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J. Construct. Steel Res. Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 281289, 1998 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd.

. All rights reserved Printed in Great Britain 0143-974X/98 $19.00 + 0.00 PII: S0143-974X(97)00075-8

Cable-Strut Systems: Part I Tensegrity

Bin-Bing Wang
Tover Centre of Space Structures Technology Development, Xu Zhou Tover Group Corporation, Xu Zhou 221007, China (Received 11 March 1997; revised version received 15 September 1997; accepted 20 October 1997)

ABSTRACT The concept of cable-strut is extended from that of tensegrity. The broad interpretation of cable-strut systems includes tensegrity systems, RP (Reciprocal Prism) and CP (Crystal-cell Pyramid) system, etc. Its narrow interpretation excludes tensegrity systems. Thus this paper is divided into two parts. Part I gives concept, properties and feasibility studies of tensegrity structures to put forward cable-strut systems. Part II presents the theory and novel concepts concerning the application of cable-strut systems, and concludes that cable-strut systems are revolutionary in space structures. In this part, the essential idea of tensegrity is analyzed and the concept of tensegrity is systematically redened. Tensegrity grids can be classied into two types of congurations: non-contiguous strut and contiguous strut. Their properties are presented and compared. The properties of the latter are also compared with those of RP grids. The low efciency of tensegrity grids is analyzed. The feasibility studies, concerning applicable tensegrity forms and their application scale, are also introduced in this paper. 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved

1 WHAT IS TENSEGRITY What is tensegrity? From the previous references, we can acknowledge that the term tensegrity is an invention (by Fuller): it is a contraction of tensile integrity, and tension is omnidirectionally coherent [1]. The concept of tensegrity evolved from a single-layer form which is not applicable to doublelayer form, representatively, of non-contiguous strut conguration by Emmerich and Hanaor and of contiguous strut conguration by Motro [2]. Some


Bin-Bing Wang

complicated and multi-layer form is also recommended but seems outside the possible range of application. It appears that morphological study might have reached a degree of saturation inside tensegrity networks. Before Motro presented contiguous strut conguration, the essential ideas of the denition of tensegrity could be summarized as: (1) Composed of compression (struts) and tension (tendons) elements. (2) Struts discontinuous while cables continuous. (3) Rigidied (for kinematically indeterminate system) or strengthened (for kinematically determinate system) by self-stressing. (4) Self-supporting (needless to be stabilized by boundary anchorage system, e.g. ring beams). (3) and (4) can be summarized as self-stressed equilibrium. Then, inuenced by the concept of contiguous struts in Motros conguration, both Hanaor [2] and Motro [1] redened tensegrity. Item (2) was rejected and changed into pin-jointed. Thus the original denition cannot include the case of contiguous strut conguration, while the renewed denition over-includes novel cable-strut systems, such as RP grids. The denition also diverges at whether a cable dome [3] can be included within tensegrity systems or not. The supporters consider its ring beam as a curved strut, while the opposers insist that a cable dome does not satisfy item (4). The author supports the latter because a dened strut should not be subject to bending moments and forces along its body and the boundary ring of a cable dome is not essentially different from that of a conventional cable network, but considers that cable domes are an extensive application of the tensegrity concept. In the authors opinion, tensegrity structures can be dened as: (1) Self-stressed equilibrium cable networks in which a continuous system of cables (tendons) are stressed against a discontinuous system of struts; or (2) composed of tensegrity simplexes [4,5]. Item (1) includes tensegrity simplexes, tensegrity cable domes [3] and all tensegrity non-contiguous strut congurations, while (2) includes all possible congurations of tensegrity simplexes (Fig. 1). The concept of tensegrity resulted from art, thus, most researchers spend considerable energy on the morphological aspect, whilst concerning themselves little with its mechanical feasibilities. A few studies have been carried out by Hanaor [68] and Motro [9,10]. Recently, more intensive researches have been carried out by Wang [35,1114]. As deployable structures, one-dimensional tensegrity masts are studied in

Cable-strut systems: I. Tensegrity


Fig. 1. Tensegrity simplexes.

Ref. [15] and the deployability of DLTG grids are discussed in Ref. [16]. Motro also claimed the deployability of his grids [17].

2 PROPERTIES OF TENSEGRITY GRIDS The typical grids of optimal conguration are given in Figs 2 and 3. Other properties of tensegrity are presented in its feasibility studies. Although researchers had hoped that non-contiguous bar conguration could achieve considerable lightweight, it seems unavoidable that tensegrity grids of non-contiguous bar congurations are much heavier than those of contiguous bar congurations [2,12]. According to the authors explanation it is because, in the former case, the number of nodes is much larger, and the ratio of the number of elements to that of nodes is much smaller than that of the latter, therefore, the stiffness of the former is weakened and the corre-

Fig. 2. Details of the optimal tensegrity grid of non-contiguous bar conguration.


Bin-Bing Wang

Fig. 3. Optimal tensegrity grids of contiguous bar conguration.

sponding distribution of strut forces is more uneven. The author found that the selfweight of the former is about one third greater than that of the latter, based on similar layout as planar form. Thus, the properties of tensegrity grids of bars contiguous conguration are studied in a general way [4]. Advantageous conguration of simplexes to form grids is determined through analysis. The studies show that, for planar form, the selfweight of the optimal tensegrity grid is more than half that of the space truss. This is because its stiffness is severely weakened by cable slackening and its strut length and maximum bar force are always larger because of the incline of struts. Because tensegrity cannot satisfy the demand of reducing selfweight in space structures novel types of self-stressed equilibrium cable-strut system have to be invented. These grids are lightweight, and hold the chief advantages of tensegrity grids, i.e. architecturally pleasing and not reliant upon bulky boundary anchorage, unlike conventional cable networks.

3 FEASIBILITY STUDIES The feasibility framework of research concerning tensegrity, and extensively cable-strut, can be pictured as:

Cable-strut systems: I. Tensegrity


Cable-strut systems are self-stressed equilibrium pin-jointed families of struts and continuous cables. The concept is expanded from that of tensegrity. As shown in the above frame, feasible forms of tensegrity systems are composed of tensegrity cable domes, tensegrity frames and tensegrity grids. In a tensegrity cable dome, the concept of tensegrity ring beam (Fig. 4) is introduced [3]. The cable-trusses and the boundary ring interact as a whole, forming an exact tensegrity system conforming to the original concept. The introduction of tensegrity ring beams simplies the construction process of cable domes. As a feasible design, it expands the application range of tensegrity concept. Moreover, the mechanical properties of a tensegrity cable dome can be improved further by the introduction of additional cables into its cable trusses so that it will be capable of sustaining all loading conditions without relying on prestress i.e. Wangs dome [14]. The concept of tensegrity frameworks is still an open matter. The post, mast, and transmitting tower can be constructed as a tensegrity one. Frame can also be applied in tensegrity form, which also expands the usage of the tensegrity concept. Its foreground is prospering as decorative constructions. Tensegrity grids will be constrained within special architectural conditions in small-span roofs. The non-contiguous strut conguration holds the advantage of simplicity of nodes, and some techniques including integral cable tension [11] can be applied to improve its efciency. In general, tensegrity grids of non-contiguous struts conguration are much more advantageous when they are designed as geometrically rigid rather than geometrically exible with reliance on prestress [18]. The low efciency of the contiguous strut conguration [4] leads to the invention of novel contiguous strut systems [12], such as RP system. RP system is made of self-stressed equilibrium reciprocal (RP) prisms (Fig. 5). In the resulting grids (Fig. 6), only the middle layer and all vertical components are composed of struts, the other components are cables. Case studies


Bin-Bing Wang

Fig. 4. Tensegrity cable dome.

Fig. 5. RP simplexes.

Cable-strut systems: I. Tensegrity


Fig. 6. Wangs RP grid.

showed that the selfweight of RP grids is less than half that of tensegrity grids of contiguous bar conguration [12]. This is chiey because, in RP grids, each inner horizontal strut is shared by adjacent simplexes. Both its number and length of struts are smaller. Its struts are therefore used more economically, and because its number of nodes is much smaller, its connection among simplexes is much stiffer. Besides, the Newton iteration method calculating load response needs to be replaced by novel tools, such as Linear Complementary Equation method, to cope with cable slackening and to stabilize calculation process. Factors concerning structural efciency need to be discussed as a guide for further researches. All of them can refer to Refs [4,5].


Bin-Bing Wang

4 CONCLUSIONS In tensegrity systems, tensegrity frameworks and, especially, tensegrity cable domes are successful architectural inventions. Tensegrity grids can be applied in small-span or to satisfy special architectural demands, particularly those of contiguous strut conguration. The properties of tensegrity can be improved by inventing novel contiguous bar systems. Novel cable-strut systems, such as RP grids, can be applied to large span with both structural efciency and constructional convenience. A good deployable structure is achieved by improving the packaging efciency, simplifying the procedure of deployment, decreasing the number of joints that could incur complicated mechanisms and improving, relatively, its structural efciencies. In the authors opinion, the deployability of tensegrity structures seems less satisfactory as other deployable systems, e.g. those composed of crossed bars with spatial joints.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT This paper is in memory of the loss of my baby.

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