Microsoft adds 3D printing via Cloud to application

Users will be able to print 3D models for home delivery in Microsoft's 3D Builder app

Microsoft is extending its 3D modeling and printing application to the Cloud, allowing users to create and print 3D objects with unconventional materials such as metals and ceramics.

Users of Microsoft's 3D Builder application will be able to create 3D models, get them printed remotely, and then get the end product delivered to their doorstep. Microsoft has tied up with 3D Systems, which offers a Cloud-based 3D printing service called Cubify.

Microsoft has integrated 3D printing via Cubify into the 3D Builder application. Customers will be able to place orders within the application.

"From the designing process, users are directly and seamlessly linked to Cubify where they can order their design to be shipped to their doorstep within 2 weeks," said 3D Systems in a blog entry on Tuesday.

The 3D Builder app, which has been updated, is already able to print objects locally via 3D printers attached to computers. The new service will be useful for those who don't own 3D printers and want to use material beyond plastics.

"Microsoft's 3D Builder R5 gives you access to expanded material options beyond what is typically offered by consumer 3D printers. Materials range from opaque and frosted plastics, to metallic and mixed plastics, to full-color 'Colorstone' and even ceramics," 3D Systems said.

The application has also been updated for better accuracy in creation of 3D models.

3D printers are expensive, and most consumer models don't support multiple colors or materials outside of plastics. 3D Systems' Cubify Cloud service, which has been around for some time, is already being used to make 3D bands, light cases and robots.

3D Systems has also teamed up with Google to manufacture modules for the customisable Project Ara smartphone. Project Ara's antenna module is being made with metals that can carry signal and current.

The explosion of 3D printing has given rise to multiple remote printing services. Staples is offering 3D printing services at three stores in the US where customers can walk in and get objects 3D printed. The 3D printer has been likened to a copier, with people going to a store rather than doing in-home printing.

The promise of 3D printing has not yet been fully been realized. 3D printers have been used to construct buildings, and has been used by General Electric to manufacture airline parts.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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