INNOVATIONS IN STRUCTURAL OPTIMIZATION

Sam Lanahan, President/Inventor

Sam Lanahan, President/Inventor

I had the great good fortune to accompany Buckminster Fuller on his speaking tour of Southeast Asia in 1976. His impact on my life is immeasurable. Working out  of a small basement studio in Raleigh, N.C. I began to construct tensegrities as art with the prospect of producing tables and useful designs (see Innovations in Structural Optimization). To my knowledge, I was the first to use "curved" compression members in their construction. Although some might disagree with this statement, I stand by it. Snelson's Bat Wing Piece appears to be a cantilevered effort and would not comport to Moto's definition of what is a tensgrity. (See Rene Motro's Tensegrity- Structural Systems for the Future -page 19). Regrettably this is an academic debate and not the focus of this website. My subsequent explorations into the geometry of "Tensegrities" provided insights into the possibility that a "universal fabric" could be woven from wire and struts. And then, I proved myself wrong (that is, I abandoned the thesis for using the Tensegrity paradigm) and arrived at an entirely different solution that is elegant, economical, structural stable, easy to produce and practical. I took a harder look at tension and compression. To be faithful, Kenneth Snelson is the progenitor of what has come to be known as 'tensegrity' -a Fuller term. Mr. Snelson's work has inspired me. However, Tensegrities, in their present construction, are neither practical in application nor do they lend themselves to machine assembly.  It took a long time to come to that conclusion (read my musings on why the Flextegrity material is not a tensegrity). 


For 25 years I carried around the idea for a single repeating unit that was structurally stable, connected to it's neighbor, and reduced weight without sacrificing strength. During those years I went back to school for a graduate degree, started a successful software company (with the extraordinary contribution of many others) and did a major historic preservation project (my final stone piling project!). I could no longer ignore my passion for the subject so began anew my exploration for a universal fabric not to be confused with the "Fabric of the Universe."  First, I stacked octahedral tensegrity cells into a tensile array. However, this time I realized that the outline of the icosahedron formed by the tensile elements was actually the omni-axial compression element (or thinking differently, its inverse).  Then I realized that the lines of tension could be created from strategically placed interconnecting elements restraining the twelve degrees of freedom. Discontinuous compression in a tensile matrix.  I think it was by training that I question everything, and in this case the opposite was correct. I've spent the last six years nailing down the intellectual property (two patents, one pending), exploring different weave patterns, assembly techniques and understanding the basic structural elements of the array. And, oh in passing, this is not cheap stuff! The latest invention-the 'Floret' structure still continues to baffles many. Its origins are in two intertwined tetrahedrals, sometimes called the 'bowtie' crystal, that are formed by the three uppermost, central, and lowest three loci of the cubo-octahedral shape.

In my years of entrepreneurial experience I know that while the insight might be mine alone it takes a great team of people and many skills to exploit the potential of the idea and bring products to market. Sometimes it's serendipitous and other times you have to know when to change course and go in another direction.  This wonderful journey continues as a result of outstanding contributions to my understanding of structures, fabrics and design from the following people: LaJean Lawson, George Laird, Jeff Miller, Mark Martin, Mike Girard, Dave Van Dyke, Kirby Urner, Jason West, Dan Mandish, Griff Jay, Paul Clerc, Bill Giobbi, and many more.

 
 

Advisory Board

Establishment of board member selection criteria in relationship to the company’s strategy and needs is in progress. We are seeking advisors and active angel investors with backgrounds in materials science/engineering, manufacturing, and distribution.

Other

Key professional entities that continue to support and contribute substantially to Flextegrity’s efforts include:

In particular: -LaJean Lawson (Product development and marketing)

-Jim Cochell (business strategy and development)
-Creative Products, Inc. (rapid prototyping)
-Development Works (industrial design and engineering)
-Klarquist Sparkman, LLP (intellectual property and general counsel)
-Mark Martin (mathematical modeling / computational materials science)
-Predictive Engineering (structural and mechanical engineering including finite element analysis)
-VGO Testing & Inspection Engineers (finite element analysis and destructive testing)
-Watermelon Web Works (website Design)
-Designwest, (graphic design and book layout)
-Linea Forma, (computer Art)