Stressed Skin Structures in Wood

Innovation in parametric design and robotic fabrication is in a reciprocal relationship with the investigation of new structural types that facilitate the technology. The stressed skin structure has historically been used to create lightweight curved structures, mainly in engineering applications such as naval vessels, aircraft and space shuttles.

Stressed skin structures were first referred to by Fairbairn in 1849 (Fairbairn 1849). In England, the first use of the structure was in the Mosquito night bomber of World War II (J. R. Vinson, n.d., 202). In the USA, stressed skin structures were used at the same time where the Wright Patterson Air Force Base designed and fabricated the Vultee BT-15 fuselage using fiberglass-reinforced polyester as the face material and both glass-fabric honeycomb and balsa wood core (J. R. Vinson, n.d., 202). With the renewed interest in wood as a structural building material due to its sustainable characteristics, new potentials for the use of stressed skin structures made from wood on building scales are emerging. The authors present a material informed system that is characterized by its adaptability to free form curvature on exterior surfaces.

A stressed skin system can employ thinner materials that can be bent in their elastic bending range and then fixed into place, leading to the ability to be architecturally malleable, structurally highly efficient as well as easily buildable. The interstitial space can also be used for services. Advanced digital fabrication and robotic manufacturing methods further enhance this capability by enabling precisely fabricated tolerances and embedded assembly instructions; these are essential to fabricate complex, multi-component forms. Through a prototypical installation, the authors demonstrate and discuss the technology of the stressed skin structure in wood considering current digital design and fabrication technologies.

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Stressed Skin Wood Surface Structures: Potential Applications in Architecture

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