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Lars U. Hansen
, Peter Horst
Institute of Aircraft Design and Lightweight Structures (IFL), TU Braunschweig, Hermann-Blenk-Str. 35, 38108 Braunschweig, Germany
Received 21 December 2006; accepted 2 May 2007
Available online 22 June 2007
Changes of the structural design are one of the essentials in the investigation and optimization of alternative and innovative aircraft
concepts. In this paper the choice of an appropriate design is seen as an optimization problem and solved by the application of a mul-
tilevel optimization procedure based on detailed Finite Element models of certain structural parts. The design is variable by its principle
layout, its material and its dimensions.
At the top level an Evolution Strategy drives the topology parameters. The second level of the optimization procedure is based on the
deterministic, gradient-based optimization method of MSC.Nastran
Sol200 that is used to optimize thicknesses and cross-sections of the
model with respect to diﬀerent design constraints. The model generation is based on Patran PCL-routines. A parallel evaluation is used
to increase calculation speed.
Two examples are presented in this context. The ﬁrst one shows advantages of the multilevel approach in simultaneous sizing and
topology optimization of a generic framework structure. The second example is an application to a structural design optimization of
a Blended Wing Body aircraft fuselage structure. This example shows the full scope of the method by consideration of metal and com-
posite designs in single, double and sandwich layout under multiple load and constraint conditions.
Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Multilevel optimization; Structural optimization; Evolution Strategy; Evolutionary algorithms; MSC.Nastran
Sol200; Blended Wing Body
The eﬃciency and environmental friendliness are of high
importance for future aircraft designs. In particular, the
structural weight has a large inﬂuence on the overall per-
formance of an aircraft which has in turn a major impact
on emissions and fuel consumption.
Especially in aircraft design studies of unconventional
conﬁgurations a weight estimation is extremely diﬃcult
but essential to rate a concept’s potential and quality (cp.
with work on ﬂying wings by ). The simplest weight esti-
mation methods often rely on empirical relations and are,
as a consequence, based on existing aircraft. An improve-
ment of such methods can be achieved by adding a physical
representation of the aircraft and its loads to the method,
either by creating relatively simple physics-based models
or by more detailed representations with global Finite Ele-
ment models, which again diﬀer in their ﬁdelity and quality
by the way loads are comprised (cp. with work presented in
[3,18,19], and especially ). In either case the deﬁnition
of principal properties of the structure relies on the know-
ledge related to the detailed layout of the structure. Often
this knowledge is obtained from prior aircraft generations
and their structural layouts.
In order to evaluate unconventional aircraft conﬁgura-
tions (Blended Wing Body, Oblique Flying Wing, etc.),
where it is likely that structural designs will be diﬀerent
from today’s standard, as investigated by Hansen et al.
[7,8] and O
sterheld et al. , an optimization task should
be performed to ﬁnd a suitable and light structural layout,
respectively design, and to link its properties (e.g. stiﬀ-
nesses, speciﬁc weights) to the global weight prediction
0045-7949/$ - see front matter Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 5313919919; fax: +49 5313919904.
E-mail address: L.Hansen@tu-bs.de (L.U. Hansen).
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118
To cope with this situation an approach has been chosen
where loads and geometry data are extracted manually
from representative parts of a global Finite Element model
(cp. Fig. 1).
This information provides the basis for a detailed, para-
metric model that is capable of covering a large range of
possible structural designs (diﬀerent layouts, materials,
proportions, etc.). Many combinations of design parame-
ters can be found that fulﬁll its design requirements.
The need for an optimization approach is obvious and
due to the lack of information about the shape of the
design space an algorithm should be chosen that is capable
of ﬁnding global optima. An increase of eﬃciency is achiev-
able by separating this task into two optimization levels:
the ﬁrst level uses an Evolutionary Algorithm due to the
capability of ﬁnding global optima.
The second level has been realized by implementing a
deterministic optimization method, driven by gradient
information, which is readily provided by the Solution
200 of the commercial Finite Element Code MSC.Nas-
(v2005). The set of design variables is divided into
a group of variables describing the principal concept layout
and a second group of variables that aﬀect the proportions
of the model. This partition leads to a topology design
optimization task performed by the Evolution Strategy
and a second level optimization task that determines an
ideal and feasible combination of thicknesses and cross-sec-
tions to fulﬁll design requirements and constraints. The
result of the second level is handed to the ﬁrst optimization
level through the deﬁnition of a ﬁtness function.
The choice of an Evolutionary Algorithms for the ﬁrst
optimization level is based on diﬀerent reasons: one advan-
tage of most Evolutionary Algorithms is their capability of
ﬁnding global optima in ragged design spaces and handling
many design variables without a signiﬁcant increase in
computation time. The advantage of dealing directly with
real valued design variables without encoding was decisive
for applying an Evolution Strategy. Furthermore the imple-
mentation of a lifespan into the optimization allows to
enforce somehow robust design solutions: slightly distorted
design variables need to create reproducible good results in
order to remain longer than a single lifespan in the popula-
tion. Consequently optimum solutions, that resulted only
from numerical eﬀects, will be removed without perma-
nently misleading the optimization.
This paper is structured as follows. In Sections 2 and 3
the optimization approach and the parametric models are
presented. Section 4 and 5 present diﬀerent applications
of the method. Section 4 places the emphasis on comparing
the multilevel with a single-level approach. In Section 5 the
multilevel approach is examined in application to a model
with high complexity and large changes in shape and topol-
ogy during design optimization. The evaluation ends with a
conclusion and summary in Section 6.
s shear stress
l population size
m Poisson’s ratio
j life span
k oﬀspring per generation
g inequality constraint function
h equality constraint function
n number of design variables
number equality/inequality constraints
number of strategy parameters
force ﬂux in x-, y-direction
w weighting factor
A cross-section area
C, D shape constants
E Young’s modulus
G shear modulus
F ﬁtness function
K stiﬀness matrix
u displacement vector
P load vector
X design variable vector
11, 22 principal direction 1, 2
vMises equivalent von Mises stress
Fig. 1. Global FEM model of a Blended Wing Body aircraft .
L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118 105
2. Optimization approach
The objective of the optimization task is to ﬁnd a struc-
ture that has a minimum weight while fulﬁlling other
design requirements and constraints. The scope of the
design space covers diﬀerent model topologies and topog-
raphies, each one composed of parts in diﬀerent dimensions
Consequently, the representation of such structural lay-
• Design variables that describe the model topology and
topographie (e.g. number of stringers, existence of addi-
tional stiﬀeners, curvature radii).
• Design variables that inﬂuence the model proportions
and, by changing the stiﬀness distribution, the force ﬂow
in the structure (e.g. skin thicknesses, cross-section
areas, 2D-beam heights).
The challenge in this optimization task is the correlation
between some of the design variables. For instance, a simul-
taneous variation of design variables has a diﬀerent inﬂu-
ence than the separate variations and their superposition.
This dependency between variables is especially obvious
when it comes to variables that are more or less parameters
inﬂuencing the model layout: e.g. a parameter adding addi-
tional tension struts to the structure will change the force
ﬂow within the structure in such a signiﬁcant way, that gra-
dient information of preceding calculations will become
useless (the sensitivity of the objective and the constraint
functions will be completely diﬀerent). Consequently, all
methods purely relying on gradient information, like a
response surface method (RSM), might lead to a very inef-
ﬁcient or even diverging optimization process.
A diﬀerent approach has been taken by Raﬁq and Wil-
liams  by interfacing a trained neural network and a
Genetic Algorithm in order to increase the eﬃciency of
the optimization approach. Diﬀerent, representative points
in the search space are chosen for evaluation by Finite Ele-
ment analysis and used to train the neural network. All fur-
ther ﬁtness evaluations can then be based on the neural
network without the need of performing time consuming
Finite Element analyses. The avoidance of detailed analy-
ses is advantageous as long as the answers of the neural
network are reliable: strong interference of diﬀerent design
variables might be challenging for such an approach and
increase the number of relevant training cycles of the neu-
This paper presents another eﬃcient way to solve the
structural optimization task by dividing the complete task
into two separate optimization problems: a sizing task
and a layout (or topology) task (see Fig. 2). This multilevel
optimization (or maybe better referred to as hybrid strat-
egy) has a separate set of design variables for each level.
This leads to a certain type of optimization strategy, where
the ﬁrst level optimizes the principle layout by creation of
multiple sub-tasks that are optimized by a second level.
This separation in two levels is, due to its treatment of
every structural layout as a separate sizing optimization
task, by some means comparable to the mechanisms of a
multi-population approach in an Evolutionary Algorithm.
The lower optimization level – the sizing task – can be
solved very eﬀectively by making use of gradient informa-
tion, that can be determined eﬃciently by calculating the
sensitivities of the system stiﬀness matrices. Such a process
is included in the optimizer of Nastran.
2.1. Evolution Strategy (level 1)
Evolution Strategies (ES) and Genetic Algorithms (GA)
belong to the group of Evolutionary Algorithms (EA) that
all have a common base – Darwin’s theory of evolution: a
group of solutions, each one deﬁned by their genes (geno-
type) and referred to as individuals, is put under selection
pressure and either reduced by the weakest or selected for
recombination by its ﬁttest. This idea of survival of the ﬁt-
test is simulated over multiple generations in order to
determine the best solution.
The simulation requires parameters that describe the
model and that characterize each individual. These param-
eters are coded in genes that describe each individuals
behavior. In the case of the GA these genes are represented
by binary encodings of the parameters and represent the
genotype. A mapping function translates the genotype to
the phenotype (e.g. real-value model parameters). In ES
the genotype is normally equal to the phenotype which
means that every real-valued parameter of the optimization
model can be, without mapping functions, part of the gen-
ome. In addition to the object variables each individual
possesses in ES additional strategy parameters, deﬁning
the standard deviations (variances) and rotation angles
(covariances). The object variables and the strategy param-
eters are changed by mutation and recombination and
hence are part of the optimization problem.
All EA possess certain and speciﬁc ways to recombine,
mutate and select individuals in order to simulate multiple
Fig. 2. Multilevel optimization task.
106 L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118
generations of evolution. Two major branches of Evolu-
tionary Algorithms were developed independently from
• The Evolution Strategies were established in 1964 ini-
tially to support experimental work on aerodynamic
panel models (cp. ). The strategy was used to inte-
grate each obtained result in a population and to ﬁnd
new, and better combinations of parameters for the suc-
ceeding experiments. The strategy was able do deal
(without encoding or mapping) directly with the param-
eters of the model. This ﬁrst approach showed the
potential of the strategy although it lacked details of
today’s ES. Many improvements to the method were
contributed by Schwefel .
• The Genetic Algorithms were introduced in the 1970s by
Holland (see ). Their binary encoding is an abstract
representation of the real-valued parameters. The choice
of an adequate encoding strategy is an additional chal-
lenge and might contribute to the methods performance.
Due to the various diﬀerences in the EA, this paper deals
only with one implementation of an ES with a l, j, k strat-
egy where the parameters l denote the size of the parent
population, k the number of oﬀspring and j the lifespan
of an individual. This representation includes the following
selection mechanisms (comprehensive overviews are given
• The l + k – ES selects out of the oﬀspring and parent
population. This elitist selection allows parents to survive
until they are superseded by better performing oﬀspring.
In this case it might be possible that well performing
individuals survive forever.
• The l, k – ES selects only out of the oﬀspring population.
The so called non-elitist strategy replaces in every gener-
ation all parents by their oﬀspring.
• The l, j, k – ES includes both mechanisms by introduc-
ing the lifespan as an additional parameter. With a life-
span of j = 1 the method is equal to the l, k-strategy
and for j = 1 it equals the l + k-strategy. Intermediate
strategies are possible for 1 < j < 1.
The selection mechanisms diﬀer in the selection pressure
exerted on the population. Depending on the problem type,
diﬀerent arguments for the choice of an adequate life span
can be given:
• j = 1: Ref.  describes the l, k – ES as the state-of-the-
art approach since this mechanism does not necessarily
require to keep the best individual, which means that
the selection is non-elitist. Temporarily deteriorations
become possible that might be necessary to leave the
local optimum to search for a region of similar or higher
• j = 1: If the feasibility, the objective function or the
object variables are subject to noise an elitist selection
strategy can get stuck at an outlier. The survival of an
outlier over all generations reduces the possibilities to
explore regions of higher attraction. This is especially
a problem in experimental settings (cp. ). On the
other hand, the elitist selection of the l + k – ES is
advantageous for individuals with small numbers in
their strategy parameters (e.g. small variances), due to
their reduced capability to introduce large distortions
to the objective variables.
In the examples of this investigation the individual’s ﬁt-
ness is always based on results obtained by the FEM. In
order to avoid improvements due to numerical eﬀects, it
was decided to treat the results like an experimental result
where outliers and noise have to be expected. Therefore a
non-elitist l, j, k – ES with j = 5 has been chosen as an
adequate approach for the structural problems presented
in this context.
The principal operations of an ES are, as shown in
Fig. 3, performed in multiple steps:
(1) deﬁnition and creation of an initial population with l
(2) creation of k oﬀspring;
• random selection of parents out of an initial
• recombination and mutation to create a new indi-
• evaluation of individual’s ﬁtness (e.g. FEM based
structural analysis, experiment),
• integration of individual in population,
(3) reduction of the population size by age (life span j);
(4) selection of the l ﬁttest individuals;
(5) convergence check (either restart in step (ii) or
µ κ λ
Fig. 3. General setup of an Evolution Strategy.
L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118 107
In order to give a short introduction to the Evolution
Strategy, the principal elements and operators of the ES
are explained in brief.
2.1.1. Oﬀspring population
The oﬀspring population is created by recombination
and mutation. The number of individuals in the oﬀspring
population is k. Each oﬀspring is characterized by its gen-
ome, age and ﬁtness.
2.1.2. Parent population
The parent population is formed by the best l individu-
als out of the total number of oﬀspring and the previous
parent population (depending on the chosen selection
2.1.3. Convergence check
The convergence check is performed by either evaluating
the improvement of the ﬁtness or by evaluating the changes
in the design variables.
2.1.4. Recombination operator
The genetic information of two (or more) parent indi-
viduals is used to produce one oﬀspring by recombination
(the successor is hence called recombinant). The recombina-
tion (in GA as well referred to as crossover) can be either of
discrete (a dominant recombination, where each variable is
selected randomly from either parent) or intermediate type
(a recombination, where the variables are created by the
arithmetic mean of the parents’ variables). Another princi-
pal distinction can be made between global or local recom-
bination: the local recombination performs a choice of
parameters after the parents have been chosen while the
global recombination chooses parents for every gene sepa-
rately. In addition, several other recombination operators
exist (for details see ). In the following only local
recombination will be considered.
2.1.5. Mutation operator
The mutation operator adds distortion to the individ-
ual’s design variables. The amount of distortion, the muta-
tion strength, is chosen randomly with a probability given
by a Gaussian distribution. The standard deviation of the
normal distribution and correlation information are saved
separately in so-called strategy parameters. The correlation
between the variables is saved in the form of correlation
angles. The total number of strategy parameters n
design variables is
¼ n ð2Þ
nðn À 1Þ
2.1.6. Selection operator
The selection pressure can be applied in multiple phases
of the process. The ES normally selects in each generation
l individuals by their ﬁtness. In addition to the selection by
ﬁtness, a life span enables to change between diﬀerent strat-
egies (see above the description of the l, j, k strategy).
2.1.7. Fitness function
The ﬁtness of an individual is the measure for its quality.
Depending on the optimization setup, the ﬁtness function
can contain the objective and the responses of the system.
Diﬀerent penalization approaches exist which include an
appropriate design constraint balance between intermedi-
ate violations and the selection pressure relief.
2.2. Gradient-based sizing (level 2)
The second level of the optimization task is performed
by MSC.Nastran Sol200. The optimization approach
implemented in Nastran Sol200 is based on gradient infor-
mation, that is obtained via an internal approximation of
the structural responses. The optimization problem is
deﬁned by the search for optimal design variables X that
minimize the design objective function F(X)
min F ðXÞ ð4Þ
subject to n
inequality and n
ðXÞ 6 0 j ¼ 1; . . . ; n
inequality constraints ð5Þ
ðXÞ ¼ 0 k ¼ 1; . . . ; n
equality constraints ð6Þ
i ¼ 1; . . . ; n
where the design variables x
are deﬁned by X
X ¼ fx
; . . . ; x
The optimizer implementation in Nastran, as described in
, is based on the DOT optimization algorithms from
Vanderplaats Research & Development, Inc. The complete
optimization process is performed in multiple steps:
(1) Starting with an initial design a Finite Element Anal-
ysis (FEA) of the model is performed and all
requested design responses are calculated (e.g. mass,
displacements, strains, stresses).
(2) Constraint screening is performed in order to distin-
guish between active and inactive constraints. A
two stage process ﬁrst sorts out all inactive con-
straints by applying a threshold level to the normal-
ized constraints. The second stage tries to localize
violated regions within the model in order to sort
out local exceedings. The reduction of the number
of constraints enhances the performance of the sensi-
(3) Sensitivities are the rate of change of the responses
with respect to changes of chosen variables or param-
eters. Nastran Sol200 includes a design sensitivity
108 L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118
analysis that evaluates sensitivities for all retained
responses, regardless of the future response use (e.g.
as a design objective or design constraint). Diﬀerent
approaches are available to calculate sensitivities for
static and dynamic responses.
(4) Based on the sensitivity information an approximate
model is created that provides information for the
(5) The optimizer performs the numerical optimization
task and determines the search direction and the step
size. Diﬀerent algorithms, modiﬁed method of feasible
directions (MMFD), sequential linear programming
(SLP), sequential quadratic programming (SQP),
are available but their detailed description goes
beyond the scope of this description. In the following
the MMFD is used as the default method.
(6) Convergence is checked based on multiple criteria.
The optimizer is able to distinguish between diﬀerent
types of convergence: unachieved convergence (e.g.
due to a limitation on the number of design cycles),
non-achievable convergence (impossible design), soft
convergence (no signiﬁcant change in the variables
or properties of two consecutive approximations) or
hard convergence (convergence in the objective func-
tion calculated by exact analyses).
Especially the performance of the approximation can be
crucial for the design optimization. The basic idea behind
Nastran’s implementation is the approximation of the
response by an approximation with Taylor series. The gradi-
ents required to build the series are determined in most cases
by (central or) forward ﬁnite diﬀerences without the need to
invert the stiﬀness matrix more than once during each design
iteration: Writing the general form of the system equations
Ku ¼ P ð9Þ
the derivative of Eq. (9) with respect to design variables X
Eq. (10) shows, that the rate of change of the displacements
u with respect to changes of the ith design variable x
calculated by solving only the right-hand side. The stiﬀness
matrix K is already available in decomposed form as a re-
sult of the usual inversion of the system equation (Eq. (9))
and hence can be reused. This requires only the calculation
of the right-hand side derivatives (also known as pseudo-
loads). In many cases the load vector P is invariant with re-
spect to the design variables (e.g. material properties,
dimensions – if structural inertia loads are neglected)
¼ 0: ð11Þ
In this case the right-hand side is simpliﬁed and only the
sensitivity of the stiﬀness matrix
u 6¼ 0 ð12Þ
remains unknown. The left-hand side of Eq. (12) can be
approximated with a ﬁnite diﬀerence approach.
3. Simulation model
3.1. Parametric model
The simulation models presented in this paper are based
on Finite Element models. These models are created with
the commercial pre- and postprocessor MSC.Patran
a routine written in PCL (Patran Command Language).
The user can access the routine via a graphical user inter-
face (GUI) or via command line and ASCII-ﬁles.
To increase the model generation speed, Patran has been
run in command line mode (batch mode). In this case the
parameters are provided by an ASCII-ﬁle input; sup-
pressed graphics processing also increases the model gener-
The Finite Element models are created in Patran and
translated to MSC.Nastran
format. In this case the inter-
nal optimizer of Nastran provides an eﬃcient way to imple-
ment a gradient-driven optimization in the multilevel
approach (Sol200). Depending on the optimization task
diﬀerent Nastran solution sequences (e.g. linear static
(Sol101), linear buckling (Sol105), etc.) are chosen.
3.3. Evolution Strategy: EStruct
The Evolution Strategy used for this investigation is an
in-house tool called EStruct fully written in Python and
based on methods proposed by Schwefel . The program
makes use of the object orientated features of Python by
handling each oﬀspring as a separate object of a common
class. This basic idea leads to a transparent code that is
easy to adapt. The current version features possibilities to
restart from an earlier run, to distribute the jobs on multi-
ple machines (nodes) and to calculate the ﬁtnesses exter-
nally (e.g. Nastran). The main procedure is described in
the following pseudo-code:
> start process via MPI-Python on multiple
machines (e.g. cluster)
> chose master node to steer the job
> put slave nodes to waiting condition
> master node: restart or initialize individuals
of the ﬁrst generation
> do while generation < max. generations
> do while (individuals in generation) < k
> initialize individual: birth date (integer),
parameter names (string array), parameter types
(integer array), parameter values (real array),
deviation values (real array), correlation angles
L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118 109
> master node: distribute individuals via
MPI-Python to slave nodes
> slave nodes: receive individuals and
start calculation of their ﬁtness (e.g.
Finite Element Analysis)
> slave nodes: return of individuals status (fail-
ure/success) and fitness to master node
> slave nodes: wait for new job
> master node: integrate all k new individuals in
> master node: perform selection (l, j, k)
> master node: create individuals for the next
generation by choosing parents, recombination and
< end do
4. Optimization example 1: generic framework structure
4.1. Analysis model and optimization setup
This section introduces the analysis models for the
design test case of a framework optimization. The struc-
tural model is chosen for explanation and veriﬁcation pur-
poses due to its simplicity (low number of elements, simple
Two diﬀerent approaches to optimize the location of the
nodes and the cross-sections of the framework structure
will be shown. The goal of the optimization is – in both
cases – the lightest structure. As a design constraint the
members of the framework are not allowed to exceed a
maximum stress level of 100 MPa in compression or ten-
6 j100 MPaj for i = 1, 2, . . ., n
In the following, the ﬁrst optimization approach is
called ‘‘case A: ES+Sol200’’. It is based on the two level
strategy, as described before, that uses at bottom level Nas-
tran’s sizing capabilities (gradient-based method) and at
the top level the Evolution Strategy EStruct.
The second approach, herein after referred to as ‘‘case
B: ES’’, which is similar to work presented by Gieger
and Ermanni , uses only an Evolution Strategy (EStruct)
in a single optimization level. Again, the goal is a suitable
combination of parameters that meet the design require-
ments and improve the design.
4.2. Parameterization and design variables
The Finite Element model of the framework (cp. Fig. 4)
consists of 13 nodes and 22 struts. Displacement boundary
conditions are applied to the two nodes on the left and a
vertical force acts on the right end of the framework.
Each nodal position is deﬁned by two design variables
that are related to the two coordinates (x, y). The nodes
related to boundary conditions and all nodes on the lower
side of the framework are not subject to changes and
remain unchanged during optimization. Hence only the ﬁve
positions of the upper nodes (as shown in Fig. 4) are
included in the parametric model and deﬁned by the design
Each strut of the model is idealized by a Nastran
CROD-Element and characterized by a stiﬀness related
to the area of its cross-section. In order to meet the design
constraints the cross-section areas are deﬁned as design
variables and subject to change during the optimization.
Depending on the chosen approach the design variables,
constraints and the ﬁtness function are diﬀerent. Details
are given in Table 1, Sections 4.3 and 4.4.
For comparability purposes the model generation is,
despite the simplicity of the model, performed with Patran
in batch mode. In order to use Nastran’s internal optimiza-
tion sequence Sol200, additional job parameters have been
deﬁned: they include the design responses, the design objec-
tive and the design constraints. The 32 design variables x
are summarized by X
X ¼ fx
; . . . ; x
; . . . ; y
; . . . ; A
x-coordinate of node i,
y-coordinate of node i,
cross-section area of strut j.
Fig. 4. Framework optimization test case.
Diﬀerences in design variable deﬁnition depending on optimization approach
Approach Design variables Fitness function Design constraints
Case A: ES+Sol200 10 (ES) + 22 (Sol200) d(m) Fulﬁlled by Sol200
Case B: ES 32 (ES)
d(m) + d
(r) Incl. in ﬁtness function
110 L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118
4.3. Design constraints
The task of the design is to minimize the weight subject
inequality constraints (g = 1, 2, . . ., 22 struts)
ðXÞ 6 0 ð13Þ
À100 MPa ¼ jr
j À100 MPa 6 0
for j = 1, . . ., n
The (axial) stress in each strut results from tension or
compression. For demonstration purposes the same stress
level has been set for tension and compression.
4.3.1. Case A: ES+Sol200
The gradient-based optimization, included in the
approach of ‘‘case A: ES+Sol200’’, accounts for the stress
constraints by introducing Nastran DRESP1 and DCONSTR
cards in the Sol200 bulk deck. Internally theses constraints
become part of the objective (Lagrange) function and con-
sequently of the sensitivity approximation process.
4.3.2. Case B: ES
In the optimization setup of ‘‘case B: ES’’ the stress con-
straints have been included in the ﬁtness function by the
use of mapping relations (as shown by Gieger and Ermanni
 and Ko¨ nig ). They allow to include all design
responses in a common ﬁtness function. This leads to a
slightly diﬀerent optimization objective where the ﬁtness
is not only deﬁned by the mass but also by the confor-
mance with design constraints. Consequently, the optimi-
zation aims on minimizing the function f(X)
f ðXÞ ¼
þ dðmassÞ ð14Þ
being weighting factors (here set to 1) and d repre-
senting the results of diﬀerent design responses. These re-
sponses are translated by mapping functions in a way
that a value of zero corresponds to the desired condition.
Unwanted conditions (e.g. stress violations, excessive
weight, large displacements) create a response of d
The mapping functions are normally deﬁned in the range
of 0 6 d
6 1 to avoid unequal treatment or unwanted
weighting of the diﬀerent responses.
Mapping functions, presented in , have been adapted
to the given problem as follows.
18.104.22.168. Mass response mapping function. The mass map-
ping function links the structural mass to an artiﬁcial ﬁt-
ness value that is attractively low for desired mass range
) and increases exponentially for masses higher than
the upper, initial mass (m
dðmassÞ ¼ ða Á mass þ bÞ
The factors a, b are calculated prior to the optimization by
using an estimated desired (m
) and undesired (m
) mass to
create answers of the mapping function of zero and one.
The exponent a has been set to a = 5 (cp. ).
A function has been chosen that penalizes masses above
a maximum level exponentially by translating the mass
response in ﬁtness values >1. In this case the ﬁtness result-
ing from the mass response is very likely exceeding all other
addends to the overall ﬁtness (see Eq. (14)). Consequently
the mass is desired to have a large impact on the quality of
22.214.171.124. Stress response mapping function. The stress
response is translated by a diﬀerentiable step function to
a ﬁtness response d. The following relations have been
ðrÞ ¼ 1 þe
for i = 1, . . ., n
= 22 and
_ _ _ _
The shape of the stepping function is inﬂuenced by shape
. These values have
been set to D
= 0.5, C
= 0.1, C
= 1.0 and D
0.01 (cp. ).
The stress response mapping function creates ﬁtness val-
ues in the range between 0 6 d
6 1. The penalization of the
structure is thus limited to two prescriptive limits: fulﬁll-
ment or violation of the constraint. Since all members of
the structure contribute to the overall ﬁtness the inﬂuence
of every member is bounded by the deﬁnition of the map-
4.4. Design objective/ﬁtness
The objective of the design is to minimize the weight of
the structure. Due to the diﬀerent approaches the objective
is treated diﬀerently. The multilevel optimization with Nas-
tran Sol200 fulﬁlls the design constraints implicitly in the
second level so that the ﬁtness value of the each individual
is only deﬁned by its mass.
The results of the diﬀerent approaches are presented in
Table 2. Both approaches have been used to run an
This design constraint proved to be challenging: the gradient driven
optimizer tries to fully utilize both allowable stress levels (in tension and in
compression). Hence gradients might be calculated that point in opposite
directions. The proper adaption of parameters inﬂuencing Nastran’s
constraint screening capabilities was necessary to create a feasible
L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118 111
estimated number of 150,000 Finite Element Analyses
(FEA). Both methods are able to create results that meet
the design constraints. But the multilevel approach leads
to a much lower ﬁnal weight (ﬁnal framework shown in
In order to understand this diﬀerence in performance the
convergence behavior is depicted in Figs. 6 and 7. Both dia-
grams show the ﬁtness value vs. the number of function
evaluations (FEA). The multilevel approach shows from
the beginning a much better capability to ﬁnd a suitable
combination of parameters and hence a lower structural
The reason is given by the diﬀerent sizing behavior of
the diﬀerent approaches: keeping in mind that the ﬁrst 10
design variables change the topology of the structure one
can imagine, that an ideal combination of the nodal coor-
dinates will not necessarily lead to an overall low ﬁtness if
the design variables 11–32 (cross-section areas) are improp-
erly chosen. The multilevel approach has a principle advan-
tage over the single-level Evolutionary Strategy since the
lower level (Sol200) is able to determine the ideal combina-
tion of cross-section variables. The ﬁtness value that is
passed back to the ﬁrst level optimizer (ES) clearly rates
the quality of the nodal positions. Even after performing
over 1500 generations with 100 oﬀspring per generation
no signiﬁcant improvement of the ﬁnal result of ‘‘case B:
ES’’ was achieved. Although changes to the optimization
parameters might help to improve this performance it
becomes obvious that the multilevel approach of ‘‘case A:
ES+Sol200’’ has signiﬁcant advantages over the single-
level approach of ‘‘case B: ES’’.
The multilevel approach requires a much lower number
of generations for the convergence to be achieved. For fur-
ther investigations a number of 25 generations each with
100 oﬀspring has been chosen.
5. Optimization example 2: BWB fuselage structure
5.1. Analysis model
The investigation of diﬀerent model parameters requires
a common ﬁtness indicator in order to rate diﬀerent con-
cepts. The following investigation uses the structural mass,
resulting from the structures density multiplied by its vol-
ume, directly as a ﬁtness value. Taking into account
the results from the ﬁrst investigated example of the
Diﬀerences in design results depending on optimization approach
Approach Max. stress
Exact FEM analyses
ES 100 94.5 kg 1500 gen · 100 oﬀspring
ES+Sol200 100 62.5 kg 75 gen · 100 oﬀspring · SOL200
Fig. 5. (Top) Final design after sizing task with ﬁxed nodal positions;
(bottom) ﬁnal framework design after approach of ‘‘case A: ES+Sol200’’.
Fig. 6. Convergence behavior: Evolution Strategy (model topology
optimization)+Nastran Sol200 (sizing optimization).
Fig. 7. Convergence behavior: Evolution Strategy (model topology and
112 L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118
framework optimization case, a two level strategy is cho-
sen: the investigation of diﬀerent model parameters is han-
dled by an Evolution Strategy. The ﬁtness of each of these
models is determined by sizing with the optimizer of Nas-
tran Sol200. This procedure enables a fast convergence
(cp. Fig. 7).
The investigated models represent a typical part of the
fuselage structure of a Blended Wing Body aircraft, which
oﬀers a variety of general solutions, but is not yet solved.
The fuselage body, as shown in Fig. 8, encloses a wide
cabin that is partitioned by vertical walls reaching from
the lower shell to the upper shell of the fuselage. In order
to be able to operate in high altitudes, pressurization of
the cabin is necessary. The pressurization of the ﬂat cabin
creates an unfavorable loading condition that is dominated
by large bending loads in the upper and lower skin of the
fuselage and large non-linear eﬀects, if no special measures
are taken. The advantages of a BWB aircraft strongly rely
on the fuselage weight. In order to rate detailed structural
designs and to create speciﬁc weights (as well for further
investigations of such aircraft) here only two dominant,
pressurization load cases are used for demonstration pur-
poses of the method.
The analysis models represent a pressurized structure of
the fuselage upper shell. By limitation to symmetric mod-
els, a reduction of calculation time (investigation of half-
models) is possible. These models are created with a PCL
routine and consist of 10,000–15,000 elements, depending
on the model topology (single skin, double skin, sandwich,
etc.). A single skin design for multiple bays is depicted in
Fig. 9. Only the part marked with dashed lines, the half-
model of the structure, is considered during optimization.
Symmetry conditions are applied to the edge in the symme-
try plane. The major components of the model are labeled.
Models of a double skin or a sandwich are similar and only
diﬀer in the presence of an inner skin, which is stiﬀened by
stringers and attached to the inner frame ﬂanges. The sand-
wich structure has in addition solid elements between inner
and outer skin (core height: four solid elements) while
stringers on the inner or outer skin are omitted for this
Two diﬀerent load cases will be considered for this opti-
mization task. Based on FAR $25.365  a fatigue load
case, with recurring loads at limit load level, and a failure
case at ultimate load level have been chosen. The limit load
case assumes a loading condition with a normal, opera-
tional cabin pressurization of 1Dp. The failure case is based
on $25.365(d) with
1:5 Á Dp
Á 1:33 2Dp: ð19Þ
The calculation of the pressure diﬀerential
results from the
cabin pressurization and from the dynamic pressure of
During operational ﬂight conditions the cabin static
atmospheric pressure (cabin altitude a
= 2.5 km) is
¼ 746:83 mbar:
At the maximum operating altitude (a
= 13 km) of the
aircraft the static atmospheric pressure equals
¼ 165:10 mbar:
Considering an additional pressure reduction of
¼ 50:00 mbar
due to the lift acting on the upper surface of the aircraft,
the static pressure on the outside is reduced to
¼ 165:10 mbar À 50 mbar ¼ 115:20 mbar:
The resulting diﬀerential pressure on the pressurized skins
of a single or double skin concept is diﬀerent due to the
assumption of the pressure condition between the two
The loading condition of a single skin concept results
from the diﬀerence between inside and outside pressure
Fig. 8. Location of an exemplary upper shell structure in a global BWB
Fig. 9. Finite Element model topology.
All pressure values are taken from tables of the Standard Atmosphere
L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118 113
Dp ¼ p
Dp ¼ 746:83 mbar À 115:20 mbar 632 mbar:
The loading condition of a double skin concept can be cal-
culated assuming a static atmospheric pressure between in-
ner and outer skin
inner skin 1
outer skin 1
¼ 632 mbar:
Due to the non-circular shape of the fuselage, additional
forces are applied to edges of the model. These loads have
been extracted for one panel location in the fuselage from a
global ﬁnite-element model (load case: 1Dp).
In longitudinal direction a load of n
= 222 N/mm and
in circumferential direction of n
= 192 N/mm have been
For the 2Dp case (ultimate load case) the loads of the
1Dp case are scaled.
The parametric model allows as well to change the mate-
rial models and material parameters for the pressurized
skins. Two diﬀerent, linear elastic materials are chosen
for this investigation: isotropic, homogeneous material
(Aluminum, e.g. 2524 T3) and alternatively anisotropic,
layered composite material (CFRP). Both materials can
be combined with an optional honeycomb core material
(cp. Table 6). The material properties and sizing allowables
are summarized in Tables 3 and 4. In order to obtain a
symmetric laminate and to keep the number of design vari-
ables low, the laminate is deﬁned with a constant stacking
sequence and layer orientation. Due to symmetry, only the
layers’ thicknesses on one side of the midplane are variable
(cp. Table 5).
5.2. Design variables
The design variables of the model can be subdivided into
a group of parameters inﬂuencing the model topology
(Table 7) and sizing variables that aﬀect the model dimen-
sions (Table 8). The total number of design variables is
dependent on the chosen model topology and material.
The herein before mentioned multilevel optimization
approach is based on the repartition of topology and sizing
variables (cp. Tables 7 and 8). Consequently, the topology
variables are handled by the Evolution Strategy and the siz-
ing variables by the gradient based optimization of Nastran
Unlike the ﬁrst example the design variables of this
second example do not directly inﬂuence any nodal
coordinates. Instead variables are deﬁned that change the
parametric design at certain control points (e.g. frame
height, skin curvature, Table 7). Ragged surfaces are con-
sequently already avoided by the deﬁnition of the paramet-
ric model without a need for further penalization of
geometrically unpractical or unwanted solutions.
5.3. Design constraints
The design variables are constrained by side-constraints
given in Tables 7 and 8 (the range is marked in columns
with ‘‘min’’ and ‘‘max’’). These side-constraints are inde-
pendent of the load case.
Buckling is prevented by additional design constraints
on the lowest Eigenvalues. This constraint enforces ﬁrst
buckling above the corresponding load level. The buckling
constraint is only active for the limit load case.
Additional design constraints are used for the sizing of
the structure. The sizing of the structure distinguishes
between fatigue (recurring pressurization at limit load)
and ultimate (maximum pressure) load: as a consequence
the allowable stress level for all metal parts is diﬀerent
for the fatigue case and for the ultimate case (cp. Table 9).
Fiber reinforced material oﬀers in many cases a good
fatigue behavior which permits a diﬀerent design approach
for CFRP parts of the structure. Hence only the ultimate
load case is used for the sizing with the Tsai-Hill failure cri-
terion. It is applied as a design constraint which takes the
residual strengths of each layer and the multi-axial stress
condition into consideration. The limit load case is again
used for design constraints on the critical buckling load.
Unidirectional carbon ﬁber prepreg material: anisotropic material properties and strengths
(GPa) q (kg/m
192 10.6 0.31 6.1 6.1 3.7 1.8eÀ6
2715 56 1400 250 101
Stacking sequence of generic CFRP material
Layer no. Orient. angle (°) Initial thickness (mm) Design variable
1 0 0.125 t
2 +45 0.125 t
3 À45 0.125 t
4 90 0.125 t
Aluminum material: isotropic material properties and allowable fatigue
and residual stresses
E (GPa) m
72 0.3 2.8eÀ6 110 >270
114 L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118
The deﬁnition of the failure index is deﬁned in Eq. (22).
The calculation of the index is performed for each element
separately. Sensitivities with respect to the failure index are
being calculated internally in Nastran Sol200 and become
part of the objective function (cp. ). The material allow-
ables applied for the example are given in Table 4.
The existence of constraints based on element stresses and
on Eigenvalues requires diﬀerent analyses. Within Sol200 a
linear static analysis (Sol101) and a buckling analysis
(Sol105) is performed.
5.4. Design objective/ﬁtness
The objective of the optimization is minimum weight.
Design constraints and side constraints (cp. Section 5.3)
have to be fulﬁlled.
The Evolutionary l, j, k-Strategy EStruct has been used
with the settings l = 15 (population size), j = 5 (life span)
and k = 100 (oﬀspring per generation). The optimization
was stopped after 25 generations: In total 25 · 100 =
2500 individuals have been modeled and analyzed in the
ﬁrst level of the optimization. In the second level each of
theses models was sized and optimized in multiple Sol200
Sandwich core: material properties (similar to Aramid Fibre Honeycomb HexWeb
1.0 1.0 145.0 44.8 20.7 1.0 0.4 4.96eÀ10
Design variables: topology variables
Topology variable Type Min–max Number of design variables
Inner skin Curvature r 0 mm–1 1
Frame Height h 0 mm–1 1
Inner/outer skin Material Aluminum–CFRP 1
Inner skin Existence Single skin–double skin 1
Sandwich design Existence With core–w/o core 1
Tension struts Existence Yes–no 1
Pole attachment Topology ‘‘Y’’ or ‘‘W’’ design 1
Rib arrangement Topology With–w/o add. ribs as web stiﬀeners 1
Inner skin curvature Shape type Cylindric–spheric 1
Inner skin curvature Shape type Normal–inverse 1
Design variables: sizing variables
Sizing variable Dimension Min–max No. of sizing variables
Inner skin (CFRP) Layer thickness 0.125–100 mm 4 layers (sym.) · 7 regions
Inner skin (alum.) Thickness 1.2–100 mm 7 regions (if single skin design chosen)
Outer skin (CFRP) Layer thickness 0.125–100 mm 4 layers (sym.) · 7 regions
Outer skin (alum.) Thickness 1.6–100 mm 7 regions
Frame web Thickness 1.2–60 mm 7 regions
Frame web stiﬀener Height 4–200 mm 1 region
Rib Thickness 1.4–100 mm 1 region
Inner frame ﬂange Flange width 60–450 mm 7 regions
Outer frame ﬂange Flange width 20–400 mm 7 regions
Inner skin stringers Height 55–125 mm 7 (if core exists)
Outer skin stringers Height 55–125 mm 7 (if core exists)
Poles Cross-section 24–200 mm
Tension struts Area 500–5000 mm
1 (if struts desired)
Design constraints depending on material choice
Isotropic, metallic material (cp. Table 3)
Buckling constraint: First Eigenvalue > 1 at limit load
Stress constraints: v.Mises-stress in shells, beams and
at limit load
Anisotropic, composite material (cp. Table 4)
Buckling constraint: First Eigenvalue > 1 at limit load
Failure constraints: Tsai-Hill component failure index
< 1.0 at ultimate load
L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118 115
design cycles until convergence was achieved or the maxi-
mum number of design cycles was reached (max. 35 cycles).
The second level required 20 min on an AMD
Opteron64, (2.2 GHz, 2 GB RAM) Linux system to evalu-
ate an individual’s ﬁtness. By parallel evaluation on 5
CPUs 6.5 h/generation were required (<1 week for 25
Due to the total number of 2500 individuals not all of
the results can be presented in detail. As an example for
the structural sizing behavior of the second level optimiza-
tion (Sol200) a single skin CFRP model is depicted in Figs.
10 and 11. The sizing history of the model’s optimization
and the corresponding thicknesses of the laminate’s layers
are shown. All layers started the optimization with an ini-
tial thickness of 0.125 mm (cp. Table 5). In the ﬁrst design
cycle the failure criterion (Tsai-Hill) was already fulﬁlled
but the ﬁrst Eigenvalue was much too low (0.038). The
optimizer, as in Fig. 10, required 25 design cycles to meet
the design requirements, in this case the Eigenvalue of 1.0
(with a tolerance of ±3%).
The ﬁnal laminate, depicted in Fig. 11 shows an
increased thickness in the circumferential ﬁbre layers (90°
layer), a moderate increase in the diagonal ﬁbre layers
(±45°) and no signiﬁcant increase in longitudinal ﬁbre ori-
entation (0°). Besides the skins all other parts of the struc-
ture have been sized as well.
The convergence behavior is depicted in Fig. 12. The ﬁt-
ness is plotted over the number of generations. Each circle
in the diagram represents the ﬁtness of an oﬀspring (100
oﬀspring/generation). The three curves in Fig. 12 show
the improvement of the ﬁtness over the number of genera-
tions. The ﬁtness of the best and the worst individual of
each generation’s parent population and the corresponding
average ﬁtness is plotted. Although the ﬁtness of the best
individual still improves slightly after 25 generations, the
average ﬁtness of the parent population remains nearly
constant. This indicates that future generations might be
subject to small changes and large ﬁtness improvements
are not expected.
Fig. 10. CFRP single skin example: Sol200 sizing history (frame height
700 mm, inner frame curvature 10 m, 2 load cases, Tsai-Hill & Eigenvalue
Fig. 11. CFRP single skin example: thicknesses of UD-layer 1–4 of symmetric laminate after sizing (frame height 700 mm, inner frame curvature 10 m, 2
load cases, Tsai-Hill & Eigenvalue constraints).
116 L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118
Overall best result. The overall best result was deter-
mined for a single skin design with a composite skin
). The optimized frame has a height of
1400 mm at the panel edges and of 300 mm in the mid-
dle of the panel. The inner ﬂange is curved with a radius of
4 m. Additional ribs in longitudinal directions help
avoiding stability problems of the large frames.
The relevance of the material is depicted in Fig. 13. Each
sphere in the diagram represents one individual out of the
parents’ populations. The vertical position of the spheres
deﬁnes their ﬁtness. The color of the spheres depicts the
material of the pressurized skins of the models. All of the
best performing individuals of each generation have a com-
mon material type: the pressurized skin(s) are made of
composite materials which diﬀer in every layer, in every
design region and for every model due to the separate siz-
ing of each layer’s thickness.
The principal evolution of the shell design, deﬁned by
single or double skin arrangements, is shown in Fig. 14.
Again, the vertical position of the spheres represents their
ﬁtness while the color marks the design principle: single
or double skin. A trend cannot be detected. All generations
show a mixture of single and double skin designs in their
best 15 individuals. These 15 individuals are used to create
the parent population for the next generation.
All investigated sandwich designs resulted in a higher
weight. The result might be diﬀerent in the case of an addi-
tional constraint on the maximum frame height (e.g limited
by space requirements of the cabin).
Evaluation of structural alternatives requires investiga-
tion of multiple sensitivities. In order to rate and judge cer-
tain design alternatives a method is necessary that is able to
optimize parameters and topologies while taking certain
design constraints or design requirements into account.
This task can be fulﬁlled by an Evolution Strategy that
tries to ﬁnd suitable combinations by selection and repro-
duction of the best combinations. As shown for a simple
design case of a framework structure the pure reliance on
the ES is computationally ineﬃcient, especially since ideal
topologies and poor dimension of the members of a struc-
ture lead to the same treatment in a ﬁtness function as poor
topologies and ideal dimensions. This mixture of design
responses in one ﬁtness function can be inﬂuenced by
weighting factors. Nevertheless, the mixture of design and
Fig. 12. Convergence behavior of BWB fuselage pressurized panels.
Fig. 13. Fitness improvement vs. parent population of each generation:
colored spheres mark material of pressurized skins.
Here it has to be taken into account, that the material properties and
allowables strongly inﬂuence which design performs best. For demon-
stration purposes of the method the choice of properties is done
exemplarily and may not be suitable for a ﬁnal investigation.
Fig. 14. Fitness improvement vs. parent population of each generation:
colored spheres mark single or double skin models.
L.U. Hansen, P. Horst / Computers and Structures 86 (2008) 104–118 117
sizing variables in one optimization task is less eﬃcient
than dividing both tasks into two optimization levels.
The multilevel approach presented in this paper seems to
ﬁnd eﬃcient combinations of topology parameters by an
automated procedure. As shown in Figs. 6 and 12 a fast
convergence is achieved by considering only (previously)
sized models for the population. Such a sizing task is per-
formed by a second optimization level that very eﬀectively
uses gradient information to ﬁnd the best search directions.
However such investigations are limited by the required
amount of calculation time and by the need for automated
Future work is planed to improve the interface between
the local, detailed and the global Finite Element models. A
more or less automated transfer of loads and boundary
condition to the local level and a way of returning these
optimized shell properties to the global level is necessary.
Part of the work presented was funded by the 5th frame-
work program of the European Union during the project
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