, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 33-42
Date: 07 Jan 2010

Optimum structure to carry a uniform load between pinned supports

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Abstract

Since the time of Huygens in the 17th century it has been believed that, if the weight of the structural members themselves are negligible in comparison to the applied load, the optimum structure to carry a uniformly distributed load between pinned supports will take the form of a parabolic arch rib (or, equivalently, a suspended cable). In this study, numerical layout optimization techniques are used to demonstrate that when a standard material with equal tension and compressive strength is involved, a simple parabolic arch rib is not the true optimum structure. Instead, a considerably more complex structural form, comprising a central parabolic section and networks of truss bars in the haunch regions, is found to possess a lower structural volume.

This research has been supported by Buro Happold Ltd (sponsorship of Wael Darwich’s doctoral studies) and EPSRC (Advanced Research Fellowship grant GR/S53329/01 held by Matthew Gilbert).