This paper reviews four major methods for tolerance analysis and compares them. The methods discussed are: (1) one-dimensional tolerance charts; (2) parametric tolerance analysis, especially parametric analysis based on the Monte Carlo simulation; (3) vector loop (or kinematic) based tolerance analysis; and (4) ASU Tolerance-Map® (T-Map®) (Patent pending; nonprovisional patent application number: 09/507, 542 (2002)) based tolerance analysis. Tolerance charts deal with worst-case tolerance analysis in one direction at a time and ignore possible contributions from the other directions. Manual charting is tedious and error prone, hence, attempts have been made for automation. The parametric approach to tolerance analysis is based on parametric constraint solving; its inherent drawback is that the accuracy of the simulation results are dependent on the user-defined modeling scheme, and its inability to incorporate all Y14.5 rules. The vector loop method uses kinematic joints to model assembly constraints. It is also not fully consistent with Y14.5 standard. The ASU T-Map® based tolerance analysis method can model geometric tolerances and their interaction in truly three-dimensional context. It is completely consistent with Y14.5 standard but its use by designers may be quite challenging. The T-Map® based tolerance analysis method is still under development. Despite the shortcomings of each of these tolerance analysis methods, each may be used to provide reasonable results under certain circumstances. Through a comprehensive comparison of these methods, this paper will offer some recommendations for selecting the best method to use for a given tolerance accumulation problem.

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