Mar.13, 2013

On Monday, Microsoft's Panos Panay, general manager of the Surface team, spoke to The Verge about how the Surface is born and revealed the top-secret Surface prototypes.

The primary goal was to create a tablet which is thin and light. With 3D printing the team was able to print out prototypes and concepts helping to form the idea of a tablet. Panay said that the goal was to make a tablet that let you perform a lot more functions than anything else on the market.

Microsoft relied heavily on 3D printing to model parts for the Surface tablet. 3D printers were used to create over 300 prototypes of the final product. Whenever there is complain from early testers the design team could check the design, make some changes and print out a new prototype. The team of Surface designers spent months refining the Surface concept and printed out test 3D-models, most of which were built with two Objet Eden 3D printers and one Objet Connex500. Features like determining the position of the sole USB port on Surface benefitted from the 3D printers.

Microsoft's production facilities in China uses same 3D printers as the team in US. Each team could print out the same prototype model, so that they can discuss design and manufacturing issues when they have conference calls. And if there is any adjustment the team could just email the 3D files.

Panay showed to the Verge how many Surface and Touch Cover revisions that Microsoft went through before a final design was formed. At the moment the team is working on future Surface generations.

"When I say generations, not just one, we have the teams at full speed and loving what they're building and seeing," Panay says enthusiastically. "I think things just keep getting better, just hopefully what you'd expect from us."

 

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