The purpose of multi-layer composite structure optimization is to find the optimal composite layout, such that superior structure performances and lightweight can be achieved. However, the existing optimization methods have a low efficiency when applied to the multi-component, multi-layer composite structure. Such low efficiency is caused by the high dimensionality and the inherent shortcomings of the existing design representation methods. In this work, two composite layout representation methods are compared to better understand their impacts on optimization. The root cause of the low efficiency is identified, and its influences are also quantified using three metrics. Furthermore, a new Representation-Switch Optimization (RSO) strategy is proposed. This strategy improves the search efficiency by switching the design representation methods during the optimization process. Three benchmark studies, two mathematical examples and one real engineering example, are conducted to demonstrate the impact of design representation methods on the optimization results, as well as the effectiveness of the proposed optimization strategy.

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