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Microsoft is developing a service to automate 3D printing

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella apparently had a lot more in mind than cloud services and mobility when he laid out his plan to “reinvent productivity” following his appointment last year. A newly released patent filing suggests that Redmond is working on 3D fabrication software that aims to extend that vision to the maker community.

The specific claim of the application pertains to a technique for inscribing text on printed objects, which has traditionally required using external support structures when the letters are placed at an angle from which the liquid filament can slide off. Microsoft proposes an alternative approach involving a supportive mesh layered onto the item that keeps the liquid in place while it solidifies.

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That removes the need for makers to hassle themselves with rigid templates that have to be physically modified for every design change and manually removed after printing. However, the main highlight is not so much the technique itself but the fact the application specifies it’s implemented in a “fabrication manager” that doesn’t match the description of any existing Microsoft service.

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It’s apparently some sort of middleware designed to make it easier to translate CAD models into real-life objects.. That suggests there must a design component in the mix as well, presumably Autodesk’s open-source Spark platform, which Microsoft has publicly confirmed its integrating with several of its products and separately entered the limelight a few months ago after a patent filing revealed a forthcoming companion printer:

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Alternatively, Microsoft might have been planning to develop a competing offering back when the application for the text printing technique was filled in March last year, which was long before the partnership with Autodesk. Either way, it’s clear that Redmond’s interests in the 3D printing movement is hardly limited to repair software as we might have suspected until now.

Have anything to add about Microsoft’s new 3D printing patent? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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