Practice-based research, testing and application of Tensegrity for a demountable 'Tension Pavilion'

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This paper presents the results of practice-based research into Tensegrity systems, formfinding, structural analysis, testing and use in a 'real-life' project: a demountable Tensegrity pavilion with a tensile fabric canopy-'Tension Pavilion'. Tensegrity has rarely been utilised in the built environment for a building structure. The term is often misunderstood and wrongly applied to structures that use different structural systems, or have been adapted to such an extent that they are no longer purely Tensegrity. This demountable pavilion was built with a chain of simplex Tensegrities that form an undulating ring, warped to follow a sine wave, creating three arches and three valleys. The Tensegrity ring and fabric canopy have been designed to resist 75mph wind loads, and tested for an 80kg load at the apex of an arch. In this paper we present preparatory practice-based research, parametric modelling, formfinding, structural analysis, physical testing, detailing, fabrication and construction. The benefits and challenges of using Tensegrity are discussed, and recommendations for future use and further study are made.

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p. 1642-1652 Tensegrity is a developing and relatively new system (barely more than 50 years old) which creates amazing, lightweight and adaptable figures, giving the impression of a cluster of struts floating in the air. The intention of this paper is to explain the origins of tensegrity, original patents included, and shed light on some polemic aspects about the authorship, enquiring personally to its discoverer, the sculptor Kenneth Snelson. Finally, the history and progress of this kind of structure will be revised, tracing a line of the time and pointing out the most relevant authors, specialists and publications, which could serve as a guide for further investigators.
Conference Paper
Tensegrity structures (built from interconnected rods and cables) have the potential to offer a revolutionary new robotic design that is light-weight, energy-efficient, robust to failures, capable of unique modes of locomotion, impact tolerant, and compliant (reducing damage between the robot and its environment). Unfortunately robots built from tensegrity structures are difficult to control with traditional methods due to their oscillatory nature, nonlinear coupling between components and overall complexity. Fortunately this formidable control challenge can be overcome through the use of evolutionary algorithms. In this paper we show that evolutionary algorithms can be used to efficiently control a ball shaped tensegrity robot. Experimental results performed with a variety of evolutionary algorithms in a detailed soft-body physics simulator show that a centralized evolutionary algorithm performs 400% better than a hand-coded solution, while the multiagent evolution performs 800% better. In addition, evolution is able to discover diverse control solutions (both crawling and rolling) that are robust against structural failures and can be adapted to a wide range of energy and actuation constraints. These successful controls will form the basis for building high-performance tensegrity robots in the near future.
Design, Building, Testing, and Control of SUPERball: A Tensegrity Robot to Enable New Forms of Planetary Exploration
  • J Bruce
J. Bruce, "Design, Building, Testing, and Control of SUPERball: A Tensegrity Robot to Enable New Forms of Planetary Exploration," University of California Santa Cruz, 2016.