Despite its problems, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is still able to recognize consumer trends as they occur. This is good news for 3D printer manufacturers, as the company believes that 3D printing is an important developing technology. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is including a native API for 3D printers in its upcoming “Windows 8.1″ update.
What does this mean?
Previously, 3D printing was a bit more involved than using a 2D printer. After creating or downloading a model you would save it, possibly convert it to a new file format, and load it in a new program. This program would send the model data to the 3D printer. All of the printing software was third-party, and sometimes required tweaking to get it working correctly.
The inclusion of a native 3D printing API standardizes the process. Printers by companies such as 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) can now be true plug-and-play devices and print directly from the modeling software. Even the drivers for homemade 3D printers can be standardized through the Windows 8.1 SDK.
Who will benefit?
3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) will both likely benefit from this, since it makes their products easier for average consumers to use. They will likely benefit more than Microsoft itself, since the 3D printing market hasn’t matured to the point that native support will heavily influence consumer choices.
3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) has an agreement with Staples, Inc. (NASDAQ:SPLS) to sell its “Cube” 3D printers both in stores and online at Staples.com. This provides the company with greater consumer-level exposure and allows consumers to see the sleek and colorful 3D printer in person. The new API will strengthen the company’s claims of its printers working “out of the box” as it will ensure driver compatibility with Windows systems moving forward.
As rumored, Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) announced the purchase of MakerBot, creator of one of the most well-known 3D printer brands. As with the Cube, 3D printers by MakerBot will be fully compatible with the new 3D printing API and as a result will be able to provide a more seamless user experience. MakerBot’s “Replicator 2″ printers are also slated to be sold at Microsoft Stores, showing Microsoft’s support for 3D printing and giving the devices some much-needed floor time in front of customers who are more likely to be interested in Windows 8.1 support.