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Robust Engineering Design for Failure Prevention

[+] Author Affiliations
Jeffrey T. Fong, James J. Filliben, N. Alan Heckert, Roland deWit

National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD

Barry Bernstein

Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL

Paper No. PVP2008-61602, pp. 1537-1564; 28 pages
  • ASME 2008 Pressure Vessels and Piping Conference
  • Volume 6: Materials and Fabrication, Parts A and B
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA, July 27–31, 2008
  • Conference Sponsors: Pressure Vessels and Piping
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4829-6
  • Copyright © 2008 by ASME and U.S. Government


To advance the state of the art of engineering design, we introduce a new concept on the “robustness” of a structure by measuring its ability to sustain a sudden loss of a part without causing an immediate collapse. The concept is based on the premise that most structures have built-in redundancy such that when the loss of a single part leads to a load redistribution, the “crippled” structure tends to seek a new stability configuration without immediate collapse. This property of a “robust” structure, when coupled with a continuous or periodic inspection program using nondestructive evaluation (NDE) techniques, is useful in failure prevention, because such structure is expected to display “measurable” signs of “weakening” long before the onset of catastrophic failure. To quantify this “robustness” concept, we use a large number of simulations to develop a metric to be named the “Robustness Index (RBI).” To illustrate its application, we present two examples: (1) the design of a simple square grillage in support of a water tank, and (2) a classroom model of a 3-span double-Pratt-truss bridge. The first example is a “toy” problem, which turned out to be a good vehicle to test the feasibility of the RBI concept. The second example is taken from a textbook in bridge design (Tall, L., Structural Steel Bridge , 2nd ed., page 99, Fig. 4.3(b), Ronald Press, New York NY, 1974). It is not a case study for failure analysis, but a useful classroom exercise in an engineering design course. Significance and limitations of this new approach to catastrophic failure avoidance through “robust” design, are discussed.

Copyright © 2008 by ASME and U.S. Government



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