On the importance of viscoelastic response consideration in structural design optimization

Kai A. James, Haim Waisman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we present a series of mathematical proofs that demonstrate the importance of accounting for viscoelastic effects in structural optimization algorithms. Focusing specifically on mass minimization problems with stiffness and deflection constraints, we show that standard techniques based on linear elastic analysis overestimate the long-term stiffness of the structure, leading to designs that become infeasible after sustained loading due to viscoelastic creep. Conversely, assuming maximum creep deflection, which also allows for linear analysis, leads to an overly conservative design that is unnecessarily heavy and therefore suboptimal. We prove both propositions for both constant and time-varying load histories. We also present proofs for generalized continuum mechanics problems as well as for a finite element formulation, which can be applied to any arbitrary geometry. Lastly, we present two numerical examples in which the conclusions derived in the proofs are verified empirically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-650
Number of pages20
JournalOptimization and Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Creep deformation
  • Finite element analysis
  • Structural optimization
  • Viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Control and Optimization
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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