Active tensegrity structures with integrated actuation
Tensegrity (tensional integrity) structures are comprised of a network of elements held in compression by elements placed in tension. Changing the length of individual elements in a coordinated fashion makes these structures active, so that they can reconfigure their shape. Clustering of cable elements through routing strategies migrates actuators out of the structure itself, making the design of structures independent of any particular actuator technology.
Tensegrity structures are used as the basis for active deformation of biologically-inspired robotic pectoral fins because they can achieve complex, large amplitude shape changes at a low energetic cost. The mechanics of these pre-stressed, statically indeterminate structures is an active area of research and current efforts are focused on optimizing them for use in robotic pectoral fins. Clustering and routing strategies for active elements are explored, as well as the effects they have on load-displacement relationships.