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Printing from Windows 8.1 directly to a MakerBot 3D printer.

SAN FRANCISCO — Hitting the “Print” button in Windows just took on a whole new meaning.

Microsoft is adding native support for 3D printing as part of the Windows 8.1 update, making it possible to print directly from an app to a 3D printer. The company is announcing the new feature this morning, working with partners including MakerBot Industries, 3D Systems, Afinia, AutoDesk, Netfabb and others.

“We want all of the apps out there to print to all of the printers out there,” explained Microsoft’s Shanen Boettcher.

[Follow-up: Microsoft says 3D printing in Windows 8.1 will support open-source technologies]

The process of 3D printing typically requires users to export a file from a drawing or modeling program, and then import that file into the software that came with the 3D printer.

Microsoft is aiming to replace that process with a mechanism very similar to sending a file to a traditional printer, using drivers that handle the communication between the software and the 3D printer. The print dialogue in Windows 8.1 recognizes supported 3D printers and identifies them by name.

On the software side, APIs are also available for developers to leverage the new feature inside Windows. Boettcher says the company would like to see developers create new apps that make it simple to make 3D objects.

In conjunction with the news, Microsoft is also planning to start selling MakerBot printers in its retail stores.

Microsoft is announcing the news at its Build developers conference in San Francisco. Follow along with our live blog, and also see my initial hands-on impressions of Windows 8.1.

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