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Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 785801 www.elsevier.


Knowledge-based global optimization of cold-formed steel columns

H. Liu, T. Igusa, B.W. Schafer
Department of Civil Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA Received 26 August 2003; received in revised form 31 October 2003; accepted 5 January 2004

Abstract Cold-formed steel member cross-section shapes are dicult to optimize because of the nonlinear behavior of such members under buckling loads. Traditional gradient-based optimization schemes, employing deterministic design specications for the objective function, are inecient and severely limited in their ability to search the full solution space of member cross-sections. Herein, a new global optimization approach that is well suited for optimization of such cross-sections is introduced. There are two distinguishing characteristics of this approach: (1) it operates within a low-dimensional expert-based feature space rather than the high-dimensional design space of cross-section parameters; and (2) it uses a numerical implementation of the direct strength method (DSM) for the objective function. Through the use of Bayesian classication trees, the most signicant coordinates of the expert-based feature space are dened; these coordinates are of low dimension and are in terms of features which provide insight into structural behavior. The classication trees are then used to eciently generate candidate member cross-section prototypes for subsequent rened local optimization. Optimization results are presented for three structurally distinguishable length regimes to provide proof-of-concept of the proposed scheme. It is demonstrated that an expert-based feature space and its associated classication tree can eectively encapsulate the knowledge gained in the design optimization process and can be subsequently used as a starting framework for related design optimization problems. This is, in essence, a highly ecient knowledge transfer mechanism that is absent in most optimization schemes. Optimization of thin-walled members stands to benet greatly from the combination of more exible and general design methodologies (e.g., the DSM) and novel, emerging, optimization schemes such as the one presented herein. # 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-410-516-7801; fax: +1-410-516-7473. E-mail address: (B.W. Schafer).

0263-8231/$ - see front matter # 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.tws.2004.01.001


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Keywords: Cold-formed steel; Global optimization; Knowledge; Classier model

1. Introduction One of the advantages of cold-formed steel is its exibility in forming dierent cross-section shapes. Ironically, in practice, only limited cross-sections are adopted. Among them, in the US, the C- and Z-shapes are the most widely used. However, these cross-section shapes have never been proven superior to alternatives. In fact, using the same amount of steel, it is not dicult to nd cross-section designs with higher load capacity than the traditional C-, Z- and R-shapes (Fig. 1). Optimizing the cross-section shape of a cold-formed steel member is interesting from a structural mechanics viewpoint, and due to the vast geometric possibilities in the design, the problem is also challenging from an optimization viewpoint. There has been interesting work in cold-formed steel member optimization reported in the literature. In this past work, the prescriptive rules of the governing US design specication (e.g., [1]) have been used for evaluating the objective function. Seaburg and Salmon [2] investigated the optimization of hat-shaped members using gradient-based search techniques; Adeli and Karim [3] applied a neural dynamics model to optimize hat-, I- and Z-shapes; Karim and Adeli [4] also used this model to perform a comprehensive parametric study for the global optimum of hat-shaped beams. Recently, Lu [5] conducted a genetic algorithm (GA) optimization of Z- and R-shape purlins and used nite-strip analysis within the objective function evaluation. To advance the state-of-the-art of cold-formed steel member optimization, two major issues must be addressed: the nonlinearities of the strength-based objective function and the inclusion of the set of all feasible cross-sections. The highly nonlinear nature of the strength of thin-walled cold-formed steel members is due to the fact that member strength is controlled by a complex combination of overall, distortional and local buckling modes and material strength. Common gradient-based optimization methods tend to be unreliable for such highly nonlinear objective functions. Previous optimization searches [25] were conducted only within a predened scope of prototype shapes. The restriction of cold-formed steel member design to

Fig. 1. C-, Z-and R-shape cross-sections.

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one or a few xed cross-section prototypes may lead to suboptimal results as illustrated by the following example. For a typical C-shape column under pure axial compression, the local buckling mode is the dominant mode. However, a small change from this prototype, e.g., the addition of lip stieners and web stieners, can markedly increase the local buckling stress and make the distortional buckling mode dominant, as indicated by Schafer [6]. As a result, load capacity is enhanced. Fig. 1 shows that the number of design variables for typical (a) C-shape, (b) lipped C-shape and (c) lipped C-shape with one web stiener are 2, 3 and 5, respectively. Most optimization methods can only handle design variable vectors (X) of xed dimension. Thus, the three shapes have to be considered as three dierent classes of prototype shapes and be treated as three independent optimization problems, which can be inecient. If we use our expertise [6,7], we know that shape (c) is usually superior to shape (a) or (b). Some natural questions are: If we are looking for the optimum design among all three shapes, does this expertise sufce, excluding (a) and (b) and optimizing shape (c) only? If we do so, what is the probability that we would miss the real optimum design? How do we know if this expertise is reliable or not? To address these questions, we use, in this paper, an innovative global optimization method introduced by Liu and Igusa [810]. In this method, knowledge functions are constructed in a manner such that all three crosssection shapes can be included simultaneously in the search. This method has the following characteristics that make it well suited for the shape optimization problem: 1. minor restrictions on prototype shapes; 2. no convergence problems; 3. direct inclusion of expertise to provide guidelines in optimization formulation and to improve eciency; and 4. transferable knowledge, where the result of one optimization problem is used to eciently solve other similar problems.

2. Optimal design of cold-formed steel columns In the most common formulation for structural optimization, the design goal is to minimize the weight of the structure to resist a given load. In this paper, a closely related optimal design formulation, maximum load capacity, is used. This formulation is from the perspective of a manufacturer, who, starting from a given rectangular-sized sheet of steel, would like to design a cross-section with the highest possible load capacity. The two formulations are interchangeable. In this paper, we study optimal column design under pure axial compression, so the load capacity refers to the axial compression load capacity. The optimization problem is of the form: maxPn X


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subject to constraints gi X 0 i 1; . . . ; k; hj X 0 j 1; . . . ; l 2

Here, the design variable vector X species the locations and angles of the folds that dene the cross-section; the objective function Pn(X) is the predicted axial compression load capacity of the column; and the constraints gi(X) and hj(X) are geometric in nature, ensuring that the folds are within the steel sheet dimensions and the cross-section contains no intersections. The calculation of the load capacity Pn(X) follows the direct strength method (DSM) [11], a new design method recently approved as an alternative design procedure in the AISI specication. This method has two stages: elastic buckling analysis and prediction of ultimate strength. A variety of applicable rational analysis methods can be used for elastic buckling prediction, and we choose the nite-strip method. In particular, the open source code CUFSM [12] is used for this purpose. The advantage of the DSM analysis is that any cross-section may be analyzed, thereby permitting a wider search in the design space than traditional cold-formed steel analysis methods which are tied to conventional cross-section shapes. The elastic buckling analysis returns the elastic buckling loads of three modes: local (Pcrl), distortional (Pcrd) and overall (Pcre). The overall buckling mode includes exural, torsional and exuraltorsional buckling, and Pcre is the minimum of the critical elastic column buckling loads for these modes. In the strength prediction of the local buckling load, localoverall interaction is explicitly included. A typical elastic buckling curve calculated by CUFSM is shown in Fig. 2. The elastic buckling load Pn, normalized by the compressive yield load Py Ag Fy , is plotted with respect to the half-wave length lhalf-wave normalized by the column

Fig. 2. Elastic buckling curve for the illustrated cross-section.

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length l. Note that for a given column, the three characteristic buckling loads are not necessarily all present. The equation for calculating nominal axialpPne for overall buckling is in strength terms of the nondimensional parameter kc Py =Pcre :   2 Pne 0:658kc Py for kc 1:5 3a ! 0:877 Pne 3b Py otherwise k2 c p The nominal axial strength for local buckling is in terms of kl Pne =Pcrl : Pnl Pne Pnl for kl 0:776   !  Pcrl 0:4 Pcrl 0:4 1 0:15 Pne Pne Pne 4a otherwise 4b

Finally, the nominal axial strength for distortional buckling is in terms of p kd Py =Pcrd : Pnd Py Pnd for kd  1 0:25 0:561 Pcrd Py 0:6 ! Pcrd Py 0:6 Py otherwise 5b 5a

Herein, only the nominal load capacity is considered. We do not include a safety factor X (ASD) nor a resistance factor / (LRFD). Thus, our objective function is: Pn X minfPne ; Pnl ; Pnd g 3. Knowledge-based global optimization In this section, the basic concepts and analysis steps underlying the proposed global optimization process are described. For illustration, the rst part of the example, the preliminary design of a relatively long cold-formed steel column, is presented here; the remainder of the example is presented in the next section. 3.1. Introduction to the example The design example begins with a plane steel sheet with thickness t 1 mm and width w 280 mm. The objective is to fold the steel sheet into a shape with uniform cross-section geometry so that the column can withstand the highest possible axial compression load. Considering manufacturing feasibility and costs, we require (a) either symmetric or antisymmetric cross-section and (b) at most four folds on each side of the central longitudinal axis. The Young modulus is E 210; 000 MPa, the yield strength is Fy 227 MPa (33 ksi), and the column length for the long-column design is l 2:9 m (9.5 ft). 6


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Fig. 3. Discrete variables in design space X for the initial global optimization: (a) allowable folding positions, (b) design variables.

Since there are up to fourfold locations and angles to be considered, the design space X is composed of two eight-dimensional subspaces. In the preliminary design of this column, a lattice is used to discretize this relatively large and complex design space. The lattice is constructed by assuming that a fold can occur only on one of 20 uniformly spaced points on the cross-section and that the angle v at a fold is a multiple of 45 . As shown in Fig. 3, the design vector can be dened as X fsym; h1 ; h2 ; . . . ; h10 g, where sym true or false indicates whether the cross-section is symmetric and hi is the fold angle at point i, in which at least 5 are v equal to 180 . To reduce the number of duplicate cross-sections, the value of h1 is v v limited to 90 or 135 . Cross-sections which cross themselves are considered invalid. With this discretization, the number of all possible designs is approximately 1.2 million. 3.2. Formulation of the feature space The global optimization process begins with the identication of a set of features which, through expert judgment, is believed to be relevant to the optimization problem. A feature of a system is a continuous or discrete quantity that provides information that may be useful in designing the system. This information must go beyond the raw information given by the design vector X. Herein, the features of interest are those that can be formulated by a deterministic function on X. Thus, a feature fj would be given as a function fj Fj X for X 2 X 7 If m features are identied, then the index would range over j 1; . . . ; m. While the Bayesian classication tree, which we will introduce in the next subsection, can identify unimportant and duplicate features, it cannot generate new features. Thus, all potentially relevant features must be included at the start of the analysis.

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For the column example, the following features were enumerated: f1 f2 f3 f4 f5 f6 f7 f8 f9 f10 f11 Boolean variable indicating cross-section symmetry type (symmetric, antisymmetric) strong-axis moment of inertia (Istrong) weak-axis moment of inertia (Iweak) aspect ratio, for the cross-section with width b and depth h in the strong and weak principal axes directions (b/h) distance between the shear center and centroid (ls) normalized length of the longest segment, excluding the lip (last segment) (dmax/t) normalized length of the lip (c/t) maximum of f6 and f7 (max{dmax,c}/t) warping constant (Cw) the largest ratio of lengths of consecutive segments (maxfdi =di1 g) ratio of lengths of the lip and its neighboring segment (c=dn1 )

The feature set is the set of all features and the feature vector is f ff1 ; . . . ; fm g, where for the column example m 11. The space of all possible values for the feature vector is the feature space D. In the column example, the feature set was dened using expertise in cold-formed steel member analysis and design. Thus, from the knowledge science perspective, the feature vector f contains information on the structural behavior of the column beyond what is immediately available from the raw design vector X. 3.3. Construction of the knowledge function In the following, it is shown how a knowledge function can be dened and constructed to eectively use the information in feature vector f to perform ecient optimal design. The type of knowledge function that is of interest herein is the classier. The most basic classier is binary, where a design specied by X is either good or not. A good design can be dened in terms of the objective function as Pn X > P0 , where P0 is a predetermined threshold value. For the column example, P0 would be the lower limit for the strength of a good column. In general, the objective function Pn(X) requires considerable computational eort, making it ill-suited for direct use in design over large design spaces. Thus, it ~ is useful to dene a knowledge function Pn f that sacrices classifying accuracy for computational eciency. While the original objective function Pn(X) can determine, with 100% certainty, whether a given design X is good or not, the knowledge function can only provide a likelihood that the designs corresponding to feature vector f is good. The knowledge function is hence dened as follows ~ Pn f  PrPn X > P0 8

in which X can be any design corresponding to feature vector f. When this probability is close to either 100% or 0%, the function is an accurate classier; on the other hand, a probability of 50% provides no classication information


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whatsoever. Ideally, the knowledge function should be relatively easy to compute and give values close to 100% or 0% for as wide a range of values for f as possible. The rst step in constructing such a knowledge function is the identication of an information-laden set of features as described earlier. The remaining steps can follow one of several approaches. Herein, it is shown how Bayesian classication trees can be used to dene knowledge functions. The details of the learning algorithm underlying the evolutionary construction of Bayesian classication trees in feature spaces are described in Refs. [10,13]. In this paper, these details are omitted and only the nal trees for the cold-formed steel column design problem are presented. 4. Optimization of cold-formed steel columns In what follows we will construct knowledge functions for long- and short-column optimal designs. Then we will show how the knowledge embedded in these functions can be transferred to the optimal design of intermediate-length columns through a highly ecient knowledge transfer process facilitated by the underlying Bayesian classication trees. Finally, we will show how the knowledge functions can be combined with local search algorithms, resulting in a multi-start global optimization strategy. 4.1. Knowledge function for long columns To begin, a training data set is needed to: (1) nd an appropriate value for the threshold P0 for dening good designs, as in Eq. (8), and (2) provide input for the Bayesian classication tree learning algorithm. For the long-column design problem, 500 sample designs {X(i)} with valid cross-sections are generated randomly in design space. For each sample design, the corresponding feature vector f i F Xi i and axial compression load capacity Pn Pn Xi are computed. The training data i set is then given by the set of ordered pairs (f i ; Pn ). A histogram of the capacities normalized by the compressive yield load Py is shown in Fig. 4a. A threshold value of P0 0:3Py is chosen to dene good column designs; as indicated in Fig. 4a, only 8% of the training data set fall in the good design category. The training data set is then used in the Bayesian classication tree learning algorithm. While the initial trees are large and include all 11 features, the nal tree, shown in Fig. 5, is small and is only in terms of features f1 (symmetry), f3 (weak-axis moment of inertia) and f7 (lip length). The tree is interpreted as follows: the rounded rectangles are the nodes, where the top node is the root of the tree. The binary relation within each node denes a feature criterion. The labeled paths immediately below each node indicate whether the feature criterion is satised (Y) or not satised (N). The remaining rectangles ~ are the leaves which store the values for the knowledge function Pn f. Thus, the knowledge function value for any feature vector f is determined by starting at the root and following the appropriate paths leading to a leaf. For example, a column design given by a C-section with width b 0:29w and depth h 0:42w will have

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Fig. 4. Histogram of Pn/Py for compressive load capacity for long columns: (a) training data set, (b) Type I and Type II feature subregions.

feature values f 1 symmetric, f3 Iweak 0:0036tw3 and f 7 0:29w=t. The corresponding leaf is the second from the top, with knowledge function value of 3%, indicating a 3% chance that the column design is good, with axial compression load Pn > 0:3Py . From the optimization point of view, the value of the classication tree is in identifying a small subregion of feature space that corresponds to a high likelihood of good design. For the long-column example, this subregion is dened by the path leading to the right-most leaf. This path indicates that, out of all antisymmetric cross-sections with weak-axis moment of inertia of at least 0.0003tw3 and lip length of at most 0.2w, approximately 93% will be good designs. All other cross-sections would fall into one of the remaining three leaves, which, as indicated by Fig. 5, all

~ Fig. 5. Classication tree for long columns (Pn f  PrPn X > 0:3Py ).


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have low likelihood of good design. Hence, the tree can be used as a classier, classifying any cross-section design as either Type I or Type II, as indicated in Fig. 5, where approximately 93% of Type I cross-sections and less than 8% of Type II cross-sections are good designs. The accuracy of the tree is checked next. The idea is to check how well the Types I and II classications truly reect high and low likelihood of good design. A second set of sample designs D fXj g with valid cross-sections are generated randomly in the original design space. Using the classication tree in Fig. 5, the set D is rapidly divided into sets D(I) and D(II) of Types I and II designs. Then, the load capacity Pn is computed for 500 designs randomly selected from D(I) and another 200 designs randomly selected from D(II). The results, shown by the histograms in Fig. 4b, do indeed demonstrate the accuracy of the classication tree, with 94.0% of Type I and 8.3% Type II designs satisfying the criterion Pn ! P0 for good designs. It is noted that 8% of the designs in D fall in D(I), indicating that only 8% of all valid cross-sections are Type I designs. Furthermore, while Type I designs are dened by a single, simply dened region in feature space, these desirable designs are in numerous subregions scattered throughout the original design space X. With the classication tree, however, Type I designs can be rapidly identied in these scattered subregions. After the check of tree accuracy, as presented in Fig. 4b, the best of the Type I designs, which correspond to the highest load capacities Pn in the gure, are chosen as candidate near-optimal cross-sections for the nal step in global design optimization. Details of this nal step are shown for the intermediate-length columns in Section 5. 4.2. Knowledge function for short columns For the short-column design problem, the column length was chosen to be the same as the width of the steel sheet, l w 280 mm; the other steel properties are

Fig. 6. Histogram of Pn/Py for compressive load capacity for short columns: (a) training data set, (b) Type I and Type II feature subregions.

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~ Fig. 7. Classication tree for short columns (Pn f  PrPn X > 0:9Py ).

the same as before. The development of the knowledge function follows the same procedure as that introduced in the preceding subsection for long-column design. After generating the training data set, the following were found: (a) with the threshold value of P0 0:9Py , 8% of the training data set fall into the good design category, as indicated by Fig. 6a; (b) in the nal Bayesian classication tree, only two features are relevant, as indicated by Fig. 7; (c) Type I designs are specied by cross-sections with lip length smaller than 0.1w and the longest segment less than 0.25w; and (d) the classication accuracy of the tree is very high, as indicated by Fig. 6b. It is worthwhile to note that the features in the classication trees in Figs. 5 and 7 have been used in current code design specications. This demonstrates that the machine-learned classication tree is consistent with the expert knowledge embodied in design specications. 4.3. Knowledge transfer for intermediate-length column design In this subsection, we obtain a knowledge function for intermediate-length columns without a training data set. This is performed by a knowledge transfer process whereby the information that is embedded in the knowledge functions for short and long columns is combined under the supervision of an expert. It is noted that expert opinion and guidance is criticalthus, the knowledge transfer process is by no means a black-box procedure. To be sure that the previously obtained training data sets would not be closely related to the intermediate-length column design problem, we choose a length of 1600 mm, which is nearly the average of the long and short column lengths. To further complicate the design optimization problem, we change the steel yield strength from Fy 227 MPa (33 ksi) to Fy 378 MPa (50 ksi). We begin with an expert opinion (with knowledge and insight on the structural mechanics of cold-formed steel columns) on the column design problem. In the training data set for short columns, it was found that column strength is dominated by local buckling; hence the classication tree contains the two features (lip and longest segment lengths) most relevant to local buckling. In the training data set for long columns, overall buckling is dominant and features directly related to


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the overall buckling load capacity such as the weak-axis moment of inertia are used in the classication tree. In intermediate-length columns, both local and overall buckling modes are expected to be important. Thus, the subregion of feature space that correspond to cross-sections that can resist both buckling modes would be the most logical place to look for good designs. This subregion would be given by the intersection of the two Type I feature regions designated by the classication trees in Figs. 5 and 7 for long and short columns. It is noted that the controlling features of the distortional buckling mode are not obvious. The classication tree shown in Fig. 8 is the direct combination of the two previous trees, and the right-most leaf is the desired intersection of the two Type I feature regions. For simplicity, the complement of this intersection, which would be composed of all remaining leaves, are lumped into a single Type II leaf, as shown in the gure. Since a training data set was not used to construct this tree, the ~ knowledge function values Pn f of each leaf are not immediately known. As before, the accuracy of the new classication tree can be evaluated. Two sets of sample designs and their associated load capacities are evaluated for Type I and Type II feature subspaces. From these sets of sample designs, the following information is obtained: (1) Type I designs constitute only 0.8% of the entire space. (2) The distributions of load capacities for Type I and Type II designs subspaces, shown in Fig. 9, clearly show that Type I designs have signicantly higher load capacities. (3) The best designs are characterized in terms of four features: antisymmetry, weak-axis moment of inertia of at least 0.003tw3, lip length smaller than 0.1w, and the longest segment less than 0.25w. With the classication tree, it was possible to rapidly identify 200 Type I designs. It is noted that if a training data set with randomly chosen designs was used without the benet of the classication tree in Fig. 8, only one out of 125 samples would fall in the desirable Type I category. Thus, to obtain 200 Type I designs, 25,000 sample designs would have to be

Fig. 8. Classication tree for intermediate-length columns.

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Fig. 9. Histogram of Pn/Py for compressive load capacity for intermediate-length columns: Type I and Type II feature subregions.

evaluated, as compared with only 200 that were evaluated with the help of the classication tree. While the classication accuracy of the tree, which can be visualized by the degree of overlap of the Types I and II histograms in Fig. 9, is not as high as those of the preceding two trees, it is noted that the tree in Fig. 8 was constructed without the benet of a training data set for intermediate-length columns. 5. Multi-start global optimization The knowledge-function-based optimization of the preceding section was performed in the information-laden feature space. Through the use of classication trees, it is found that the most promising designs lie within a well-dened subregion in feature space. It is found, however, that these designs tend to be widely scattered in the original design space X. From the optimization viewpoint, such widely scattered designs with signicantly above-average performance values are ideal for the nal multi-start, gradient-based local optimization process. This is illustrated in this section for intermediate-length columns, which are the most dicult columns to optimize. We begin with the seed set of the best ve designs identied by the tree of Fig. 8; the ve cross-sections are shown in Fig. 10.

Fig. 10. Best designs among the 200 samples at intermediate length.


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Fig. 11. Continuous design variables for local optimization.

Since local searches are gradient based, the discrete variables that were sucient for the feature-space-based optimization of the preceding section, dened in Fig. 3b, must be replaced by continuous variables. Since Type I cross-sections are v all antisymmetric, the variable h1 in Fig. 3b is xed at 90 . Keeping the maximum number of folds at eight, there are eight continuous variables to completely describe the cross-section geometry; these variables are dened in Fig. 11. The local optimization problem is formulated as maxPn fx1 ; . . . ; x4 ; /4 ; . . . ; /4 g 9

subject to the constraints that all segments have nonnegative lengths, i.e., 0 xi Pi4 w=2 for i 1; 2; 3; 4 and w=2, and the cross-section does not intersect i1 xi itself.

Fig. 12. Nonsmooth behavior of the objective function and the predominant buckling mode: (a) over a v v 180 range for design angle /1, (b) over a 10 range for /1.

H. Liu et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 785801 Table 1 Local optimization results for intermediate-length columns Seed 1 2 3 4 5 Local optimum (kN) 63.7 63.5 61.3 62.8 60.5 Percentage improvement over initial seed (%) 8.3 5.2 5.3 8.1 4.3 Number of objective function evaluations 1233 1009 900 1065 896


The objective function Pn is governed by the three buckling modes described in Section 2. As the mode switches, the gradient of the function and sometimes the function itself will change abruptly. This is illustrated in Fig. 12a,b, where sudden changes in the objective function and its derivative can be observed when the angle v h1 for the rst design in Fig. 10 varies within a 10 range. With such high nonlinearity, standard gradient-based searches for the local optimum cannot be used. It is found that a surrogate-based optimization method [14], which uses a smoothed approximation for the objective function that increases in accuracy as the search converges, is appropriate for this problem. The nal local optimization results are presented in Table 1 and Fig. 13. It is observed that the local optimization process provides only a minor (less than 9%) improvement in the compression load capacity and an even smaller change in the cross-section shapes. Our optimization result is compared with a currently used C-shape. In the SSMA product list [15], product 600S162-33 has a similar w/t ratio. After proportionally enlarging it to make it equivalent to the size of the steel sheet used here, we nd that the load capacity for this C-shape intermediate-length column with 50 ksi steel is 24.2 kN. This is only 38% of the strength of the optimal design determined herein. It can be seen that considerable savings could be achieved by systematically investigating optimal cold-formed steel shapes.

6. Conclusions and summary It has been demonstrated that knowledge-based global optimization such as the feature-space-based method introduced herein is well suited to cold-formed steel member design. The results of the study are summarized in the following.

Fig. 13. Final optimized shapes for intermediated-length columns.


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The DSM, which is an entirely new design method for cold-formed steel, is an enabling tool for advanced optimization schemes and allows for a new exploration of optimal cold-formed steel cross-sections. Optimized cold-formed steel shapes have much higher load capacities than commonly used shapes, one example demonstrates 300% improvement over the common C-shape. Eciency of knowledge-based global optimization without gradient information is remarkably high. For the example of an intermediate-length column, by eectively using the knowledge encapsulated in the classication trees for short- and long-length columns, only 200 objective function evaluations were needed to nd near-optimal cross-sections. The subsequent gradient-based local search required approximately 1000 objective function evaluations for an improvement in load capacity of only 8%. Expert knowledge for the optimization process can be quantitatively added and evaluated using the feature-based classication trees. For long columns, the classication tree shows that load capacity is primarily governed by the weak-axis moment of inertias, as expected. The tree also indicates the need to have reasonable lip lengths, showing that local and possibly distortional buckling are signicant for thin-walled long columns. The requirement of antisymmetry that is found in the classication tree is initially unexpected; however, further study shows that antisymmetric shapes usually have higher weak-axis moments of inertia than symmetric shapes. For short columns, the classication tree indicates that the width-to-thickness ratios of the lip and the largest segment must be suciently small to develop reasonable local buckling capacity. This is in agreement with the expected thin-walled behavior in short columns. Proof-of-concept of this novel global optimization method is provided by the examples presented. In the future, the 20 allowable folding positions must be increased to describe potentially important details such as small stieners. The width-to-thickness ratio should also be included as a design variable. Constraints on the geometry that may be related to the important issue of manufacturability should also be added. Furthermore, a knowledge function specically dealing with distortional buckling mode would be useful in constructing a classication tree that could identify designs resistant to all three buckling modes. Our nal intent is to provide a universally eective classication tree that may identify cross-section designs that are nearly optimal for a broad range of cold-formed steel members.

Acknowledgements This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation at Johns Hopkins University under Grant Numbers DMI-0087032 and CMS0084590. This research support is gratefully acknowledged.

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