The stacking sequence optimization of laminated composite plates while maximizing the structural performance or minimizing the weight is a subject investigated extensively in the literature. Meanwhile, research on the optimization of laminates with cut-outs has been relatively limited. Cut-outs being an indispensable feature of structural components, this paper concentrates on the stacking sequence optimization of composite laminates in the presence of circular cut-outs. The buckling load of a laminate is used as a metric to quantify the structural performance. Here the laminates are modeled as carbon fiber-reinforced composites using the finite element analysis software, ABAQUS. For the optimization, the widely used harmony search algorithm is applied. In terms of design variables, ply thickness, and fiber orientation angles of the plies are used as continuously changing variables. In addition to the stacking sequence, another geometric variable to consider is the aspect ratio (ratio of the length of the longer sides to the length of the shorter sides of the plate) of the rectangular laminates. The optimization is carried out for three different aspect ratios. It is shown that, by using dispersed stacking sequences instead of the commonly used 0°/±45°/±90° fiber angle stacks, significantly higher buckling loads can be achieved. Furthermore, changing the cut-out geometry is found to have a significant effect on the structural performance.
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