print job and it'll even be open to 3D printer companies to add their own custom data.
At last check, Windows 8.1 is expected to be released by mid-October as a free update to all current Windows 8 users.