3D Printing works by using a computer-generated model to create an image template. Then, the parameters of that model are applied to a printer in real time with the help of special materials that form millions of layers. These layers add up until an actual object is created to spec.

3D printing is booming and here are some of the latest trends for 2016.

Tinkercad is an online design app that bridges the information gap on 3D printing. As printers become cheaper, more people are going to want to get in on this new design trend. Yet, most people don’t have knowledge of Computer-aided Design (CAD) software. So Tinkercad provides users with a simpler, more user-friendly way to design templates for 3D printing. You can log-in to their app, take a step-by-step lesson or just choose from their gallery of over 4 million pre-made designs.

3D Printing has some promising applications in the medical field. Some of them are just plain bizarre. The New York Times recently reported on a groundbreaking research project where bioengineers from Wake Forest used 3D printers loaded with living cells to print a human ear onto the back of a mouse. Using a type of hydrogel, the printer used in this experiment laid down layers of living cells until actual biological tissue was formed in the perfect shape of a human ear.

Virtual inventory is one of the most groundbreaking trends in 3D printing. It promises a future where warehouse shelves sit empty until orders are actually placed by customers. Imagine a world where you order a product via the Cloud and the provider builds that product when you order it. That’s better for the environment, reduces waste and saves money on both ends of the supply/demand chain. It’s not science fiction; it’s right around the corner. Companies like Amazon and Google are already flirting with this type of application, but wide-scale implementation is still down the road.

Forbes recently reported on a new trend for 2016 called holistic printing. Instead of building parts at separate locations and shipping them to an assembly room, holistic printing allows companies to use 3D printing in order to make an entire structure all in one go. For example, GE is developing a holistic printing process for jet engines. These engines have sophisticated parts, but if they could be printed, much in the same way that nature builds, then a true shakeup could be on the horizon.

Additive printing, commonly referred to as simply 3D printing, is taking the manufacturing sector by storm. In a way it levels the playing field, allowing individuals and small businesses to create objects that were once the sole domain of much larger manufacturers. According to, the global market for 3D printing is expected to hit 16.2 billion U.S. dollars by the year 2018.