Author(s): C. H. M. Jenkins
Nature has embraced the compliant membrane structure as a central element in higher
Human-engineered structures have by and large followed the rule of “design
with stiffness.” This chapter first looks to nature for guidance in the design of compliant
In particular, we are led to partition of structural function, structural
hierarchy, and low material modulus.
Then we examine how these and other issues, such as
boundary design and seams, can be illuminated in the design of compliant membrane structures
Every structure is a material.
Historically, the term “structure” has conjured up images of
structural form, such as a truss or a bridge, with the structural material relegated to the
The layperson immediately recognizes the structural form of a truss, regardless of
whether it is made from wood or steel (Fig.
On the other hand, there are many modern
structures, such as the high-altitude balloon shown in Figure 2, which, due to their high
compliance, transcend easily compartmentalized topographical descriptions.
It is surprising
how much the material essence of the structure stands out in the figure.
Prior to the advent of material engineering, the structural engineering had little choice but
to design the form of the structure, then search for an “off-the-shelf” material to use.
however, the ability to engineer the material at the same time as the structural form has
changed the landscape of design.
Pushing the performance demands of technology ever higher
has led to new material/structural systems wherein the form and material become
indistinguishable – this is indicative of approaching optimal design.
Nowhere is this trend more
evident than in compliant structures.
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Paper DOI: 10.2495/978-1-85312-941-4/11
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