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Tensegrity

Tensegrity is a term coined by Buckminster Fuller to describe the strategy of using tension for structural integrity. Sometimes turning compressive stress into tensile stress can help you reduce material use.  It’s ideal when working with materials that have strength in tension that is similar to their strength in compression.

Any design that resists compression forces is also resisting buckling.  Compression can buckle your product long before the strength of the materials fail, especially in long or skinny parts.  By contrast, a part under tension will fail at the yield strength of the material. So you can make the elements in tension thinner without compromising structural integrity.

You’ll see tension helping to lightweight a bicycle wheel in two ways. The spokes that connect the hub and the rim are in tension, and can be much thinner and lighter than if they were in compression.  The inflated rubber tire is also in tension and maintains its shape due to its internal air pressure. 

 

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