[2021] Optimizing support locations in structural design

Lee, T.U., Meng, X. and Xie, Y.M., 2021. Proceedings of the IASS Annual Symposium 2020/21. [Link]

Support locations of a structure in traditional structural design procedures are typically prescribed. A structure with improved structural performance may be obtained by manually adjusting its support locations through a trial-and-error process. However, such an approach is tedious and time-consuming, and the results can be far from the optimal solution.

This study presents a new method for automatically finding optimal support locations of a structure under given loading conditions. Computational algorithms are developed based on a combination of an Optimality Criteria (OC) method and the Bi-directional Evolutionary Structural Optimization (BESO) technique. Two classes of problems have been investigated: (I) optimizing the distribution of a given number of vertical supporting columns under a roof structure; (II) simultaneously designing the topology of a structure and its support locations. A series of 2D and 3D examples are presented to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new algorithms. It is shown that treating support locations as additional design variables provides new opportunities to significantly improve the structural performance and therefore reduce the environmental impact of bridges, buildings and other artefacts.