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This paper uses an ant colony meta-heuristic optimization method to solve the redundancy allocation problem (RAP). The RAP is a well known NP-hard problem which has been the subject of much prior work, generally in a restricted form where each subsystem must consist of identical components in parallel to make computations tractable. Meta-heuristic methods overcome this limitation, and offer a practical way to solve large instances of the relaxed RAP where different components can be placed in parallel. The ant colony method has not yet been used in reliability design, yet it is a method that is expressly designed for combinatorial problems with a neighborhood structure, as in the case of the RAP. An ant colony optimization algorithm for the RAP is devised & tested on a well-known suite of problems from the literature. It is shown that the ant colony method performs with little variability over problem instance or random number seed. It is competitive with the best-known heuristics for redundancy allocation.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2004