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Microsoft APC turns to Stratasys J850 3D printers for Surface prototyping

Leveraging increased dimensional accuracy, coupled with full-color printing

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Microsoft is one of few companies that color matches the product components This is the reason the Surface Laptop metal chassis and Alcantara keyboard deck blend together seamlessly. The increase in color capability from the J750/850 PolyJet 3D printers from Stratasys allows Microsoft APC (the company’s Advanced Prototyping Center) designers to create thinner and smaller parts with more realistic appearances. Features like part lines or differentiating materials became easier to explain through PolyJet technology. In addition, the resolution increase from 800dpi to 1600dpi means prints can be created with full images or text perfectly aligned right off the printer. This fundamentally raised the bar for overnight 3D printed models. Suddenly there was an option for next-day 3D prints that could clearly and accurately represent a designer or engineer’s intent without any additional secondary operations.

“The increased dimensional accuracy, coupled with full-color printing has made the Stratasys J850 our primary 3D printing tool for prototyping complex mechanical prototypes. Parts off the J850 require little to no post-processing (sanding, painting etc.) making it possible to create multiple iterations at a much quicker pace compared to past methods,” said Karsten Aagaard, Microsoft Principal Model-Maker.

Microsoft APC turns to Stratasys J850 3D printers for Surface prototyping, leveraging increased dimensional accuracy and full-color printing

Located in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft’s Advanced Prototyping Center (APC) is a 26,000-square-foot prototyping facility sandwiched between the Industrial Design and Engineering groups. This team of highly passionate makers acts as the translator between concept and reality. Utilizing a multitude of manufacturing and prototyping tools, the APC focuses on efficiently creating solutions and prototypes to answer business questions.

Following the mantra of “Fail Fast” the APC is responsible for quickly generating confidence in development decisions for Microsoft’s designers, engineers, and partners. 3D printing plays an integral part in Microsoft’s “Fail Fast” development process and Stratasys PolyJet models are a part of the APC’s daily routine.

“They say seeing is believing and in the world of prototyping the ability to create prototypes of our devices in color on the Stratasys J850 has been a game changer for our product development teams,” said Edward Lehner, Microsoft Senior Prototyping Manager.

Microsoft APC turns to Stratasys J850 3D printers for Surface prototyping, leveraging increased dimensional accuracy and full-color printing
The question is and always will be “How do we innovate faster?” Fueled by consumer demand and industry competition, hardware development cycles are continuously shortening. Product solutions, prototypes, and decisions need to be made at an accelerated pace to be competitive.

In addition, product development increasingly demands higher accuracy to ensure design decisions are being made with greater confidence. In the prototyping world, every step up in fidelity requires additional time and operations to move a model closer to being realized. Secondary operations such as paint and graphics need to be created and require accurate placement, fixturing or additional equipment, personnel, and time. Time that is often not available in the fast-paced decision-making of hardware development.

Beyond the obvious benefits of 3D printing (speed and accuracy), the newer Stratasys J750/J850 Prime machines have allowed APC product designers to create prototypes that more accurately reflect their intent. With the release of the VeroUltra and VeroVivid resins, they can create true Pantone Validated colors with part thicknesses that were previously unachievable.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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