Over the years, various approaches have been investigated to support natural human interaction with CAD models in an immersive virtual environment. The motivation for this avenue of research stems from the desire to provide a method where users can manipulate and assemble digital product models as if they were manipulating actual models. The ultimate goal is to produce an immersive environment where design and manufacturing decisions which involve human interaction can be made using only digital CAD models, thus avoiding the need to create costly preproduction physical prototypes. This paper presents a framework to approach the development of virtual assembly applications. The framework is based on a Two Phase model where the assembly task is divided into a free movement phase and a fine positioning phase. Each phase can be implemented using independent techniques; however, the algorithms needed to interface between the two techniques are critical to the success of the method. The paper presents a summary of three virtual assembly techniques and places them within the framework of the Two Phase model. Finally, the conclusions call for the continued development of a testbed to compare virtual assembly methods.

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