Microsoft has been quietly building support for 3D printing for some years, and now they’ve announced networked printing support.
Microsoft support for 3D printing applications first appeared long ago in Windows 8, but at that time - and since - it has been a rather local affair, supporting only directly connected 3D printers. Even then, you had to use the protocols they developed, but with their participation in the 3MF initiative, things got more interesting.
Now they’ve announced a way to achieve support for network-connected 3D printers that adhere to the protocols. Specifically, they released a Windows 10 IoT Core “sample app”, which just happens to be network 3D printing.
Here’s how it works: you run the IoT (internet of things) app on a Raspberry Pi computer-on-a-board. The Pi provides physical access to a local network and can directly control the printers, too. This will work on both wired and wireless networks.
Unfortunately, the sample app does not support ALL 3D printers. In fact, their first release only provides support for these machines:
- Lulzbot Taz 6
- Makergear M2
- Printrbot Play, Plus and Simple
- Prusa i3 and i3 Mk2
- Ultimaker Original and Original+
- Ultimaker 2 and 2+
- Ultimaker 2 Extended and Extended+
That’s a good start, particularly if you happen to have one of these machines.
Once set up, the network-attached printer appears in and is accessible from any participating Windows app.
For users, this is a potentially useful development. While not everyone uses Windows, those that do could find deployment of multiple machines a little bit easier, as well as having a bit more “mobility” in choosing where to locate the printers and workstations in your environment.