In last week's episode of On The Verge, our own Josh Topolsky visited Microsoft labs to scope out the facilities and see what the gang in Redmond is up to — we're now able to give you an extended look at Microsoft's model shop, where hardware prototypes for keyboards and other devices are designed and printed in 3D. Karsten Aagaard, user experience designer, says that the team tries to print 3D prototypes in "real-time" so that designers can work rapidly. If a prototype design is submitted at 5PM, the team endeavors to have them printed by the time the designers return the following morning.
Using various UV cured liquid epoxies, the printer is able create items with multiple parts: in the video, Aagaard shows off a working wrench and chain which emerged from the 3D printer fully assembled and functional. It's able to do this by printing a different "support material" next to the prototype's body in order to hold it in place until the support materials can be removed (similar in concept to the familiar process of tracing a pencil-drawn outline, and then erasing the original marks). The team can then insert electronics inside the printed prototypes to test their functionality.
You can check out our longer segment on Microsoft research right here.