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Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415

Structural shape optimization 3D "nite-element models based

on genetic algorithms and geometric modeling
W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza*
Bioengineering Center, Faculty of Engineering, Central University of Venezuela, P.O. Box 50.361,
Caracas 1050-A, Venezuela


The aim of this paper is to present and discuss the used of genetic algorithms and geometric modeling by
means of -splines surface representation in order to solve tri-dimensional shape optimization problems.
Genetic algorithms have demonstrated to be a very robust search tool that models the evolution in arti"cial
creatures. On the other hand, -spline surface representation allows a very simple description on a high level
of abstraction, and it is well suited to capture interactive in#uence. Other advantages are the validity of the
shape description for large changes and the possibility of to generate optimal meshes. Finally, a numerical
example is presented and discussed in order to show the great applicability of the developed tool.  2001
Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Genetic algorithms; -splines; Optimization; 3D-"nite elements

1. Introduction

Shape optimization problems constitute an important type of problem with varying domains.
Research into this "eld of unknown or varying domain problems with their inherent non-linear
character is ever increasing. The growing interest in shape design re#ects a realization of the
e!ectiveness of shape changes for improving structural performance. It also re#ects a growing
sophistication of structural analysis and optimization tools, which permit tackling the more
di$cult problems of shape optimization.
The goal of shape optimization is to "nd the best boundary shape of an elastic medium to
minimize some property of that medium. In this case the design variables represent the shape of the

* Corresponding author. Tel.: #58-2-6627206; fax: #58-2-6627206.

E-mail addresses: (W. Annicchiarico), (M. Cerrolaza).

0168-874X/01/$ - see front matter  2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 1 6 8 - 8 7 4 X ( 0 0 ) 0 0 0 4 1 - X
404 W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415

body and they are restricted to some constraints like stresses or displacements. The object of the
search is to minimize the weight of the body, or to maximize its sti!ness or to remove stress
The main di$culties encountered in shape optimization are [1]; the continuously changing of
"nite-element model, since it is di$cult to ensure that the accuracy of the "nite-element analysis
remains adequate throughout the design process, and the expense involves in to obtain good
sensitivity derivatives with respect to shape design variables than with respect other variables (e.g.
sizing variables).
The optimization problem can be e$ciently solved by using good approximation methods as
well as exact sensitivity analysis. A good selection of these techniques are also useful to reduce the
iterations of the structural analysis and its sensitivity analysis. In this sense, several authors have
used Taylor series approximation to build approximate sub-problems for the actual design
problem, such as Schmit and Miure [2], who originally suggested the use of reciprocal variables to
form a wide range approximation for the frameworks. Since then, this method has yielded good
results for plates and shells. Other authors [3,4] have shown that a hybrid constraint approach
using mixed variables yields a more conservative approximation. Vanderplaats and Salajegheh [5]
have suggested, for the stress constraints, to use Taylor series to approximate the internal loads
instead of the stresses themselves.
These approximation concepts have been applied to the three-dimensional shape optimization
problem using the "nite-element method by Yang and Botkin [6] and Kodiyalan and Vander-
plaats [7]. They also show the possibility for automating the structural design process by
determining the shape of complicated three-dimensional components. Moreover, these authors
show how the use of better approximation techniques to obtain the stresses in three-dimensional
solid elements resulted in a relevant improved convergence characteristics.
Others approaches are stochastic zero-order method and deterministic-gradient based method.
The "rst are based on evolutionary algorithms such as genetic algorithms or simulated annealing
(see for example [8}10]). In these methods the design sensitivity analysis is avoided by the nature of
the optimization method.
On the other hand, the gradient-based approaches associated with the "nite-element method can
be classi"ed in the discrete method (see for example [11,12]) and the continuum approach (see
[13,14]). In the discrete approach, the discretized "nite element equations are directly di!erenti-
ated. In the continuum approach, the variational equilibrium equations are di!erentiated and
As mentioned previously, the corner-stone factors in three-dimensional shape optimization are
the model representation, where the geometry is evolving from an initial state to an optimized one
and the technique used to associate design variables with mesh data.
Initially, three-dimensional shape optimization was performed associating design variables
directly with grid points on an existing mesh, resulting in an error-prone process for real
application. Later, authors such as Yang [15] have developed shape optimization capabilities by
associating parameters with a mesh created manually. But others (see for example [16]) have
associated parameters with control points of a mapped mesh generator.
Recently, several authors [17,18] have found that using geometry as a basis vs. directly using the
"nite-element data, for formulating and controlling this type of problem leads to generic robust
procedures to carry out structural shape optimization. These methods are based on constructive
W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415 405

solid geometry (CSG) or solid modeling. Some of its advantages are that they are an integral part of
CAD systems and the design variables are the solid model dimensions. The solid modeling method
also facilitates the de"nition of the "nite-element model and the optimization problem through
automatic mesh generation and associatively between the solid and the "nite-element models. This
technique have been applied to three-dimensional shape optimization by Kodiyalan et al. [19] and
Botkin [20] by using a complete di!erence method to calculate the velocity "eld. Chen and
Tortorelli [21], have used variational geometry to obtain the sensitivities and the velocity "eld.
Among the disadvantages [20] of some generic solid modeling approaches are that the solid
models containing the details of the part to be manufactured not only have too many parameters to
be e!ectively optimized, but also the parameters are de"ned in such a way that they are not suitable
to be used as design variables.
The main purpose of this work is to present and discuss a three-dimensional shape optimization
technique based on the concept of design elements (introduced by Imam [22]) and the parameteriz-
ation solid modeling.
In the solid design element approach the structure is divided into a few regions. These regions, or
solid design elements, are described by a set of key nodes (or master nodes) that de"ne geometry
entities of the mesh, e.g. lines, surfaces, volumes, which control its shape. Then, by using an
automatic mesh generator and parametric mapping these geometry entities are mapped to the "nal
"nite-element mesh. So, the shape design variables are a set of parameters used to de"ne the
position of the master nodes and some parametric dimensions of the solid model that were used to
de"ne the design elements.
The moving boundaries of the design elements are described by using -splines surface
representation. This methodology introduces two new shape parameters that control the bias
( ) and the tension ( ) of each curve segment that de"ne the modeling surface. These para-
meters are associated with a clearly physic representation of the nature of the desired
In previous works [8,9], the authors have shown that the combined technique of genetic
algorithms, FEM representation and -spline modeling provides a powerful tool to optimize
bidimensional models. The results presented herein is an extension of the previous ideas discussed
in these papers to the three-dimensional case.

2. Geometry}based modeling

As mentioned previously, the key points to implement a practical three-dimensional shape

optimization environment are a geometric modeling system, an automatic mesh generator and the
capability of handling several types of design variables and constraints.
The solid modeling system used herein is based on geometric "nite-element modeling. This type
of modeling is based on three main aspect [19]: problem formulation through geometry, geometry
representation and geometry manipulation.
The formulation of the shape optimization problem by using the geometry is depicted in Fig. 1.
The process begins using solid design elements to de"ne the problem geometry. Then, the mesh
control information is de"ned on the boundary as well as the problem-speci"c attributes, such as
material properties, loads, boundary conditions, etc., are assigned to the model. Once the mesh
406 W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415

Fig. 1. Modeling process: geometric entities, mesh parameterization and "nite element mesh.

control data is available, the "nite-element mesh is generated, with the resulting node and element
data associated with the originating geometry.
The geometry representation adopted in this paper is based on solid-design elements.
These elements are like primitives which are de"ned by parametric dimensions and shape
parameters to control its shape. The moving boundaries are de"ned by geometry design
elements such as -splines surfaces, which control the curvature and tangency of the optimized
Finally, all this data can be manipulated throughout speci"c interface procedures between the
optimization modules and the analysis module implemented in the computational tool.
W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415 407

Fig. 2. -Spline control graph.

3. -spline surface representation

The -spline representation (curves or surfaces) are geometric design elements, which stem from the
well-known B-spline representation. This new formulation de"nes additional parameters that control
the bias ( ) and tension ( ) of each surface patch. The e!ect of these parameters is to change the
parametric continuity between each surface patch while maintaining the geometry continuity.
A -spline surface is de"ned by (but does not interpolate) a set of control vertices, in three-
dimensional x}y}z space, which are organized as two-dimensional graph having rectangular
topology. This set of control vertices is called control graph (see Fig. 2). In order to formalize this
notion, the set of control vertices can be considered as a graph V, E whose vertices form the set

<"< i"0, 1,2, m; j"0, 1,2, n (1)

and with the set of edges
E"(< , < ) i"0, 1,2, m; j"0, 1,2, n!1
(< , < , j)i"0, 1,2, m!1; j"0,1,2, n.
The generated surface tends to mimic the overall shape of the control graph, and the manipula-
tion of a control vertex causes a predictable modi"cation in the resulting shape.
The coordinates of a point on the (i, j) -spline surface patch Q (u, v) is a weighted average of the
16 vertices, as can be seen in the following expression:
Q (u, v)"   bb ( ,  ; u, v)< (3)
P\ Q\
for 04u(1 and 04v(1.
The set of bivariate -spline basis function is the tensor product of the set of univariate basis
bb ( ,  ; u, v)"b ( ,  ; u)b ( ,  ; v)
PQ   P   Q  
r"!2, !1, 0, 1 and s"!2, !1, 0, 1. (4)
408 W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415

Substituting the above expression into Eq. (3) and arranging the terms, it yields:

Q (u, v)"  b ( ,  ; u)  < b ( ,  ; v) 0)u(1 and 0)v(1. (5)
GH P   G>P H>Q Q  
P\ Q\
Each basis function (b and b ) is a function of  and  and the u(v) adimensional variable such
P Q  
that it is a cubic polynomial in u (v) whose polynomial coe$cients are themselves functions of
 and  :

b ( ,  ; u)"  C ( ,  )uE, 0)u(1, r"!2,!1, 0, 1,
P   EP  

b ( ,  ; v)"  C ( ,  )vE, 0)v(1, s"!2,!1, 0, 1, (6)
Q   EQ  
where C and C are the coe$cients functions. They can be determining by applying the geometry
continuity constraints to the joint of the ith and (i#1)st curve segments in each direction and
a condition specify by axis independence and convex hull properties. This is obtained by normaliz-
ing the basis function at u (v)"0 (see Refs. [23,24]).
The parametric equations of -spline surfaces can be visualized as the path of a particle moving
through space. Increasing  above unity, the velocity of the particle immediately after a knot point

increases. This serves to push it further in the direction of the travel before it turns as in#uenced by
the next control point. This is said to bias the surface to the right. Decreasing  below unity, the

particle velocity decreases and thus, it biases the paths towards the left. The parameter  controls

the tension over the surface. As  increased above zero, the knot points of the surface are pulled

towards their respective control vertices. For negative  , the knot points are pushed away.

The local control is one of the most important advantages of -spline surface representation.
This control is obtained by the exploitation of piecewise representation of -spline formulation,
which is based in a local basis; that is, each -spline basis function has local support. Since each
control vertex is associated with a basis function, it only in#uences a local portion of the surface
and it has no e!ect on the remaining part of the surface. The movement of one control vertex has
the e!ect to modify only a local portion without the undesired side e!ect of disturbing the other
portions of the surface.
The complete de"nition of a surface requires the speci"cation of a boundary condition. In this
case, the technique of phantom vertices boundary conditions is used. In this technique a set of
"ctitious or phantom vertices are created around the boundary of the original control graph which
de"ne additional surfaces patches. These patches are of normal size and the complete surface
consists of m by n patches.
The auxiliary phantom patches satisfy some end condition. A convenient boundary condition is
to set the appropriate parametric second partial derivative vector to zero at the end point along
each boundary curve between adjacent surface patches. That is the curvature is zero along the
boundaries of the modeling surface.
A complete explanation of -spline formulation and its evaluation can be found elsewhere (see
W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415 409

4. Genetic optimization process

Genetic algorithms are search algorithms based on the mechanics of natural selection and
natural genetics. They converge quickly to the optimum design with a minimum e!ort, having to
test only a small fraction of the design space to "nd out either the near optimum or the optimum
A complete description of GAs techniques can be found in the works of Goldberg [25] and Davis
[26] among other available excellent works.
The optimization scheme used to obtain the best pro"les of the optimization model can be stated
as follows:

1. Selection of the design variables: in this work the position of some -spline surface control
vertices (V ), the surface shape parameters ( ,  ) and some parametric dimensions used to
de"ne the optimization model are used.
2. Creation of an initial population of individual: each individual that forms a population is
created by the simple concatenation of the design variables. They are coded in binary and
de"ned in a random way over its design space.
3. Select parents: there exist several methods to do this task. In this paper a remainder stochastic
selection without replacement was used, since this method produces better solutions.
4. Apply genetic operators in order to create the next generation: in this work uniform crossover
and simple mutation are used.
5. Evaluate the objective function and constraints.
6. If the optimum has not been reached yet, repeat steps 3}5 until the optimum is found or the
optimization process is ended by an end condition such as maximum number of generations.

5. Shape optimization problem

The shape optimization problem consists of "nding out the shape of the model having the
minimum volume and the minimum stress concentration zones. So that, the objective function is
stated by

min (Vol)"  < , (7)

where V : is the volume of element i, and Nel the number of "nite elements of the model.
Subjected to
(a) Stress constraint: the Von-Mises stresses, calculated at Gauss points of the "nite element, must
not exceed the limit value 

 G ! )0. (8)
The Von}Mises stress is calculated as
 "[( ! )#( ! )#( ! )#3( # # )] (9)
410 W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415

(b) Nodal coordinates constraints over the control vertices (V ): nodal coordinates of some nodes

of the control graph should not move beyond certain limit values in X,Y and Z directions in
order to avoid geometry distortions.
(c) Restrictions on the shape of the elements of the moving surface, in order to avoid singular or
negative Jacobeans.
(d) Side constraints: this kind of constraints depend on the problem to be optimized and they are
used to prevent topology changes in the con"guration of the geometric model which may yield
non-real geometries.

In order to incorporate the constraints described above, the penalty method is used. In this
method the "tness of an individual design is increased when constraints are violated. Then Eq. (7)
can be written in the following way:

g "=# #
 <p# H (g , 0)# H (g , 0), (10)
G  A  Q
where g is the penalized weight, i the structured index,  the allowed stress minus acting stress,
Vp the allowed control-points coordinate minus actual control-points coordinate, H (g , 0) the
function that measure the elements shape distortion. If there exist some singular or negative
Jacobians g " W , otherwise g "0 and H (g , 0) the function that measure the violation of side
A A  Q
constraints. If one or several side constraints are violated g "W, otherwise g "0.
The parameters ,
, , , ,  are adjusted by trial and, in this paper, they have been evaluated in
such a way that a 10% of violation in every constraint increases the original weight by about of 5%.

6. Numerical examples

The versatility and power of the proposed three-dimensional shape optimization technique is
demonstrated and discussed by means of a square bar subjected to traction. The following results
show the average of three di!erent runs of the problem due to the stochastic nature of the
optimization process.

6.1. Cantilevered plate with a circular hole

In Fig. 3 is depicted a three-dimensional cantilever plate. The "nite-element mesh of the initial
design consist of 448 parallelepipeds elements and a total of 700 nodes. The structure is subjected to
a total edge load of 20.000.00 N at the free end. The material properties are as follows: Young's
modulus"10;10 Mpa, Poisson's ratio"0.3, and allowable e!ective stress"3000 Mpa.
The objective problem is to minimize the volume of the structure, subject to constraint on the
e!ective stress at several location of the "nite-element model. The optimum shape is determined by
changing the top and bottom surfaces (ABCD-EFGH) and the hole size.
The design model consist of "ve design variables, two corresponding to the dimensions of the
two-dimensional }spline surfaces , others two are used to represent the shape parameters of the
surfaces and the "fth variable is for varying the hole size. Table 1 presents the genetic parameters
and operators used to optimise the plate.
W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415 411

Fig. 3. Geometry, dimensions, boundary and load conditions for a cantilevered beam with a circular hole.

Table 1
Genetic parameters for cantilever plate under tension

Population size 100

Number of generations 50
Selection scheme RSSWR
Crossover scheme Uniform crossover
Crossover probability 0.8
Mutation probability 0.005

Remainder stochastic sampling without replacement.

Fig. 4. Final optimized shape for the cantilevered beam with a circular hole.

As can be calculated in Fig. 3, the initial design has a volume of 18048.20 mm with the stress
constraint satis"ed.
The "nal shape of the plate is shown in Fig. 4. It can be noted how the plate volume was reduced
according to the stress constraints and the geometric consideration by the presence of the hole.
412 W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415

Fig. 5. (a) Initial Von-Mises stress distribution for the cantilevered beam with a circular hole; (b) "nal Von-Mises stress
distribution for the cantilevered beam with a circular hole.

The optimization process converged to a volume of 9314.35 mm in 50 iterations. It means

a nearly "fty percent (50%) reduction.
The initial and "nal stress distributions are compared in Figs. 5a and 5b. It is noted how the top
and bottom surfaces varying in a smoothed way through the length of the plate and its "nal
con"guration is the result of the interaction between allowable stress and the element stresses near
the moving surfaces of the plate.
The objective and constraint iteration histories are shown in Fig. 6 by means of non-dimensional
volume factor (iteration volume/initial volume) and stress factor (iteration stress/allowable stress).
It can be appreciated how the adimensional factor of volume decrease until its optimum value and
the adimensional factor of stress is always below one.
W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415 413

Fig. 6. Evolution histories of objective function and constraints.

Fig. 7. Shape evolution history for the cantilevered beam with a circular hole.

Finally, the evolution shape history is presented in Fig. 7. Di!erent shapes of the plate are
displayed through the optimization process until the "nal one is found.

7. Concluding remarks

An integrated approach for three-dimensional shape optimal design using -spline surface
representation, genetic algorithms and mesh parameterization has been presented. The de"nition
414 W. Annicchiarico, M. Cerrolaza / Finite Elements in Analysis and Design 37 (2001) 403}415

of geometry through -spline geometric entities provides a great versatility for the characterisation
and control of the body shape. Also, the use of GAs as optimization technique increases the
performance of the developed tool due to its great advantages as compared with traditional
optimization techniques.
As shown in the example, the use of this combined optimization tool provides an alternative,
e!ective and realizable way to solve this kind of problem and their encourages its application to
more complex three-dimensional shape optimization problems.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support provided by the Council for Humanistic and
Scienti"c Development (CDCH) and National Council for Scienti"c Research (CONICIT) of


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