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Keynote Lecture for Frontiers of Computational Science Symposium, Nagoya University, Japan, 11-13 October 2005

RECENT ADVANCES IN EVOLUTIONARY STRUCTURAL


OPTIMIZATION

Y.M. Xie, X. Huang, J.W. Tang and P. Felicetti

School of Civil and Chemical Engineering, RMIT University


GPO Box 2476V, Melbourne 3001, Australia
E-mail: mike.xie@rmit.edu.au

ABSTRACT

The evolutionary structural optimization (ESO) method is based on the simple concept of gradually
removing underutilized material from a structure so that the resulting shape evolves towards an
optimum. This paper presents the latest developments of this simple but powerful technique,
including ESO for tension-only or compression-only structures, ESO for structures with geometrical
and material nonlinearities, and a new algorithm for bi-directional ESO.

1. INTRODUCTION

In recent years finite element analysis (FEA) has become a widely used tool for practicing engineers
of many disciplines. Structural optimization, however, has achieved far less popularity in practice
despite the extraordinary progress of the optimization theory and associated algorithms over the past
three decades. This situation is caused, to a large extent, by the mathematical complexities of the
existing optimization methods.

Since 1992 the authors have tried to bridge the gap between FEA and structural optimization by
developing a very simple approach to optimal structural design. It is based on the concept of slowly
removing inefficient materials from a structure so that the residual structure evolves towards the
optimum. This is named evolutionary structural optimization (ESO).

The ESO method proves to be capable of solving size, shape and topology structural optimization for
static, dynamic, stability and heat transfer problems or combinations of these [1]. The ESO method
appeals to practicing engineers and architects particularly because of its simplicity and effectiveness.
Anyone who has a basic knowledge of FEA can readily understand and apply the ESO method.
Another advantage of the ESO method is that it can be easily implemented and linked to commercial
FEA packages such as ABAQUA, NASTRAN and ANSYS. Since the first ESO paper appeared in
1993 [2], there has been extensive research on the ESO method in many countries including Japan [3].
The theoretical basis and the validity of the ESO method have also been examined [4,5].

An example of using ESO for shape optimization is given below, in which one seeks to find the
optimal shape for an object hanging in the air under its own weight. An initial square model is shown
on the left. Before the ESO procedure is applied, two slots have been cut at the top in the initial model
to create a stalk. The top end of the stalk is fixed. The only loading on this object is the gravity. By
removing least stressed material from the surface, we obtain shapes with uniform stress on the surface.
The results remind us of the shape of certain fruits such as apples and cherries.

Fig.1. ESO solutions of an object hanging in the air under its own weight.
Keynote Lecture for Frontiers of Computational Science Symposium, Nagoya University, Japan, 11-13 October 2005

2. ESO FOR TENSION-ONLY OR COMPRESSION-ONLY STRUCTURES

The traditional ESO method removes material from a structure based on von Mises stress or strain
energy of each element. For certain construction materials, such as concrete and fabric, they are only
suitable for sustaining compressive or tensile stress. The ESO method has been extended to the design
of tension-only or compression-only structures.

To achieve an optimal tension-only structure, elements with the highest compressive stresses will be
removed first. Then the less tensile elements will be deleted from the structure as well. Instead of
using von Mises stress, the maximum principle stress can be considered as the element stress for
tensile structure. An alternative is the sum of principle stresses. Hence, two tension criteria are
proposed as follows:
Tension criterion 1:
σ e = σ 11 (1)
Tension criterion 2:
σ e = σ 11 + σ 22 + σ 33 (2)

Elements with the lowest values of σe will be gradually deleted. It is found that the above two criteria
often result in very similar final topologies.

As an example, we consider a structure hanging from two pins under self-weight, as shown in Fig. 2.
Using tension criterion 2, the structure evolves towards a catenary. Not only does the final design fit a
theoretical catenary well, the sizes of every part of the structure have also been determined to achieve
a fully stressed design. This is an example of hanging chain or hanging rope in nature. With the help
of the modified ESO method the funicular structure can be obtained easily.

Fig. 2. Initial design (top) and ESO solutions (bottom) of a catenary-type tension-only structure.

Similarly, to achieve an optimal compression-only structure, elements with the highest tensile
stresses will be removed first. Then the less compressive elements will be deleted from the structure
as well. An example is given Fig. 3 below. The picture at the top shows the initial design of building
type structure. Only gravity loading is applied in this case. By applying the modified ESO procedure,
we obtain structures which are predominantly in compression as shown below. More examples of
compression-only and tension-only designs can be found in [6,7].
Keynote Lecture for Frontiers of Computational Science Symposium, Nagoya University, Japan, 11-13 October 2005

Fig. 3. Initial design (top) and ESO solutions (bottom) of a compression-only structure.

3. ESO FOR NON-LINEAR STRUCTURES

There has been very limited research on ESO method for nonlinear structures. The extension from
linear ESO to nonlinear ESO is straightforward but very important because the optimization results
from linear and nonlinear ESO designs could be significantly different and the nonlinear design might
be able to take substantially higher load than the linear design.

To achieve nonlinear ESO design, the finite element models are analyzed by considering material
nonlinearity and/or geometrical nonlinearity. Two criteria of for material removal have been
experimented so far by the authors. One is based on deleting elements with low von Mises stress [8],
the other is based on removing elements with low strain energy [9]. The results from von Mises
criterion and strain energy criterion are similar.

Fig. 4 shows a cube simply supported at the four corners at the bottom and subjected to a uniform
design pressure of 1 MPa in the centre region of the top surface. A nonlinear material model of a
power-law stress-strain relationship σ = ε 0.2 is specified. Fig. 5 shows two ESO solutions, one for
linear material (and linear deformation), and the other for nonlinear material (and large nonlinear
deformation). The two topologies are quite different. To compare the load-carrying capacities of the
two designs, a nonlinear FEA analysis (considering both material and geometrical nonlinearities) is
applied to each of the designs shown in Fig. 5. The relationships of load versus mean compliance for
linear and nonlinear ESO designs are given in Fig. 6, which clearly illustrates the substantial
difference in load-carry capacities of the two designs.
Keynote Lecture for Frontiers of Computational Science Symposium, Nagoya University, Japan, 11-13 October 2005

Fig. 4. Design domain of a 3D object under pressure loading.

(a) (b)
Fig. 5. Optimal solutions: (a) by linear ESO; (b) nonlinear ESO

Fig. 6. Comparison of load vs. mean compliance relationships between linear and nonlinear ESO designs.

4. A NEW ALGORITH FOR BI-DIRECTIONAL ESO

The validity of the ESO method depends, to a large extent, on the assumptions that the structural
modification (evolution) at each step is small and the mesh for the finite element analysis is dense. If
too much material is removed in one step, the ESO method is unable to restore the elements which
might have been prematurely deleted at earlier iterations. In order to make the ESO method more
robust, a bi-directional ESO (BESO) method was proposed in 1999 [10]. Recently we have developed
a new BESO algorithm with much improved features [11].
Keynote Lecture for Frontiers of Computational Science Symposium, Nagoya University, Japan, 11-13 October 2005

In the new BESO method, the adding and removing of material is controlled by a single parameter, i.e.
the removal ratio of volume (or weight). The convergence of the iteration is determined by a
performance index of the structure. The performance index is a measure of the efficiency of material
usage of a structure. For most static problems, the performance index can be defined as the stiffness
per unit volume (or per unit weight). Details of the new BESO algorithm are given in [11]. Here we
present two (linear elastic) examples that have been solved using the new algorithm. The first
example is a 3D beam shown in Fig. 7. The top layer is defined as a non-design domain. Instead of
starting with the full design, a very simple initial design as shown in Fig. 8 is chosen. By adding and
removing material simultaneously, BESO finds the optimal solution shown in Fig. 9. The
performance improvement from the initial to the final design can be clearly seen from Fig. 10.

Fig. 7. Loading condition and design domain for a 3D beam.

Fig. 8. Initial design of the 3D beam.

Fig. 9. BESO solution for the 3D beam.


Keynote Lecture for Frontiers of Computational Science Symposium, Nagoya University, Japan, 11-13 October 2005

Fig. 10. Evolution histories of the performance index and the volume fraction.

Fig. 11 shows a structure which is almost identical to the one in Fig. 7, except that there is a narrow
gap of 1 m width in the middle of the beam beneath the non-design deck. No material is allowed to fill
the gap. By using the same initial design of the previous 3D beam example, BESO finds a bridge-type
optimal solution shown in Fig. 12. The performance index (the avearge strain energy density of the
structure) has been significantly increased as can be observed from Fig. 13.

A similar example of a bridge-type structure has been solved previously by Japanese researchers
using an extended ESO method [3].

Fig. 11. Loading condition and design domain for a bridge-type structure with an opening in the middle.

Fig. 12. BESO solution for the bridge-type structure.


Keynote Lecture for Frontiers of Computational Science Symposium, Nagoya University, Japan, 11-13 October 2005

Fig. 13. Evolution histories of the performance index and the volume fraction.

5. CONCLUDING REMARKS

This paper has described recent advances in ESO/BESO methods and given a variety of illustrative
examples. It is shown that the simple ESO/BESO algorithms are capable of solving a wide range of
structural optimization problems. Applications of the ESO/BESO techniques to actual design projects
have been explored by various engineers and architects (see, for example, [3,7,12]).

REFERENCES

[1] Y.M. Xie and G.P. Steven, Evolutionary Structural Optimization, Springer-Verlag, London,
1997.
[2] Y.M. Xie and G.P. Steven, ‘A simple evolutionary procedure for structural optimization’,
Computers & Structures, 49, pp 885-896, 1993.
[3] C. Cui, H. Ohmori and M. Sasaki, ‘Computational morphogenesis of 3D structures by extended
ESO method’, Journal of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures, 44, pp
51-61, 2003.
[4] P. Tanskanen, ‘The evolutionary structural optimization method: theoretical aspects’, Computer
Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, 191, pp 5485-5498, 2002.
[5] X. Huang and Y.M. Xie, ‘A note on the validity of ESO type methods in topology optimization’,
accepted for publication in Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, 2005.
[6] Y.M. Xie, P. Felicetti, J.W. Tang and M.C. Burry, ‘Form finding for complex structures using
evolutionary structural optimization method’, Design Studies, 26, pp 55-72, 2005.
[7] J. Burry, P. Felicetti, J.W. Tang, M.C. Burry and Y.M. Xie, ‘Dynamical structural modeling: a
collaborative design exploration’, International Journal of Architectural Computing, 3(1), pp
28-42, 2005.
[8] X. Huang, Y.M. Xie, J.W. Tang and P. Felicetti and M.C. Burry, ‘Evolutionary topology
optimization of non-linear structures’, submitted to Computers & Structures, April, 2005.
[9] X. Huang, Y.M. Xie, M.C. Burry, J.W. Tang and P. Felicetti, ‘Evolutionary stiffness optimization
of non-linear structures’, submitted to Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, July, 2005.
[10] X.Y. Yang, Y.M. Xie, G.P. Steven and O.M. Querin, ‘Bidirectional evolutionary method for
stiffness optimization’, AIAA Journal, 37(11), pp 1483-1488, 1999.
[11] X. Huang, Y.M. Xie and M.C. Burry, ‘A new algorithm for bi-directional evolutionary structural
optimization’, submitted to Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering,
September, 2005.
Keynote Lecture for Frontiers of Computational Science Symposium, Nagoya University, Japan, 11-13 October 2005

[12] Y.M. Xie and X.Y. Yang, ‘Preliminary report on topological structural optimization for the
proposed residential tower development at 66 Little Latrobe Street, Melbourne’, Consulting
Report for Felicetti Pty Ltd, 2000.