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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR NUMERICAL METHODS IN ENGINEERING, VOL.

23, 1679-1 69 1 (1 986)

MINIMUM WEIGHT DESIGN OF CYLINDRICAL


WATER TANKS

V. THEVENDRAN* A N D DAVID P. THAMBIRATNAM*

Department of Civil Engineering, National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge, Singapore 051 1

SUMMARY
The paper deals with the minimum weight design of cylindrical water tanks. The design is to conform to
BS5337. The design procedure used is a combination of the finite element analysis of structures and a
numerical method of optimization. In the design, the internal radius and the height of the tank are fixed
and the variation of wall thickness is treated as the unknown of the design. Only piecewise linear variations
of thickness are considered. Results of some examples are presented and discussed.

INTRODUCTION
Cylindrical water tanks and other cylindrical shell structures are usually designed as having
uniform thickness. In this study an optimum design of a cylindrical water tank, with a given
internal radius and given height, is sought with an objective to minimize the weight (or volume)
of the material used in its construction. The design is to conform to BS5337.l
The purpose of optimization in structural design is to obtain the most economical design
which satisfies various design criteria relevant to the structure. The scope of this paper is the
minimum weight (or volume) design. Such designs may not be the most economical ones because
of the high costs of construction, etc. However, the minimum weight design is the preliminary
step in seeking the most economical design, even though the design may be modified later due
to other considerations.
In the minimum weight design with uniform wall thickness, it is most unlikely that both
bending tensile and hoop stresses (which are the predominant ones) attain their maximum
allowable values. Only one of these two critical stresses would govern the final design. But
varying the thickness of the shell along its length may result either (a) in a change of the position of
the section at which the critical stress would occur, or (b) in a change of the type of stress (is.
from bending to hoop or vice versa) which is to be critical, or (c) in both (a) and (b). Such
changes not only result in economy of material but also often give an aesthetically pleasing design.
Optimization of shell structures poses problems, as the governing equations are complicated.
For cylindrical shells of constant thickness, analytical solutions exist for the analysis of
structure^.^^^ For cylindrical shells of linearly varying thickness, Timoshenko and Woinowsky3
give approximate solutions for analysis. These solutions are tedious and hence are very difficult,
if not impossible, to employ for purposes of optimization. In the present study, an attempt is
made to study the minimum weight (or volume) design of cylindrical concrete water tanks with
varying wall thickness using a numerical approach which is a combination of finite e1ernc;nt

*Senior Lecturers

0029-598 1 /86/121679-13$06.50 Received 24 M a y 1985


0 1986 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Revised 7 January 1986
1680 V. THEVENDRAN AND D. P. THAMBIRATNAM

analysis (FEA) and numerical optimization. The thickness variation is confined to segments of
linear variation with no discontinuities in the values of the thickness along the shell. An
optimization routine based on Rosenbrock‘s direct search method4 is used for optimization
purposes. In the design problems considered herein, the bottom of the shell is assumed to be
restrained, whereas the top is free. The self weight of the shell is also taken into consideration
in any analysis/design.

COMPARATIVE STUDY
In order to find how the results obtained using the finite element method compare with those
obtainable using some other methods of analysis, a comparative study is carried out prior to
optimization. For this purpose, a cylindrical water tower, whose dimensions are shown in
Figure 1, is considered. The structure is subjected only to a hydrostatic pressure produced by
water filled to the top. The self weight is taken into account. The shell is assumed to have
Young’s modulus E = 28 kN/mm2 and Poisson’s ratio v = 1/6. The specific weight of water is
taken as yw = 9.81 kN/m3 and that of concrete yc = 24 kN/m3. The structure and the loading
are both axisymmetric. For the finite element analysis, the structure is discretized into
axisymmetric quadrilateral elements. Four different sizes of mesh are used to study the
convergence characteristics; namely meshes with 150, 250, 350 and 500 elements. The maximum
values for radial displacement, hoop stress and bending tensile stress obtained by the finite element
analysis are given in Table I. By applying Richardson’s extrapolation technique, the ‘exact’ values
of maximum radial displacements, hoop stress and bending tensile stress are found to be 2-286mm,
3.154 N/mm2 and 4.580 N/mm2, respectively. The corresponding values obtained using
Timoshenko’s analytical method of solution3 are 2.337 mm, 3.232 N/mm2 and 4-137 N/mm2,
whereas those obtained using Ghali’s finite difference approach5 are 2.321 mm, 3.210mm2 and
4290 N/mm2. Table I incorporates all these values. Tables 11-V compare the distributions of
radial displacement, hoop stress and bending stresses at the inner and outer surfaces of the shell
CYLINDRICAL WATER TANKS 1681

Table I. Comparison of maximum radial displacement,hoop stress and bending


stress, for the structure shown in Figure 1, by different methods of analysis

Maximum radial Critical hoop Critical bending


displacement stress stress
Type of Analysis (mm) (N/mm2) “m2)
150 elements FEA 2.202 3.027 3574
250 elements FEA 2.254 3.106 3.989
350 elements FEA 2.27 1 3.131 4.154
500 elements FEA 2.279 3.143 4.27 1
Richardson’s 2.286 3.154 4.580
extrapolation
Timoshenko 2.337 3.232 4.137
Ghali 2.321 3.210 4.290

Table 11. Comparison of radial displacement (mm)obtained by FEA, Ghali and


Timoshenko

Finite element analysis


Height from
base (m) 250 elements 500 elements Ghali Timoshenko

10 0.342 0.292 0.289 0~000


9 0.955 0.930 0944 0.930
8 1.509 1.499 1.526 1561
7 1.942 1.944 1.979 2009
6 2.207 2.220 2.262 2.281
5 2.254 2.279 2.321 2.337
4 2.047 2.078 2.114 2.135
3 1.588 1.618 1.639 1.668
2 0.951 0.973 0.973 1.010
1 0.322 0.330 0.316 0.349
0 0.000 0000 0.000 0000

Table 111. Comparison of hoop stress (N/mm2) obtained by FEA, Ghali and
Timoshenko

Finite element analysis


Height from
base (m) 250 elements 500 elements Ghali Timoshenko

10 0.563 0.452 0.400 0.000


9 1.325 1.291 1.305 1.286
8 2.090 2.078 2.110 2.158
7 2.686 2.69 1 2.737 2.777
6 3.047 3.068 3.127 3.154
5 3.106 3.143 3.210 3.232
4 2.813 2.859 2.923 2.952
3 2.171 2.215 2.266 2.306
2 1.288 1.317 1.346 1.397
1 0.416 0.424 0.437 0.483
0 0.000 0000 0.000 0.000
1682 V. THEVENDRAN AND D. P. THAMBIRATNAM

Table IV. Comparison of bending stresses (N/mm2) at the inner surface,


obtained by FEA, Ghali and Timoshenko

Finite element analysis


Height from
base (m) 250 elements 500 elements Ghali Timoshenko

10 0.000 0*000 0.000 0.052


9 - 0136 - 0.155 -0’161 0.039
8 -0.319 - 0.329 - 0.328 - 0.047
7 - 0.518 -0.515 - 0.509 - 0.241
6 - 0’762 - 0.763 - 0.757 - 0538
5 - 1.011 - 1‘027 - 1.032 - 0.868
4 - 1.134 - 1.168 - 1.183 - 1.075
3 - 0.917 - 0.956 - 0’978 - 0.929
2 - 0.105 - 0.129 - 0.139 - 0.155
1 1533 1.554 1.580 1.494
0 3.989 4.27 1 4.290 4.137

Table V. Comparison of bending stresses (N/mm2)at the outer surface obtained


by FEA, Ghali and Timwhenko

Finite element anslysis


Height from
base (m) 250 elements 500 elements Ghali Tim oshenko

10 0.000 0.000 O@OO - 0.052


9 0093 0113 0.1 19 - 0.081
8 0.240 0.25 1 0.250 - 0.03 1
7 0.406 0.403 0.399 0.131
6 0.619 0.621 0.617 0.399
5 0838 0.852 0.864 0.700
4 0.930 0.965 0.987 0.880
3 0.685 0.723 0.756 0.707
2 - 0.150 - 0.127 - 0.109 - 0.094
1 - 1.802 - 1.822 - 1.857 - 1.768
0 - 4.092 - 4.370 - 4.590 - 4.437

obtained using 250 elements and 500 elements in the finite element analyses, Timoshenko’s
analytical solution and Ghali’s finite difference solution. It may be noted that the differences
between the results of finite element analysis with 500 elements and those of Ghali’s solution
are very small. In Timoshenko’s solution, the bending stresses, in particular, do not agree well
with the finite element analysis solution. The discrepancies are more marked towards the top
of the shell. This may be accounted for as follows: in Timoshenko’s analysis, the governing shell
equation is a fourth order differential equation which requires four constants of integration to
be determined from the boundary conditions. By considering the shell to be long, two of these
constants are set to zero and only the two boundary conditions at the base are satisfied. This
results in the discrepancies being more marked towards the top of the shell, where the boundary
conditions are not satisfied.
For the finite element solution, the computation time taken for one analysis with 500 elements
is about four times that taken for one analysis with 250 elements. But, in the optimization
CYLINDRICAL WATER TANKS 1683

procedure, a number of runs are needed before the final optimal solution is achieved. Hence, a
compensation between economy in computation time and accuracy of the results has to be
made. The structure is optimized subject to the condition that the maximum hoop stress and
the maximum bending tensile stress do not exceed the respective allowable values, but approach
as close as possible to these values. In the examples studied, the maximum hoop stress obtained
by finite element analysis using 250 elements is within 4 per cent of the values obtained by other
methods, whereas the maximum bending tensile stress is within 7 per cent. Hence, for the design
purpose, a 250 element mesh size is chosen, with the maximum hoop stress being 0-96 times the
allowable hoop stress and the maximum bending tensile stress being 0 9 3 times the allowable
bending tensile stress. This approach may be questioned. But clearly, it is not correct
to compare the critical stress values obtained using a 250 element mesh size with the maximum
allowable stress values, as the former values are undoubtedly lower than the 'exact' critical stress
values. The approach suggested here is a compromise formula. The maximum allowable values
of hoop stress and bending tensile stress as per BS5337 are 1.44N/mmz and 2.02N/mm2,
respectively, for Grade 30 concrete. For the purpose of optimum design the maximum hoop
and bending tensile stresses are taken to be 1.40N/mm2 and 1.88N/mm2, respectively, when a
250 element mesh size is used.

MINIMIZATION PROBLEMS
As examples of minimization, designs of cylindrical water tanks with the following fixed
dimensions are studied. All tanks are 10m high, but of different internal radii R . The internal
radii considered are 20 m, 10m and 5 m. The critical hoop stress and bending tensile stress are
not to exceed 1.40N/mm2 and 1.88N/mm2, respectively, when a 250 element mesh is used in
the finite element analysis of any problem. It is assumed that the shell has Young's modulus
E = 28 kN/mm2 and Poisson's ratio v = 1/6. The specific weight of water is yw = 9.81 kN/m3 and
that of concrete is y c = 24 kN/m3,.
An ideal objective of the design would be to determine the most general thickness variation
which would give the absolute minimum weight (or volume) design subject to constraints of the
design. In a numerical approach the number of variables has to be kept as small as possible. Hence,
as a first step, the designs with piecewise linear variations of the wall thickness at the outer
surface can be considered. After studying the results of such designs, it can be decided whether
it is worth while to consider other types of variations in wall thickness. In order to determine
how effectivethe minimum weight (or volume) designs would be, in each case the tank with constant
wall thickness is taken as the datum for comparison. In each example, two types of thickness
variations are considered: (a) linear variation from top to bottom (one slope), and (b) two linear
variations-one from top to mid-height and the other from mid-height to bottom (two slopes).
The effect of imposing a practical limiting thickness of 50mm is also studied.
In this study, an optimal design problem consists of minimization of the volume V of the
shell subject to (a) behavioural constraints that the critical hoop stress f h and bending tensile
stress f b should not exceed the respective maximum allowable values F h and F b , and (b) a side
constraint that the thickness t should not be less than a prescribed value tmin (this may be
optional). Thus the minimization problem is of the form: minimize
1684 V. THEVENDRAN A N D D. P. THAMBIRATNAM

and

where
n = number of segments into which the cylinder is divided along the length of the
cylinder
hi = length of the ith segment,
r = internal radius of the cylinder,
ti1 7 t i 2 = values of t at the ends of the ith segment.
Thus, the problems considered are constrained non-linear minimization problems. A constrained
minimization problem is converted into an equivalent unconstrained minimization problem
using the ‘exterior point’ method of the SUMT developed by Fiacco and McCormick.6
Accordingly a problem of minimizing f(x) subject to gj(x) 3 0, j = 1,2,. ..,rn is solved by
considering the problem of minimizing

over a monotonically increasing sequence of rk. For the minimization of an unconstrained


problem, a direct search method based on Rosenbrock‘s method of optimization4 is used.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


The results of the present study are summarized in Table VI. In this study a 250 element mesh
has been used. A typical mesh for a single sloped tank wall is shown in Figure 2. From the
results it can be clearly seen that there is a saving in the material used in the range of 18-31
per cent for the cylindrical water tanks under consideration. For the largest tank (of inner radius
20m), the saving is about 23 per cent if the design is with a single slope, whereas it is about
26 per cent if the design is with two slopes. Though it appears that there is not much additional
saving, as a percentage, there is an absolute saving of about 24m3 of material if the optimal
design has two slopes instead of one. For the medium sized tank (of inner radius 10m) there is
some additional saving in material used by having two slopes instead of one. The additional
saving is about 22 m3 (7-5per cent) for the designs without minimum thickness constraint, whereas
it is about 16m3(5 per cent) for the designs with minimum thickness constraint (of 50mm). The
minimum thickness constraint does not reduce the material saving for the tank with one slope,
but it reduces the saving for the tank with two slopes. For the smallest tank (of inner radius
5 m), there does not seem to be any appreciable addtional saving on the material used by having
two slopes instead of one slope. This is the case whether the design is subject to minumum
thickness constraint or not. But this constraint does reduce the saving on the material used.
The constraint of 50mm, or a value close to this, is necessary for practical reasons. The
optimization exercise shows that despite this constraint, there is a definite saving of material
used if the design is with at least one slope instead of uniform thickness. It may be argued that
three or more additional slopes or a curved outer wall surface might increase the savings on
material used. But the constructional difficulties that may arise in the construction of a curved
surface would rule out the possibility of having a true curved outer surface. From the additional
case study carried out with the largest tank, it appears that there is not much to be gained by
Table VI. Optimum dimensions of minimum weight water tanks (height = 10m)
_ _ _ _ ~
Thickness Maximum
Internal Design variables Mid- Reduction Maximum hoop bending
radius (thickness) Top height Bottom Volume in volume stress stress No. of
(m) (mm) (mm) (mm) (m3) (%I (N/mm2) (N/mm2) iterations

Uniform 813 813 813 1042.4 ___ 0.97 1.88 18


20 Top and Bottom 323 625 927 798.6 23.4 1.34 1.88 19
Top, mid-height and bottom 143 683 915 774.7 25.7 1.40 1.86 22
Uniform 459 459 459 295.0 ___ 1.37 1.88 20
Top and bottom 15 374 733 240.7 18.4 1.40 1.34 25
10 Top, mid-height and bottom 8 432 489 218.1 26.1 1.40 1.84 23
Top and bottom* 54 375 696 241.1 18.3 1.40 1.41 20
Top mid-height and bottom* 52 433 489 2255 23.6 1.40 1.84 25
Uniform 278 278 278 89.8 __ 1.40 I .40 25
Top and bottom 8 190 372 61.2 31.9 1.40 1.22 11
5 Top, mid-height and bottom 11 194 361 61.2 31.9 1.40 1.26 17
Top and bottom* 64 205 346 65.9 26.5 1.40 1.29 18
Top. mid-height and bottom* 51 195 361 64.5 28.1 I .40 1.26 22

*With the constraint: thickness 2 50mm


1686 V. THEVENDRAN AND D. P. THAMBIRATNAM

ht (variable) 4

h, (variable) J
L 5 divisions -1
Figure 2. Typical finite element mesh of 250 elements

way of saving in the material used by having three slopes instead of two slopes. The minimum
volume with three slopes over equal segments is about 772 m3, which is slightly less than the
minimum volume with two slopes which is about 775 m3.
The variation with height of the bending and hoop stresses, for the optimal designs with
uniform wall thickness and with sloped walls, are illustrated in Figures 3-8. Stresses at the outer
surfaces of the tanks have been chosen for illustration in these Figures. Since the minimum
thickness constraint of 50 mm has not affected the stress distributions in the optimum design of
the two smaller tanks, and since this constraint is desirable practically, the stresses displayed
for the tanks with R = 10m and R = 5 m pertain to the case with the imposition of the minimum
thickness constraint. Some trends can be observed from the stress distributions.
As expected, the maximum bending tensile stress always occurs at the base of the tank. The
location of the maximum bending compressive stress is seen to rise with the internal radius R
of the tank, as shown in Figures 3-5. Since the critical or controlling value of bending stress is
reached at the base of the tank, the stress distributions in the optimum designs with sloped walls
do not deviate much from those of the designs with uniform thickness. This deviation is seen
10

-Uniform wall
------ Single slope
---- Two slopes

-Uniform wall
---- Single slope
Two slopes

'\
\

-1.0 0 1.0 2.0 -0.8


- -0.4 0.4 08 1.2 1.6 2.0
-
Bending Stress (N/mm2) 3ending Stress (N/mm2 )

Figure 3. Bending stress distribution for R = 20m Figure 4. Bending stress distribution for R = lorn
1688 V. THEVENDRAN AND D. P. THAMBIRATNAM

N W

t
CYLINDRICAL WATER TANKS 1689

a
e
*
a
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r-:
e
.!Ak%
1690 V. THEVENDRAN AND D. P. THAMBIRATNAM

to be the least with the smallest tank, in Figure 5. In the lower part of the tank the curve for
the uniform wall is always on the outside. After reaching the maximum bending compressive
stress the curves intersect each other, except in the case of the smallest tank.
Figures 6-8 show the distribution of hoop stress in the outer surfaces of tank walls. The
location of the maximum stress is seen to rise sharply with the internal radius R of the tank.
The hoop stress distributions for the optimum designs with sloped walls deviate considerably
from those for the designs with a wall of constant thickness, in all three cases. This deviation is
pronounced in the upper regions of the tank and is seen to increase somewhat with R . Moreover
the stress distributions for single- and two-sloped designs also show appreciable differences. For
the largest tank the curve for the design with a wall of constant thickness is always on the inner
side, showing the improved stress distribution due to sloped walls throughout the tank height.
For the two smaller tanks these same curves are on the inner side in the upper portion of the
tanks; but cross over to the outside after attaining the maximum values. However the increased
‘bulges’ in the curves in all cases demonstrate the improved stress distribution resulting from
optimization. The hoop stress at the tank top increases upon optimization. This is perhaps
explained by the fact that hoop stress depends directly on the radial displacement, which increases
at the top optimization due to the thinner wall section at the top.
The last column of Table VI shows the number of iterations needed in obtaining the optimal
designs treated in this paper. The number of iterations needed in each case would obviously
depend on the initial values chosen for the design variables, step-lengths chosen for varying the
design variables and the accuracy required. Nevertheless the values quoted in the Table give an
estimate of the computational effort involved as compared to one single analysis. The CPU time
taken for each iteration (on the IBM 3081 of the Computer Centre, National University of
Singapore) is about 4.5 with the 250 finite element mesh.
Difficulties in the construction of cylindrical tanks with multiple slopes over the outer surface
are not taken into account. Constructional difficulties pertaining to an additional slope could
outweigh the small saving in the material. Consequently, unless there is substantial saving of
material, the number of slopes should be kept to a minimum. Thus for the largest and the
medium sized cylindrical tanks under study, the designs with not more than two slopes can be
considered to be practical, but definitely not in the case of the smallest sized tank, for which
the design with one slope is the ideal one.
From the results, it appears that the designs of the largest tank are governed mostly by the
critical bending stress, whereas those of the medium sized and the smallest tanks are governed
by critical hoop stress.
CONCLUSIONS
The present study illustrates that the minimum weight design of cylindrical water tanks with
piecewise linear variations of thickness can be accomplished by a numerical approach which is
a combination of the finite element method of analysis and a numerical optimization procedure.
There can be appreciable saving in material used if the tanks are to have at least one slope
instead of uniform thickness. But too many slopes need not result in additional savings of
material. An improved stress distribution is obtained, in most cases, due to optimization. The
procedure described here for determining the minimum weight (or volume) design can be used
in situations where the internal radius and height of the cylindrical shell are determined from
other considerations.
CYLINDRICAL WATER TANKS 1691

REFERENCES

1. RS5337: 1976, The Structural Use of Concrete for Retaining Aqueous Liquids (formerly CP2007), British Standards
Institution, London, 1976.
2. J. E. Gibson, 7hin Shells Computing and Theory, Pergamon Press, 1980.
3. S. P. Timoshenko, and K. Woinowsky, Theory of Plate and Shells, 2nd edn, McCraw Hill, New York, 1959.
4. H. H. Rosenbrock, 'An automatic method for finding the greatest or least value of a function', Computer Journal, 3,175-
184 (1 960).
5. A. Ghali, Circular Storage Tanks and Silos, E & F.N. Spon Ltd., London, 1979.
6 . A. V. Fiacco and G. P. McCormick, Nonlinear Programming: Sequantial Unconstrained Minimization Techniques,
Wiley. New York, 1968.