Joshua Topolsky toured Microsoft's product design lab on video. The lab uses a triplet of Objet 3D printers to produce prototypes of Microsoft products, most notably Mice.
In the video Topolsky interviews Karsten Aagaard, User Experience Designer in Microsoft's Hardware Group, who explains how the 3D printers can produce prototypes that can be used for testing. In a few hours they can produce a new design and thus much more testing takes place, leading to better end products.
We wondered, "Why Objet 3D printers?" But then we had the answer: Objet's printers have the unique ability to print in multiple materials. Typically this capability is used to mix hard and soft plastic in the same build. You can, for example, print a toothbrush with a hard handle and flexible bristles in a single print operation. For this reason we believe Microsoft would be more able to print interesting prototypes that include squishy parts, soft surfaces and opening covers, etc.
Microsoft's approach to prototyping is becoming typical among manufacturers due to the power of 3D printing.