Tensegrity Structures

Tensegrity is a principle in which compressive and tensional forces are balanced to create objects in which no two compressive elements are touching. This allows for extremely strong yet lightweight structures. This exploration delves into the application of tensegrity structures to two real-world situations, one being the creation of a series of tent structures at the Burning Man Festival, and the other being the creation of a self-sustaining base on Mars. All of these tensegrity structures were created parametrically using grasshopper through a physics simulation called Kangaroo that allows for tension and compression to be calculated and simulated.

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These show the most basic type of tensegrity structure, with only one level. A radial organization of compression elements was selected, however this is not the only organization of tensegrity structures.

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This is an extension of the radial structure where more layers are added. No two compressive elements touch, allowing for a large volume with low weight, reduced cost of materials, high strength, and high compressability. 

Burning Man

The following project involves the creation of a structure at the Burning Man festival, designed to be easy and fast to erect and take down. This design consists of a large meditation tent, as well as several sauna tents for rest and relaxation at the largely chaotic festival. Tensegrity structures are perfect for this application in that they can be assembled and dissasembled quickly, take up little space when taken down and have a low weight.

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This site plan shows the three tensegrity based tents. The largest tent is a dome for meditation, and the smaller tents are sauna units for relaxation. The Fibonacci based pattern shown in the site plan would be drawn via a robotically controlled vehicle tamping down the dirt, creating an interesting pattern that would be seen from high above in aerial views and would enhance the experience of the users of these structures.

This site plan shows the three tensegrity based tents. The largest tent is a dome for meditation, and the smaller tents are sauna units for relaxation. The Fibonacci based pattern shown in the site plan would be drawn via a robotically controlled vehicle tamping down the dirt, creating an interesting pattern that would be seen from high above in aerial views and would enhance the experience of the users of these structures.

Luminescent panels would be used to construct reaction-diffusion patterns in the base of each tent. These would provide light for the occupants of each tent, as well as enhancing the visual effect of the structures through the appeal of an intricate organic pattern. This pattern was created in grasshopper to simulate natural reaction diffusion patterns.

Luminescent panels would be used to construct reaction-diffusion patterns in the base of each tent. These would provide light for the occupants of each tent, as well as enhancing the visual effect of the structures through the appeal of an intricate organic pattern. This pattern was created in grasshopper to simulate natural reaction diffusion patterns.

Luminescent panels below main tent

Luminescent panels below main tent

Luminescent panels glowing in the lightbox model

Luminescent panels glowing in the lightbox model

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Martian Base

Tensegrity structures are ideal for space exploration applications due to their light weight and high strength. In this project, a tensegrity tower is erected above an underground base, providing a communication and observation tower for martian residents. The tower is constructed from an airtight translucent material. The tower is first inflated, and then tension is applied to the cable system to give rigidity to the structure. This provides both a temporary habitat for interplanetary travellers upon arrival, as well as providing an airtight cap for the martian base once digging and construction is completed. The dome is constructed from polyethylene, a material that is known for its ability to absorb a portion of high energy particles and radiation that space explorers will encounter.

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The primary function of this base configuration is research, and it consists of a large food production level with oxygen and food producing plants, a research level for sample analysis, a two-bedroom residence level, and a storage level for samples, robots, and tools. A large vertical shaft brings in light and circulates air through the structure.

Model showing food production level and communication tower access

Model showing food production level and communication tower access

Model revealing the food production, research, and residential levels

Model revealing the food production, research, and residential levels

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