Automatic Design of Shell Structures

by Peter G. Smith, (A.M.ASCE), Sr. Engr.; Westinghouse Electric Corp., Tampa, FL,
Edward L. Wilson, (A.M.ASCE), Assoc. Prof. of Civ. Engrg.; Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA,

Serial Information: Journal of the Structural Division, 1971, Vol. 97, Issue 1, Pg. 191-201

Document Type: Journal Paper


A computer-oriented method for the design of a large class of shell structures is presented. The numerical approach is modeled after an experimental technique used to determine shapes for shell structures. In the experimental procedure, the shell geometry is obtained by loading a flexible membrane. The numerical method presented replaces the costly and time-consuming experimental approach with an efficient digital computer program. A finite element formulation of the problem of large displacement in membrane shells is used to determine the equilibrium configuration for the flexible membranes. The approach is general and can be applied to the design of shells having arbitrary geometry, material properties, thickness and boundary conditions. The method is applied to the design of roof structures, arch dams, storage tanks and a tubular joint. Evaluation of the stresses in these structures indicates that the use of membrane shapes represents a rational approach to the design of many civil engineering shell structures.

Subject Headings: Membranes | Structural design | Shell structures | Numerical models | Geometrics | Arch dams | Storage tanks | Structural models

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