A novel reliability-based design optimization (RBDO) method using simulation-based techniques for reliability assessments and efficient optimization approach is presented in this paper. In RBDO, model-based reliability analysis needs to be performed to calculate the probability of not satisfying a reliability constraint and the gradient of this probability with respect to each design variable. Among model-based methods, the most widely used in RBDO is the first-order reliability method (FORM). However, FORM could be inaccurate for nonlinear problems and is not applicable for system reliability problems. This paper develops an efficient optimization methodology to perform RBDO using simulation-based techniques. By combining analytical and simulation-based reliability methods, accurate probability of failure and sensitivity information is obtained. The use of simulation also enables both component and system-level reliabilities to be included in RBDO formulation. Instead of using a traditional RBDO formulation in which optimization and reliability computations are nested, a sequential approach is developed to greatly reduce the computational cost. The efficiency of the proposed RBDO approach is enhanced by using a multi-modal adaptive importance sampling technique for simulation-based reliability assessment; and by treating the inactive reliability constraints properly in optimization. A vehicle side impact problem is used to demonstrate the capabilities of the proposed method.

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