Structural Optimisation as a Design Tool

Final year thesis written as part of MEng Structural Engineering and Architecture at The University of Sheffield.

Analytical Numerical Practical

Structural Optimisation

Abstract

Computerised structural optimisation has its roots in the work of James Clerk Maxwell in the 19th century, yet is increasingly pertinent in today’s economy-driven construction industry. The computational capacity of linear programming has recently been greatly expanded by innovations within the Civil and Structural Engineering department at the University of Sheffield (Gilbert and Tyas 2003), allowing computational plastic limit analysis to be developed much further. This advancement is of great use to industry, as typically structural design analyses the ultimate limit state (Darwich 2010).
This study extends the real-world application of a linear programming method of truss layout optimisation, through both general and specific research. Its four contributions are: (1) a critical assessment of the practical potential of this structural optimisation technique in a wide range of real-world engineering situations, leading to (2) identification of suitable domains of applicability; (3) identification and resolution of specific issues in the development of a computerised design tool, including the development of a new algorithm for incorporating distributed loads, and (4) recommendations for integration into industry.

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