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Gradual* School Form 9


flU v M d 7/94)

PURDUE UNIVERSITY
GRADUATE SCHOOL
Thesis Acceptance
This is to certify that the thesis prepared
By

Cornel Sultan_________________________________________________________

Entitled
Modeling, Design, and Control of Tensegrity Structures With Applications

Complies with University regulations and meets the standards of the Graduate School for originality
and quality
Doctor of Philosophy

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For the degree of

. chair

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Signed'

Approved by:

This thesis

Department Head

is
is not to be regarded as confidential.
Major Professor

Format Approved by:

or
Examining Committee

Thesis Format Adviser

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M O D E L IN G . D E SIG N . A N D C O N T R O L O F T E N S E G R IT Y S T R C ( TE R E S
W IT H A P P L IC A T IO N S

A Thesis
S u bm itted to the Faculty

of

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Purdue L niversity

by

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Cornel Sultan

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In P a rtia l F u lfillm e n t of the

Requirem ents for the Degree

of

D o ctor o f Philosophy

M ay 1999

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To my parents

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ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS

M y deepest g ra titu d e and utm ost respect go to m y dissertation advisors Professor


M a rtin .J. Corless and Professor Robert E. Skelton. Since I rotne to Purdue, they
have been the center of m y adm iration and respect. Prof. Skelton introduced me to
tensegrity structures, generously sharing his vast experience in flexible st ructures and
control theory. Prof. Corless showed me the elegance o f nonlinear control theory and

has been a source o f great encouragement and in sp ira tio n . I would also like to thank
Professor Longuski and Professor Farris for accepting to serve on m y com m ittee and
for being outstanding teachers.

A stronautics at Purdue.

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I would like to thank the entire Dynamics and C ontrol faculty in Aeronautics and
They set an example of excellence at every stage o f un

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learning experience and offered an outstanding education.


I would especially like to thank Professor P atrick W eidman from C.C. Boulder for
providing great m oral support and continuous encouragement all through my Ph.D.

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stu d y in U.S. and for being an extraordinary friend. The tim e we have spent together
has enriched m y life tremendously.
I am also grateful to a ll my friends in Purdue who made m y life in West Lafayette
more enjoyable.

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IV

TA BLE OF C O N T E N T S

Page

LIST OF T A B L E S .....................................................................................................

viii

LIST OF F I G U R E S .................................................................................................

ix

..............................................................................................................

xii

1. I N T R O D U C T IO N ..............................................................................................

1.1
1.2

H istory o f Tensegrity S tr u c tu re s ...................................................................


M o tiv a tio n ...........................................................................................................
O v e rv ie w ...............................................................................................................

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1.3

A B ST R A C T

2.2
2.3
2.1

3.

In tr o d u c tio n ........................................................................................................
M ath em a tical M odeling A s s u m p tio n s .........................................................
D erivation o f the Prestressability C o n d itio n s ...........................................
C o n c lu s io n s ........................................................................................................

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2.1

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2. G E N E R A L P R E S T R E S S A B IL IT Y C O N D IT IO N S OF T E N S E G
R IT Y S T R U C T U R E S ....................................................................................

P R E S T R E S S A B IL IT Y OF TW O STAGE SV D A N D SD T E N SE G
R IT Y S T R U C T U R E S ....................................................................................
3.1
3.2

3.3
3.4
3.5
3.6

In tr o d u c tio n ........................................................................................................
Tw o Stage SV D Tensegrity Structures .....................................................
3.2.1
M a th em a tical M odeling A s s u m p tio n s ...........................................
3.2.2
C oordinate Systems and Generalized C o o rd in a te s ...................
3.2.3
G e o m e tr y .............................................................................................
3.2.4
P restressability C o n d itio n s ...............................................................
3.2.5
S ym m etrica l Prestressable C onfigurations .................................
Tw o Stage SD Tensegrity Structures ........................................................
3.3.1
S ym m etrical Prestressable C onfigurations .................................
Prestressable E q u ilib riu m S u rfa c e ...............................................................
S tatic Design ....................................................................................................
C o n c lu s io n s .......................................................................................................

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P R E S T R E S S A B IL IT Y O F T W O S T A G E S V D B A N D S D B T E N S E G
R IT Y S T R U C T U R E S
47
4.1
4.2
4.4
4.4
4.5
5.

In tr o d u c tio n .........................................................................................................
Tw o Stage S V D B Tensegrity S tru c tu re s ......................................................
S ym m etrical Prestressable C o n fig u ra tio n s ...................................................
Tw o Stage SDB Tensegrity Structures: S ym m etrical Prestressable Con
figurations ............................................................................................................
C o n c lu s io n s .........................................................................................................

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4!)
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50

P R E S T R E S S A B IL IT Y O F T W O S T A G E S D F T E N S E G R IT Y
S T R U C T U R E S .........................................................................................................

52

In tr o d u c tio n .........................................................................................................
Tw o Stage SDF Tensegrity S tru c tu re s ..........................................................
Prestressability C o n d itio n s ..............................................................................
Sym m etrical Prestressable C o n fig u ra tio n s ...................................................
C o n c lu s io n s .........................................................................................................

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4.

6 . A M E T H O D O L O G Y T O I N V E S T I G A T E T H E P R E S T R E S S A B IL

7.

In tr o d u c tio n .........................................................................................................
M ethodology ......................................................................................................
Tensegrity T o w e rs ...............................................................................................
M odeling Assum ptions. Generalized C o o rd in a te s ......................................
G e o m e t r y ............................................................................................................
6.6 C y lin d ric a l S ym m etrical C o n fig u ra tio n s ......................................................
6.7 Exam ple: Three Stage Tensegrity T o w e rs ...................................................
6 .5 Exam ple: Four Stage Tensegrity Towers ...................................................
6.9 G eneralization to M u lti-S ta g e Tensegrity T o w e rs ......................................
6.10 C o n c lu s io n s .........................................................................................................
6.11 A p p e n d ix ............................................................................................................

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N O N L IN E A R M A T H E M A T IC A L M O D E L S F O R T E N S E G R IT Y
S T R U C T U R E S D Y N A M I C S ..........................................................................

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7.1
7.2
7.3
7.4

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6.1
6.2
6.4
6.4
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I T Y C O N D I T I O N S ; A P P L I C A T I O N T O T E N S E G R I T Y T O W E R S 62

In tr o d u c tio n .........................................................................................................
M ath em a tical M odeling A s s u m p tio n s ..........................................................
N onlinear Equations o f M o tio n D e r iv a t io n ................................................
C o n c lu s io n s .........................................................................................................

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Pago

8.

N O N L IN E A R D Y N A M IC S O F TW O STAGE SV D T E N S E G
R IT Y S T R U C T U R E S ........................................................................................
8.1
8.2
8.3
8.-1

In tr o d u c tio n ........................................................................................................
M odeling A s s u m p tio n s ...................................................................................
G eom etry and K in e m a tic s .............................................................................
K in e tic Energy and Potential E n e r g y ........................................................
Nonconservative Generalized F o rc e s ............................................................

90
91
93

Lagrange Equations of M o t io n ......................................................................


N onlinear Dynam ics N um erical Sim ulations ...........................................
A P a rticular Class o f M o t i o n s ......................................................................
8.8.1
S ym m etrical R e co n fig u ra tio n .............................................................
8.8.2
E x a m p le s ..............................................................................................
8.9
C o n c lu s io n s .......................................................................................................
8.10 A p p e n d ix ...........................................................................................................

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105
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L IN E A R D Y N A M IC A L M O DELS OF TW O STAGE S V D A N D
SD T E N S E G R IT Y S T R U C T U R E S ..........................................................

110

9.1
9.2
9.3
9.4
9.5
9.6
9.7
9.8
9.9
9.10
9.11

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8.6
8.7
8.8

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In tr o d u c tio n ........................................................................................................
Linear M o d e ls ....................................................................................................
Mass M a t r ix .......................................................................................................
Dam ping M a trix .............................................................................................
Disturbance M a t r i x ..........................................................................................
Stiffness M a t r i x ................................................................................................
C ontrol and Measurement M a t r ic e s ...........................................................
Linearized Dynam ics versus N onlinear D y n a m ic s ....................................
S ta b ility and Stiffness Properties ...............................................................
C o n c lu s io n s .......................................................................................................
A p p e n d ix ...........................................................................................................

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9.

88
88
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1 0 .T E N D O N C O N TR O L D E P L O Y M E N T OF T E N S E G R IT Y ST R U C
T U R E S ..................................................................................................................... 130
10.1
10.2
10.3
10.4
10.5

In tr o d u c tio n .......................................................................................................
Equations o f M o tio n and S ym m etric Prestressable C onfigurations . .
Tendon C ontrol Deploym ent S tr a te g y ........................................................
M athem atical Statem ent and N um erical Solution ................................
E x a m p le s ..........................................................................................................
10.5.1 Deploym ent T i m e .................................................................................
10.5.2 C ontrol E n e r g y ....................................................................................

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10.6 C o n c lu s io n s ........................................................................................................

149

11. F O R C E A N D T O R Q U E T E N S E G R I T Y S E N S O R ...........................

150

11.1
11.2
11.6
11.4

In tr o d u c tio n ........................................................................................................
Tensegrity Sensor D e s c r ip tio n .......................................................................
S ta tic C h a ra c te ris tic s .......................................................................................
D ynam ic C h a ra c te ris tic s ................................................................................

160
161
164
168

11.6 E stim a to r D e s ig n ..............................................................................................


11.6 E x a m p le s ...........................................................................................................
11.7 C o n c lu s io n s ........................................................................................................

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164
168

12.8
12.9

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12.6
12.6
12.7

In tr o d u c tio n ........................................................................................................
H isto ry o f M otion Sim ulators .......................................................................
A Tensegrity M otion S im u la t o r ...................................................................
Dynam ics and Statics of the Tensegrity S im u la t o r ..................................
12.4.1 N onlinear Equations o f M otion ......................................................
12.4.2 Feasible E q u ilib riu m C o n fig u ra tio n s ...............................................
A Robust Tracking C o n t r o lle r .......................................................................
S im u la tin g Longitudinal M otions o f a S ym m etric A ir c r a f t ....................
Evaluation of the Tensegrity S im u la t o r ......................................................
12.7.1 Elevator C o m m a n d .............................................................................
12.7.2 Flap C o m m a n d ....................................................................................
12.7.3 T h ro ttle C o m m a n d .............................................................................
C o n c lu s io n s ........................................................................................................
A p pend ix ...........................................................................................................

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12.1
12.2
12.3
12.4

1 2 .N O N L I N E A R R O B U S T T R A C K I N G C O N T R O L O F A T E N S E G
R I T Y M O T I O N S I M U L A T O R ....................................................................... 170

L IS T O F R E F E R E N C E S

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182
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.......................................................................................

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V I T A ...................................................................................................................................

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v iii

LIST OF TA BLES

Table
O verlap (h) vs N u m be r o f Stages ( n ) ...............................................................

78

10.1 M in im u m D eploym ent T im e ................................................................................

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10.2

Mo

C ontrol E n e r g y ........................................................................................................

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6.1

Page

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IX

LIST OF FIG U R E S

Figure

Page

Tw o Stage Tensegrity S tr u c tu re ...........................................................................

1.2

Tensegrity L a y e r ......................................................................................................

3.1

Tw o Stage SVD Tensegrity S tr u c tu re .................................................................

13

3.2

Sym m etrical Prestressable C o n fig u ra tio n ..........................................................

IS

3.3

Prestressable E q u ilib riu m Surface in a . b. h Space

3.4

Prestressable E q u ilib riu m Surface P rojection onto a . bPlane

...................

30

3.3

Compressive Force (Co) V a r ia tio n ........................................................................

31

3.6

Saddle Tension (Tu<) V a r i a t i o n ...........................................................................

31

3.7

V ertical Tension (Tov. ) V a ria tio n

........................................................................

32

3.5

Diagonal Tension (7oD) V a r ia tio n ........................................................................

32

3.9

M axim um SVD Triangle and Bar Mass;

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Prestressable E q u ilib riu m Surface in a . b. h Space

.....................................

57

5.2

Prestressable E q u ilib riu m Surface P rojection onto a . bP l a n e ...................

57

5.3

Saddle Tension (7os ) V a r i a t i o n ...........................................................................

59

5.4

Diagonal Tension (7oD) V a r ia tio n ........................................................................

59

5.5

Shear Force (G'o) V a ria tio n

.................................................................................

60

5.6

Compressive Force (Co) V a r ia tio n .......................................................................

60

6.1

D eclination and A z im u th o f Bar i j ....................................................................

67

6.2

Top View o f a S ym m etrica l C y lin d ric a l C o n fig u ra tio n ..................................

72

.....................................

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1.1

= 0 ........................................

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Figure*

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6.3

Three* Stage Tensegrity lo w e r .................................................................

73

8.1

In itia l C onditions Response: Generalized Coordinates T im e Histories . .

8.2

In itia l C onditions Re*sponse: Tendon Tensions T im e H is to r ie s .....

96

8.3

C'2(IR) class functions. rv(/) anti t > ( t ) ....................................................

103

8 .1

C ontrol Rest-lengths Variations for S ym m etrical Reconfiguration . . . .

8.5

Tensions Variations for Sym m etrical R e c o n fig u ra tio n ......................

101

8.6

C ontrol Torque V ariation for S ym m etrical R e c o n fig u ra tio n ............

101

In itia l C onditions Response for P = 500: N onlinear (- -) ancl Linear


S im ulations ( - ) .............................................................................................. 11!)

9.2

In itia l C onditions Response for P = 2500: N onlinear (- -) and Linear


Sim ulations ( - ) .............................................................................................. 119

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9.1

Deploym ent Process Representation

...............................................................

10.2

Deployment Sequence for P=300. Q uadratic P o ly n o m ia ls ...............

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10.5

Generalized Velocities Euclidean Norm for the Deployment Path

139

1 17
. . . .

Deploym ent Path and Prestressable E q u ilib riu m S u r fa c e ...........................

10.6

C ontrol Rest-length V ariation D uring Deploym ent

....................................

10.7

Potential and K in e tic Energies V a riation D u rin g D e p lo y m e n t .....

149

11.1

Tw o Stage SV D Tensegrity S e n s o r ........................................................

151

11.2

Load Deflection C h a r a c te r is tic ..............................................................

157

11.3

Torsional C h a r a c te r is tic ............................................................................

157

11.4

M in im u m N a tural Frequency (u;mm) V a r ia tio n ...................................

160

11.5

M axim um N atural Frequency (a,max) V a ria tio n

..........................................

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116

10.3 E rror Between the Deployment path and the E q u ilib riu m Path
10.4

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160

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Figure

Page

11.6

Chebyshev Parameters Influence upon the Performance o f the E stim ator

11.7

\ l r and A/ E stim a to r E v a lu a tio n ...........................................................

166

11.8

M z and Fr E stim a to r E v a lu a tio n ...........................................................

166

11.9

Fy and F r E stim a to r Evaluation

......................................................................

11.10 E stim ator Evaluation for Sinusoidal Fz E x c ita tio n ..............................


Tw o Stage Tensegrity Sim ulator

......................................................................

12.2

V a riation o f

12.3

Elevator Com m and: Desired (-) and S im ulator (- -)Accelerations

12.4

Elevator Com m and: C ontrol T im e H is to rie s .......................................

187

12.5

Flap C om m and: Desired (-) and S im ulator (- -) A c c e le ra tio n s .....

188

12.6

Flap C om m and: C ontrol T im e H is to r ie s ..............................................

18!)

12.7

T h ro ttle C om m and: Desired (-) and S im ulator (- -)Accelerations

12.8

T h ro ttle C om m and: C ontrol T im e H is to rie s .......................................

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w ith Mass o f T o p ..............................................

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12.1

and

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1!)()

A B ST R A C T
Sultan. Cornel. P h.D .. Purdue University. May l?M)9. M odeling. Design, and C ontrol
of Tensegrity S tructures w ith Applications. M a jo r Professor: M a rtin J. Corless.
Classical flexible structures dynamics and control suffer from several m a jo r de
ficiencies. F irst, reliable m athem atical models involve partial differential equations
which are d iffic u lt to deal w ith a n a lytica lly as well as num erically. A pa rtia l differen

tia l equations m a th em a tical model of a system's dynam ics is not practical for control
system design, since most o f the modern control systems design methodologies as
sume a state space representation. Second, from a practical perspective, the control

like telescopic stru ts.

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of classical truss structures involves the use of expensive and short life mechanisms
T h ird , the control o f classical truss structures involves high
Fourth, classical controllable structures have

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energy, massive, h yd ra u lic actuators.

many, com plicated, bar to bar jo in ts, which make the control task d iffic u lt.
This thesis proposes a class o f lightw eight, space structures, called tensegrity stru c

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tures. which can be re lia b ly modeled using o rd in a ry differential equations. Tensegrity


structures offer excellent o p p ortun ities for physically integrated stru ctu re and control
system design since th e ir members can serve sim ultaneously as sensors, actuators, and
load carrying elements. The actuating functions can be carried by tendons, controlled
by electric m otors. Thus, telescopic struts and h yd ra u lic actuators can be e lim ina ted .
A d d itio n a lly, tensegrity structures can be b u ilt w ith o u t any bar to bar connections.
The general prestressability conditions for tensegrity structures are derived from
the principle o f v irtu a l w ork. In several cases these conditions are a n a ly tic a lly solved,
allow ing for the param eterization of certain classes o f prestressable configurations.

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A general m ethodology for the investigation o f the prestressability conditions is also


developed. The m ethodology uses sym bolic and num eric com putation, and it is meant
to significantly reduce the co m p le xity of the prestressability conditions for certain
prestressable configurations.
M athem atical models for tensegrity structures dynam ics are developed using the
Lagrangian approach. For certain classes of structures, p a rticu la r m otions are inves
tigated and sim pler dyna m ic equations are derived. These equations are next used
for a sim ple, efficient, tendon control reconfiguration procedure. For certain classes
of tensegrity structures linear param etric dynam ical models are also developed.
A tendon control deploym ent procedure for tensegrity structure's is developed. The
procedure is tim e o p tim a l and uses continuous tim e control laws. It is bast'd on the

discovery of a connected e q u ilib riu m m anifold to which the deployed anel undeployed
configurations belong. The deploym ent is conducted such th a t, in the state space,

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the deploym ent path is close enough to the e q u ilib riu m m anifold.
A force and torque sensor based on a tensegrity stru ctu re is proposed, enabling

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the simultaneous measurement o f six quantities, three orthogonal forces and three
orthogonal moments. A n o p tim a l estim ator is designed, based on the linearized model
of the structure.

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Finally, a m otion sim u la to r which exploits the in trin sic advantages of a tensegrity
structure, is proposed. The a ctu a tin g functions are carried out by the tendons, e lim
in a tin g the telescopic actuators. A nonlinear robust tracking controller is designed to
assure exponential convergence o f the tracking erro r to a ball o f prespecified radius,
w ith a prespecified rate o f convergence.

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1. IN T R O D U C T IO N
1.1

H istory o f T ensegrity S tructures


The word tensegrity is an acronym , a contract ion o f tensional integrity. In Syner

getics - E xplorations in the G eom etry o f T h in k in g " - a book which lias been referred
to as a source o f endless inspiration ami stim u lu s" (A X '. Clarke) - R. B uckm inster
Fuller defines tensegrity as a stru ctu ra l relationship principle in which stru ctu ra l

shape is guaranteed by the interaction between a continuous network o f members


in tension and a set of members in com pression", adding: A ll structures, properly

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understood, from the solar system to the atom , are tensegrity structures."
Tensegrity structures are lattices th a t form fin ite networks depending on the a r

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rangement o f the vertices: tower-like structures, tw o layered networks or crystalline


type networks according to the num ber of spatial directions they develop. They con
sist o f a set o f soft members (for example elastic tendons), and a set of hard members

Fig. 1. 1.

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(fo r exam ple bars). A perspective view of a two stage tensegrity structure is given in

A lth o u g h the origins o f tensegrity structures can be pin-pointed to 1927 (S n e lso n [l]).
the m ain investigations have been carried out d u rin g the last fo rty years, w ith artists
work as the s ta rtin g point (Snelson. 1948). Tensegrity structures were looked upon
from an engineering perspective for the first tim e by R. B. Fuller[2] (see also Sadao['J]).
w hile D. G. Emmerich[4] can be considered the first experim entalist.
G eom etrical investigations followed, most o f them being reported in Fuller's[2]
and Pughs[5] publications. Chassagnoux[6 ] introduced a com plete geom etrical char
acterization o f sim plex, one stage tensegrity m odules w ith a regular polygonal base
and axial sym m etry. G rip[7] proposed a classification system o f certain tensegrity

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Tendon

Figure 1.1 Tw o Stage Tensegrity S tructu re

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structures, relating any convex polyhedron to a tensegrity stru ctu re by defining a


one-to-one correspondence between the elements of the polyhedron and the elements

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o f the structure. A ll these studies were descriptive, including, at m ost, geometrical


analysis.

Approaches using mechanics have been developed recently. A t the beginning, they

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were aimed at checking if a proposed, polyhedron-based geometry, could constitute


a prestressable configuration. For a tensegrity structure a prestressable configuration
is defined as a geom etry which can sustain its shav>e w ith no external applied force
and w ith all tendons in tension. As pointed out by M o tro [ 8 ], these studies confirm ed
the differences - observed by all those who had b u ilt physical models - between pre
stressable configurations and the geom etry o f regular polyhedrons. T his observation
was essential, since it established as a fundam ental problem in tensegrity structures
research th a t o f prestressable configurations finding (the so called prestressabilitg

problem).
As a consequence, research in tensegrity structures turned in to a m ore system atic
and engineering oriented one. aim ed at establishing the theoretical fram ew ork for

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those structures analysis and design. Am ong the researchers in tensegrity structures,
Pellegrino[9. 10]. M otro[S, 11], and H a n a o r[l 2 ] stand out as those who have made
im p o rta n t co n trib u tio n s towards fu rth e r knowledge o f these structures statics. Linear
dynam ic analysis results have been published by M o tro fl I] and Furuyafi-'lj. .Nonlinear
dynam ics and control design studies have been reported by S ke lton]! 1] and Sultan]I-*).
16. 17. 18].
In d u stria l projects and proposals are beginning, most o f them being focused on
tensegrity double layer systems (tensegrity domes) (Hanaor[12], Wang] 10]). It, is in
teresting to note th a t, very recently, tensegrity structures have been proposed to
explain how various types o f cells (e.g. nerve cells, smooth muscle, etc.) resist shape
distorsion (Ingber[20]. Ingber[21|). T his is due to the many s im ila ritie s between the

properties o f tensegrity structures and those o f certain cells.

F irst, in suspended

(round) cells, the cytoskeleton ((.SK) forms a self-equilibrated system. Second, cells

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are in itia lly tense ( prestressed"). T h ird , the more tensed cells e x h ib it higher s tiff
ness. Fourth. liv in g cells e x h ib it stiffening. A ll these properties are also common in

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tensegrity structures. Q u a lita tive and q u a n tita tiv e results using a tw o stage tenseg
r ity stru ctu re to m odel a cells static properties have been reported, in agreement
w ith biological experim ental results (Stainenovic[ 22 ]. Coughlin[2-'}]).

M otivation

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1.2

A n im p o rta n t advantage of tensegrity structures, is th a t they are capable o f large


displacem ent, e x h ib itin g flexible, behavior. The advantage over classical flexible struc
tures is th a t th e ir fle x ib ility is achieved through special design techniques th a t com
bine elements th a t can be considered, to a good a p p ro xim ation, as rig id bodies or
massless elastic members (e.g. tendons). This means th a t, tensegrity structures d y
nam ical models can be derived considering th a t all rig id bodies are placed in the po
te n tia l elastic field created by the elastic members and, eventually, considering other
external and in te rn a l force fields (e.g. g ra vita tio n a l, electrom agnetic ones. etc.). We

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rem ark here the analogy w ith Fuller's view on the solar system and the atom , when
he classified them as tensegrity systems.
The im portance o f this fact cannot he overstated.

For exam ple, the tensegrity

layer in Fig. 1.2. obtained through the bidirection al expansion o f the two stage m od
ule in Fig. 1.1. constitutes a flexible structure in w h irh hard (bars) and soft (tendons)
members interact to yie ld the desired behavior. For a certain range of loads, we can
assume th a t the bars are rigid bodies and the tendons are mass less, linear elastic ele
ments. Hence we conclude th a t a model composed of a finite set o f ordinary differen-

tial equations would be appropriate for tensegrity structures m athem atical m odeling.
If instead of the tensegrity layer we consider a continuous elastic m edium (flexible
structure), its statics and dynam ics are described by partial differential equations.

S im ila r comparisons can be made between a tensegrity tower (im agine expanding the

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two stage m odule in Fig. 1.1 ve rtica lly) and a classical Euler B ernoulli beam.

Figure 1.2 Tensegrity Layer

As is well know n, o rd in a ry differential equations are much easier to deal w ith


num erically as well as ana lytically. Moreover, modern control system design theories
heavily rely on state space representation o f system's dynam ics. O rd in a ry differen
tia l equations are re a d ily p u t in state space form (Skelton[21]). whereas for p a rtia l
differential equations the situ a tio n is different: the separation o f variables m ethod is

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applied in some cases (e.g. for linear pa rtia l differential equations w ith linear bound
ary conditions) to get an in fin ite set of ord in a ry differential equations (g ivin g the
modes am plitudes) and a set o f p a rtia l differential equations w ith boundary values
(providing the eigenvalues and eigenfunctions). I sually. for control design, a fin ite set
o f ordinary differential equations is generated discarding some modes. Thus, qualita

tive as well as quantitative a lte ra tio n o f the pa rtia l differential equat ions m athem atical
model is performed through th is process.
Another m ajor advantage th a t many (b u t not a ll) tensegrity structures offer for
m athem atical m odeling purposes, is th a t, at e q u ilib riu m , all its bars and tendons can
be considered axially loaded (assum ing compressive loads are well below the buckling
loads). Thus the bars are not subjected to composed excitations (e.g. bending w ith

axial loading, bending w ith shear, etc.). This is very im p o rta n t, since it is a known fact
th a t composed excitations models are not as reliable as those for sim ple stretching or

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compression (e.g. there are several more assumptions made in the bending phenomena
m odeling). YVe note th a t th is advantage is lost for different rigid bodies (e.g. plates)

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which are part of a tensegrity stru ctu re and also for those bars which are rig id ly
attached to rigid bodies, as this dissertation w ill show.
The advantages m entioned so far call for a strong support for analytical studies of

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tensegrity structures. These studies are expected to be more reliable and successful
than those for other classes o f structures, leading to the expectation o f highly reliable
m athem atical models and therefore sig nifica ntly
system.

better

performance from the control

From the technological point o f view, tensegrity structures offer several im p o rta n t
advantages. F irst, as m entioned by one o f th e ir first inventors. Emmerich[-1]. many
tensegrity structures do not have bar to bar connections. Thus com plicated jo in ts are
elim inated.

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Second, tensegrity structures offer excellent o p p ortun ities for physically integrated
stru ctu re and controller design since th e ir members can serve sim ultaneously as sen
sors, actuators, and load carrying elements. H aving incorporated sensors and actua
tors. tensegrity structures have considerable prom ise as sm art structures (S kelton [l 1].
S u lta n [lo ]. Sultan[17|).
T h ird , a tensegrity structure resembles the m olecular structure o f the dragline silk
o f the golden orb-weaver spider, the strongest natural fiber as measured by its stiffness
to mass ratio, in the sense th a t hard and soft members interact to yield a structure
o f great fle x ib ility and strength, its aggregate properties differing from those o f the
components. Connection o f these hard and soft parts in different (non-orthogonal)
directions allows this arrangement to reinforce the fiber in different directions, giving

it great fle x ib ility . A man made fiber w ith these properties could make stronger bridge
cables, construction m aterials, im pact structures, a rtific ia l tendons, and a rtific ia l skin.

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Fourth, for most m aterials (concrete m ig h t be an exception) the tensile strength


exceeds its compressive strength (b u cklin g load).

Thus, the mass of a structure

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composed o f interconnected lo n g itu d in a l members, is usually dom inated by the mass


o f the compressive members.

Tensegrity structures have the advantage of having

lots o f tensile members (of negligible mass com pared to the mass of the bars, as this

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dissertation w ill show) and few compressive members. Hence a tensegrity structure
is a lightweight structure w ith a high stiffness to mass ratio and high strength to
mass ratio. Most o f the in d u stria l applications proposed by previous researchers (for
exam ple tensegrity domes) exp lo it this m a jo r advantage.
Last but not least, in order to make fu n d a m e n ta l contributions in structures,
one m ust re-examine the basic philosophy o f structures design. H istorically, man has
designed structures using rectilinear th in k in g . For exam ple, a ircra ft wings (and almost
a ll structures b u ilt by man) begin w ith re ctilin e a r members (orthogonal longerons
and spars) designed to specified stiffness properties for the overall system. Tensegrity
structures d is trib u te mass and stiffness in skewed directions rather than rectilinear.

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