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Dynamics of Lightweight Tensegrity-Inspired Metamaterials Fabricated with 3D-Printing


Pajunen, Kirsti Mari (2020) Dynamics of Lightweight Tensegrity-Inspired Metamaterials Fabricated with 3D-Printing. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/wm2f-4013.


Tensegrity structures and lattices have been of interest in engineering applications for decades, with their dynamics becoming a thriving field of study. Tensegrities consist of structural members under purely axial loading, either tension or compression, and obtain their stability from prestress. They possess unique characteristics such as high strength-to-weight ratio, nonlinear behavior, and elastic response under severe deformation. Tensegrity lattices (or metamaterials) have been shown to exhibit appealing dynamic attributes such as continuous tunability with prestress, impact mitigation, energy trapping and lensing, and nonlinear wave propagation, to name a few. However, their pin-jointed and prestressed nature presents significant manufacturing limitations, especially in the formation of lattices with large numbers of tessellated unit cells. Therefore, experimental validation of the dynamics of tensegrity metamaterials has remained elusive. For lattices with tensegrity-like characteristics to be manifested for real-world applications, a method for producing tensegrity-like metamaterials at multiple length scales is needed.

In this thesis, we present a design for a 3D-printable tensegrity-inspired structure with the equivalent strain energy capacity and stress-strain response as a pin-jointed tensegrity. Using this structure as a building block for multidimensional lattices, we subject them to a range of dynamic loading conditions to study their response. First, we perform experiments and simulations to obtain the dispersion relations for 1D and 3D lattices. We demonstrate the lattices’ ability to continuously tune the dispersion characteristics (e.g., band gap and wave speed) under precompression. This trait shows potential for acoustic lensing and dispersive wave propagation. In 3D, we show that the lattice shows the same type of unique properties, such as faster shear speed than longitudinal speed, as pin-jointed tensegrity lattices. Next, we study the lattices under impact loading. Long-duration impact experiments on baseline unit cells and 1D lattices show their resilience to repeated deformation, elasticity, and load limitation behaviors. Short-duration impulse experiments and simulations exhibit a wealth of desirable properties, such as high force transmission reduction, highly dispersive wave propagation, tunable wave speeds, energy trapping, and redirection of energy. We demonstrate that these tensegrity-inspired metamaterials not only exhibit and experimentally demonstrate tensegrity-like characteristics, but open a new range of lightweight metamaterials with unprecedented dynamic properties.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Tensegrity; metamaterial; 3D-printing; buckling; dynamics; impact; dispersion
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Space Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Daraio, Chiara
Thesis Committee:
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami (chair)
  • Daraio, Chiara
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
  • Hofmann, Douglas C.
Defense Date:24 March 2020
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship32 CFR 168a
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06012020-003455628
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapters 2, 3, and 5.
Pajunen, Kirsti Mari0000-0002-5366-1190
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13754
Deposited By: Kirsti Pajunen
Deposited On:02 Jun 2020 16:38
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:21

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PDF (Kirsti Pajunen Final PhD Thesis 2020) - Final Version
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