Desktop Tensegrity Tower
6 Steps

Have you ever seen towers like the Needle Tower in Washington, D.C? It looks like it's just a trick, but it is real. This method of construction is called tension integrity, or "Tensegrity". Tensegrity is achieved when many wires or cables are stretched between poles in a repeating pattern. This pattern normally resembles a geometric shape such as a hexagon,a square or a triangle.

In this instructable I will show how to make your very own desktop "Tensegrity Tower" using only some basic hardware store materials.

This is my entry for the Epilog Laser Contest. If you like it, please vote for me.

I credit the idea of this instructable to William Gurstelle's article in Make: Volume 6
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## Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials:

*Note that these materials are for a 4 story tower. Larger quantities of materials will be needed for larger towers.

Rubber bands; assorted sizes

#214 eye screws; 24

5/16" dowel, 96" length; other diameters will also work, just make sure the eye screw fits

Plastic stretch cord; used for making jewelry; .8mm; about 9m

Vaseline or soap; optional; to lubricate the screws

Stain and clear-coat

Tools:

Drill with 5/64" bit

Strong pliers

Hacksaw; or other saw with a thin blade; for cutting the dowels

CA Glue

Scissors

Sandpaper

tala910185010 says: Oct 30, 2011. 12:36 AM
well done.AMAZING....
I am going to try this with my students in our architecture modeling atelier
I wander if I try your advise about not looking clumped, I should change the position of plastic bands while tying ?If so, dose the size of cords changed a lot?How should I calculate the new?
dombeef says: Mar 17, 2011. 9:08 PM
How doesn't the needle tower fall down?
bwelkin says: Aug 7, 2011. 8:59 PM
It doesn't fall down because it has "tensional integrity" a phrase used by R. "Bucky" Fuller to describe a structure that used tension and compression forces in equilibrium. The wires are under tension and the dowels under compression.

Bucky Fuller was beyond genius. If you read, understand and retain any of his books you are already a genius. But even if you just READ one it will push you a giant step to being one. Try "Spaceship Earth" - you want to travel on a large life sustaining space ship through the Cosmos? Voila - you're there now!
dzurn says: Mar 25, 2011. 4:37 AM
It doesn't fall down because R. Buckminster Fuller says it can't

;)
St Jimmy says: Mar 18, 2011. 12:01 PM
I think it's that the wires pull inwards on the supports, forcing them downwards, and stopping the tower from falling. It looks awesome though, doesn't it?
dombeef says: Mar 18, 2011. 12:54 PM
Yeah, very cool!
defec says: Mar 28, 2011. 10:38 PM
interesante!!
Wasagi says: Mar 20, 2011. 5:26 PM
I love the needle tower!! It's even cooler in person! And this is fantastic I have got to try this!
JamesRPatrick says: Mar 21, 2011. 4:20 PM
Do you live by D.C. as well?
Wasagi says: Mar 21, 2011. 5:10 PM
In Arlington, less than two miles away.
JamesRPatrick says: Mar 21, 2011. 6:13 PM
Sweet! I'm in Northern Virginia.
Wasagi says: Mar 22, 2011. 3:18 AM
Woah!
Treknology says: Mar 21, 2011. 3:22 AM
WARNING: You need a very good understanding of "tensegrity" if you dare to open and service an IBM golf-ball typewriter!!!
CameronSS says: Mar 17, 2011. 12:38 AM
Very nice! I've always wanted to try building one of these so I can explain to myself exactly how they work. I think you left out a step, though... Somewhere between steps 1 and 2 you apparently cut the 96" dowel into 12 8" sections, but never mentioned it.
scubabeaver says: Mar 20, 2011. 10:13 AM
It says about cutting the dowel on the first ine of step 2
CameronSS says: Mar 20, 2011. 10:16 AM
It didn't when I posted that comment, hence Data643's "Thanks for the catch." It's since been fixed.
Data643 (author) says: Mar 17, 2011. 5:58 AM
Thanks for the catch : )
floatingbones says: Mar 18, 2011. 8:42 PM
Excellent little project!

I'd never heard of making square knots and then super-gluing the knot. Interesting. An alternate technique to loop the cord is to use beadalon crimp bands bands and the appropriate crimping pliers.

For tensegrity newbies, an easier project can be found at http://mew.cx/mf2007tx/ (with a Bre Pettis video of the same at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96kz98yEO1w ).

One artist at tensiondesigns.com makes and sells tensegrity towers. I have a friend who has his 8-foot model. Amazing!