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Closeup of strains in canvas

Warwick / Courtauld Institute of Art

Stress Computation, Visualisation and Measurement in: 1 - Design of free-form fabric structures; 2 - Fine art restoration and novel artist materials; 3 - Digital art/imagery

This is a portfolio of three projects undertaken by the University of Warwick (Principal Investigator) and Courtauld Institute of Art (Co-investigator).

Tension fabric is being studied as a medium for sculpturing architectural enclosures, but also as a material for structural conservation of easel paintings and as artists' canvas. This AHRC/EPSRC sponsored project represents inter-linked aspects of the study of fabrics, brought together under a common mathematical structure and experimental research methodology.

1: The design of free-form fabric enclosures is aimed at generating minimum energy forms (by analogy to soap films). These are the enclosures which, as far as is practicable, have uniform surface tension.

Free-form fabric enclosure at night Free-form fabric enclosure erected in a field

The main challenge in the design lies in patterning – the transformation of a stressed, 3D surface into a series of 2D cutting patterns in unstrained fabric. Patterning has to ensure as accurate as possible representation of the 3D surface, minimal wrinkling of the fabric after membrane manufacture, and economy of material usage. Industrial partner in this project: Carter & Son (Thatcham) Ltd.

2: Mechanical properties of fabrics are studied using experimental measurement (Courtauld) and novel computational methodology to establish stress-strain characteristics (Warwick). Prototype fabrics are being developed by Courtauld, taking into account factors, such as physical/chemical long-term stability, mechanical properties, moisture permeability, texture, handling properties, and aesthetics. Industrial partner in this project: Heathcote Fabrics.

Strain map - biaxial test results (weft direction)

Image: Strain map - biaxial test results (weft direction)

3: Digital art is a by-product of research into stressed fabrics. The computational methodology plus optical measurements are capable of producing colour images of stress/deformation patterns developing in the fabric subjected to a variety of environmental loading regimes.

Strains in canvas pattern Strains in canvas pattern

Principal strains in canvas with idealised/fictitious mechanical properties. The canvas is nailed to a frame of 10x10 units, at 1 unit intervals, and then uniformly stretched.