NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, alongside Berkeley Engineering and the Berkeley Space Center, has funded a groundbreaking mission to develop Computed Axial Lithography (CAL) technology. This innovative 3D printing method holds the potential to revolutionize space missions by producing everything from spare parts and tools for spacecraft to new contact lenses and dental crowns for astronauts.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has significantly evolved since its inception in the 1980s. In 2017, Hayden Taylor, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, led a team of researchers at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to invent CAL technology. This advanced additive manufacturing technique uses light to form solid objects from a viscous liquid, enabling faster and more versatile production of 3D parts.

CAL technology, which can create parts in just 20 seconds, has proven to be particularly effective in microgravity. The ability to quickly manufacture parts in space reduces the need to carry a large inventory of spare parts, a critical advantage for long-duration missions.

The versatility of CAL technology is further demonstrated by its use of over 60 different materials on Earth, including silicones, glass composites, and biomaterials. This adaptability is beneficial not only for spacecraft maintenance but also for the medical care of crew members. The long-term goal of Taylor and his colleagues is to collaborate with NASA to develop objects that support the health and well-being of the crew, such as dental crowns for astronauts or surgical wound closure tools.

By leveraging CAL technology, future space missions could become more self-sufficient, reducing reliance on Earth-bound resupply missions and enhancing the sustainability of deep space exploration.

By Impact Lab