Tolerance analysis is receiving renewed emphasis as industry recognizes that tolerance management is a key element in their programs for improving quality, reducing overall costs, and retaining market share. The specification of tolerances is being elevated from a menial task to a legitimate engineering design function. New engineering models and sophisticated analysis tools are being developed to assist design engineers in specifying tolerances on the basis of performance requirements and manufacturing considerations. This paper presents an overview of tolerance analysis applications to design with emphasis on recent research that is advancing the state of the art. Major topics covered are (1) new models for tolerance accumulation in mechanical assemblies, including the Motorola Six Sigma model; (2) algorithms for allocating the specified assembly tolerance among the components of an assembly; (3) the development of 2-D and 3-D tolerance analysis models; (4) methods which account for non-normal statistical distributions and nonlinear effects; and (5) several strategies for improving designs through the application of modern analytical tools.
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