Science China Technological Sciences

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 566–576 | Cite as

Saddlepoint approximation based structural reliability analysis with non-normal random variables

  • ShuFang Song
  • ZhenZhou LuEmail author


The saddlepoint approximation (SA) can directly estimate the probability distribution of linear performance function in non-normal variables space. Based on the property of SA, three SA based methods are developed for the structural system reliability analysis. The first method is SA based reliability bounds theory (RBT), in which SA is employed to estimate failure probability and equivalent normal reliability index for each failure mode firstly, and then RBT is employed to obtain the upper and the lower bounds of system failure probability. The second method is SA based Nataf approximation, in which SA is used to estimate the probability density function (PDF) and cumulative distribution function (CDF) for the approximately linearized performance function of each failure mode. After the PDF of each failure mode and the correlation coefficients among approximately linearized performance functions are estimated, Nataf distribution is employed to approximate the joint PDF of multiple structural system performance functions, and then the system failure probability can be estimated directly by numerical simulation using the joint PDF. The third method is SA based line sampling (LS). The standardization transformation is needed to eliminate the dimensions of variables firstly in this case. Then LS method can express the system failure probability as an arithmetic average of a set of failure probabilities of the linear performance functions, and the probabilities of the linear performance functions can be estimated by the SA in the non-normal variables space. By comparing basic concepts, implementations and results of illustrations, the following conclusions can be drawn: (1) The first method can only obtain the bounds of system failure probability and it is only acceptable for the linear limit state function; (2) the second method can give the estimation of system failure probability, and its error mostly results from the approximation of Nataf distribution for the joint PDF of the structural system performance functions and the linearization of the performance functions; (3) the SA based LS method can obtain the estimator of system failure probability, which converges to the actual value along with the increase of sample size. The SA based LS method considers the influence of nonlinearity of limit state function on the failure probability, and it is acceptable for the structural system both with a single failure mode and with multiple failure modes, therefore it has the widest applicability.


saddlepoint approximation reliability bounds theory Nataf distribution line sampling probability density function cumulative distribution function failure probability 


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© Science in China Press and Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of AeronauticsNorthwestern Polytechnical UniversityXi’anChina

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