Architect aims to build Mobius strip house using giant 3-D printer


A Dutch architect has designed a house “with no beginning or end” to be built using the world’s largest 3-D printer, harnessing technology that may one day be used to print houses on the moon.

Janjaap Ruijssenaars, 39, of Universe Architecture in Amsterdam, wants to print a building resembling a giant Mobius strip — a continuous loop with one side — with around 1,100 sq. meters of floor space using the massive D-Shape printer.

The printer, designed by Italian Enrico Dini, can print up to almost a 6-by-6-meter square, using a computer to add layers 5 to 10 mm thick.

The building could serve as a home or a museum and would have parts usually made from a concretelike material printed using broken-up rocks and an emulsion binding. Steel and glass would provide the facade.

“It’s our ambition to have the first printed house; this printer has made art or objects for sea defenses, but this is the first time to build something that can be lived in,” he said.

Ruijssenaars said the plan was not initially to print the building, but the high-tech medium turned out to be the most appropriate.

“We started to ask the question if a building can be like the landscape, in order to make a building that would not harm the landscape, or at least learn from the landscape,” he said.

The Mobius strip-shaped result bears a striking resemblance to the art of another Dutchman, 20th-century designer and illustrator M.C. Escher.

“In this design, he’s definitely been an inspiration. I would say he’s the king of Mobius strips in drawing,” Ruijssenaars said.

When trying to make a small model of the building, Ruijssenaars realized that whatever material is used, from paper to lead, “you have to make a strip and then bend it in order to make this Mobius strip.”

“With a 3-D printer, even a small model, we could make the whole structure from bottom to top without anyone seeing where it begins or ends,” he said.

Working with Dutch mathematician and artist Rinus Roelofs and Dini in Italy, “we put the whole thing in the computer,” the architect said.

A Brazilian national park has expressed interest in the building, which would cost around €4 million ($5.3 million) to construct, the architect said, or it could be built as a private home in the United States.

The project would take around 18 months to build, and the printer “might be active for half a year,” Ruijssenaars said.

“The challenge is demonstrating that it’s possible to print real buildings in 3-D and affirm that there is a new way to manufacture buildings,” said Dini, 50.

Dini, who gave up his well-paid job in robotics designing prototypes for the footwear industry to build his monster printer, said that 3-D printing of buildings remains a hybrid process with other building techniques for reinforcement.

One advantage of using printing is that you can easily build in empty spaces for plumbing and electric wiring — and that you can use rocks found in situ at the construction site, which could be almost anywhere.

“So you could take the printer to the moon, assemble it there and print with moon material,” Ruijssenaars said.