Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe a post‐processing procedure for defining load paths and a load bearing topology using the stresses from a finite element analysis. Design/methodology/approach – Cauchy stress vectors and a Runge‐Kutta algorithm are used to identify the paths being followed by load components aligned with the coordinate axes. An algorithm is then defined which identifies an efficient topology that will carry the loads by straightening the paths. Findings – The aim of the algorithm is to provide insight into the way a structure is carrying loads by identifying the material most effective in performing the load transfer. The procedure is applied to a number of structures to demonstrate its applicability to structural design. Research limitations/implications – The examples demonstrate an insight of structural behavior that is useful at the conceptual stage of the design process. The load paths identify load transfer and warn the designer of the creation of bending moments and the location of features such as holes on the load path. They also demonstrate that the new procedures can provide suggestions for alternate topologies for the load bearing structure. Originality/value – The load path theory has been published elsewhere. The new work in this paper is the definition of the Runge‐Kutta algorithm to define the paths and the algorithm to identify the topology performing the load transfer.
Engineering Computations – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 8, 2011
Keywords: Loading (physics); Stress (materials); Finite element analysis; Topology; Structural design
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