On the mechanical modeling and the optimal design of tensegrity structures
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In this thesis, we investigate the use of the most fundamental elements; cables for tension and bars for compression, in the search for the most efficient bridges. Stable arrangements of these elements are called tensegrity structures. We show herein the minimal mass arrangement of these basic elements to satisfy both yielding and buckling constraints. We show that the minimal mass solution for a simply-supported bridge subject to buckling constraints matches Michell's 1904 paper which treats the case of only yield constraints, even though our boundary conditions differ. The necessary and sufficient condition is given for the minimal mass bridge to lie totally above (or below) deck. Furthermore this condition depends only on material properties. If one ignores joint mass, and considers only bridges above deck level, the optimal complexity (number of elements in the bridge) tends toward infinity (producing a material continuum). If joint mass is considered then the optimal complexity is finite. The optimal (minimal mass) bridge below deck has the smallest possible complexity (and therefore cheaper to build), and under reasonable material choices, yields the smallest mass bridge.