Volumetric Additive Manufacturing for In-Space Manufacturing

T. Waddell
United States

Keywords: additive manufacturing, volumetric printing, metal printing, bio printing


Computed Axial Lithography (CAL) is a recent advancement in volumetric additive manufacturing (VAM) that delivers a light dose to a photopolymer volume through tomographic reconstruction. The precursor liquid or gel itself generally supports the emerging object, eliminating the need for wasteful dedicated solid supporting structures. A challenge, however, is that desired geometry can shrink or expand during solidification and on Earth, if the precursor material's viscosity is low enough. These effects may result in sinking or floating of the component, which can blur the geometry. In principle, CAL is promising for in-space manufacturing because, unlike layer-based processes, CAL does not require a flat liquid–gas interface to be maintained during printing. With suitable development, CAL is potentially capable of manufacturing parts such as organic tissue, flexible seals, rigid trusses, metal materials, and microstructures for space exploration, as well as repairing existing tools and parts. ‘SpaceCAL’ flew on a microgravity parabolic flight in May 2022 , November 2023 and a Virgin Galactic Suborbital flight in June 2024.