This a somewhat speculative question; I would like to know whether it is feasible to additively manufacture large (>100m) metal objects - from for example aluminum alloys - in a space environment.

Methods could include 3d-printing or hot/cold spray techniques, or perhaps a fine spray of molten metal onto a thin sheet.

Simple shapes like spheres, cylinders, plates, beams are of interest.

There is some existing work, e.g. https://www.nasa.gov/content/spiderfab, but nothing I can find focuses on manufacture of large simple objects using additive techniques.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know what kind of answer you expect and what research you did so far. welding in space is possible. You can go through a list of 3d printing techniques and make an educated guess which would work without gravity and when the printed object should be larger then the printer. I doubt any of us here can do much more. $\endgroup$ – mart Aug 21 '19 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ Apart from conceptual ideas & speculation about such manufacturing, I would be surprised if any such research has been undertaken due to the costs involved. This question might be better suited to SE Space Exploration because its members are more knowledgeable about Space & micro gravity than most members here. $\endgroup$ – Fred Aug 21 '19 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ Well a concrete question might be what mass-deposition rates are possible with various techniques, what strength reduction to expect. $\endgroup$ – Roko Mijic Aug 21 '19 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ The aspect of microgravity can be ignored for a component like a cylinder that can be spun and manufactured from the inside. This might be important for liquid-sprays due to the problems of surface tension. $\endgroup$ – Roko Mijic Aug 21 '19 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe I should make the question specific to liquid-spraying molten aluminium onto the interior of a spinning cylinder? $\endgroup$ – Roko Mijic Aug 21 '19 at 14:58

It appears that NASA has been conducting experiments with 3D printing in space since about 2014. Around this time is when a 3D printer was sent to the space station.

So while this doesn't necessarily answer your question, it should help you to understand that this is current research. This means that there might not be a lot of other information available. Research has to be completed on smaller scale items before it can be considered for the larger-scale items that you are interested in.

If you are interested in hypothetical "what-if?" questions, those are likely better suited for Worldbuilding.SE

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I'm interested in what can be done with today's technology though, so not really sure if world building SE is suitable. For example, can you make a spray of molten aluminium and spray it onto a sheet in vacuum and thicken the sheet gradually? This question has an answer with today's technology I suspect $\endgroup$ – Roko Mijic Aug 23 '19 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ What about this: take a long cylindrical mold, spin it, and fill with molten metal from the inside. Would this lead to a strong and usable metal pipe? $\endgroup$ – Roko Mijic Aug 23 '19 at 19:06

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