In the past few years, researchers have begun to investigate the existence of arbitrary uncertainties in the design optimization problems. Most traditional reliability-based design optimization (RBDO) methods transform the design space to the standard normal space for reliability analysis but may not work well when the random variables are arbitrarily distributed. It is because that the transformation to the standard normal space cannot be determined or the distribution type is unknown. The methods of Ensemble of Gaussian-based Reliability Analyses (EoGRA) and Ensemble of Gradient-based Transformed Reliability Analyses (EGTRA) have been developed to estimate the joint probability density function using the ensemble of kernel functions. EoGRA performs a series of Gaussian-based kernel reliability analyses and merged them together to compute the reliability of the design point. EGTRA transforms the design space to the single-variate design space toward the constraint gradient, where the kernel reliability analyses become much less costly. In this paper, a series of comprehensive investigations were performed to study the similarities and differences between EoGRA and EGTRA. The results showed that EGTRA performs accurate and effective reliability analyses for both linear and nonlinear problems. When the constraints are highly nonlinear, EGTRA may have little problem but still can be effective in terms of starting from deterministic optimal points. On the other hands, the sensitivity analyses of EoGRA may be ineffective when the random distribution is completely inside the feasible space or infeasible space. However, EoGRA can find acceptable design points when starting from deterministic optimal points. Moreover, EoGRA is capable of delivering estimated failure probability of each constraint during the optimization processes, which may be convenient for some applications.

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