The central theme of this paper is the representation of tolerances in engineering design and manufacturing. A sub-problem of this central theme is the structure of form and size errors created by typical machining processes. This subproblem is addressed using a fractal-based procedure. In particular, workpiece profiles are generated for the shaping manufacturing process, using a simulation model and incorporating the basic shearing mechanism of machining with typical error sources. The resultant profiles are analyzed using a fractal-based, box counting algorithm. The results, which reveal the presence of variational structure, are discussed, emphasizing the relationship between total variability and function. Finally, modifications and future directions to the research are presented.

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