If you’ve been on the internet in the past few weeks you may have come across a new word together with some scarcely believable images and videos. That word is tensegrity and the media attached to it seems to show off levitating objects made with nothing more than some plastic and string.
Tensegrity is a portmanteau of “tension” and “integrity” and is used to describe objects which are kept aloft by some kind of tension. In terms of the clever projects people are posting online, that tension usually comes by the way of thin wires which give off the impression that parts of the structures are floating or held up by impossible means.
The most common form of tensegrity demonstration going around is a simple structure that looks something like this.
The two most popular ways to make these structures at home right now seem to be with either 3D printing or with LEGO.
Before the crazy really took off we actually featured a tensegrity “table” back in March. This small desk toy used fishing line to give off the impression of a floating platform.
Since then the maker community has really taken off with the idea. Searching for “tensegrity” on places like Thingiverse pulls up results for all manner of designs.
Our favourites so far include this multi-stage structure, a ball and one using magnets. yes we know that the use of magnets kind of defeats the purpose of harnessing the tension in objects like wire, but it’s an impressive feat regardless.
Those without access to a 3D printer will be happy to know that you could possibly build one of these using the LEGO you have packed away somewhere.
While LEGO actually does produce and sell various lengths of string to be used in its sets, our favourite implementation so far uses chain pieces.
This example from Jason Allemann – a popular creator in the LEGO community who goes by the allies JK Brickworks – is our favourite yet. His video below even comes with the building instructions.
Again the community has really run with this idea and applied it to just about every scene you can imagine.
The great thing about this fad is that you don’t need a 3D printer or a LEGO collection to make one of these structures. As long as you have something on hand that is a long enough strand that you can put under tension, then you’re good to go.
Various tutorials are popping up online and we wouldn’t be surprised to see “build your own tensegrity structure” become the next big thing in schools along with the egg drop challenge.