Automatic Optimization of Civil Engineering Structures
Scia Engineer Optimizer is an example of a new generation of software for the design of civil engineering structures. It is software which calculates internal forces, checks the compliance to the code, and on top of that, this software is able to “find” the final optimal structural design.
Up to now, the term “structural optimization” is understood mostly as an automatic search for the most economical beam profiles or plate thicknesses. However, the structural design is much more. The criteria defined by modern standards and codes are very complex, they are much more than just fulfilling of bearing capacity of beams or slabs. There are many constraints for dimensions with respect to the serviceability of the structure and its safety and there exist also limitations and constraints coming from the construction process.
To reach really optimal structural design, it is necessary to consider all relevant aspects and demands. These are rather general and complex and, therefore, the software tool supposed to cope with them must be also very general and flexible.
The ongoing development in computing technologies enables that computers can analyse in a reasonable time a huge number of variants and thus search for optimal structure variant or variants and propose them to the designer. Mathematically explained, optimization methods search for local extremes of a prescribed objective function, which describes a certain characteristic of the optimized structure, and quite often it is possible to find more than one local extreme. Those local extremes are always kind of “interesting” variants. In the final step, it is up to the designer of the structure to evaluate them and choose one. Alternatively, if the found solutions do not meet the designers’ expectations, they can modify the input data for the optimization and run search for other variants.
Why is a simple code-compliant structure design not enough?
Why to go for an optimized solution?
In recent years we are witnesses of an increased demand for cost reduction, material savings, fast realization and environmental protection, which result in increased competitiveness of companies. All these requirements can now be more easily addressed thanks to the power of current computational technologies.
A good example of the progress in this field is the four year research project done in collaboration between SCIA and Faculty of Civil Engineering CTU Prague, Czech Republic. This project is based on the theoretical knowledge of optimization methods at the university, where this research work has been ongoing for many years, and on the practical experience with the Scia Engineer software together with a good knowledge of practical demands of civil engineers. The research project was supported by a grant of the Czech Ministry of Industry.
The outcome of this research is the Scia Engineer Optimizer optimization tool whose principles will be explained in this paper.
Scia Engineer Optimizer
Scia Engineer Optimizer is a cutting edge software tool for the overall optimization of civil engineering structures. It represents a combination of a widespread structural analysis software (Scia Engineer) and a separate optimization engine (EOT – Engineering Optimization Tool). The two programs have been integrated together and offer a versatile and complete optimization solution for all types of civil engineering structures.