Research in Engineering Design

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 150–165 | Cite as

The Datum Flow Chain: A systematic approach to assembly design and modeling

  • R. Mantripragada
  • D. E. Whitney


Current CAD systems are ‘part-centric’ and do not capture the underlying logic of an assembly at an abstract level. We need to make CAD systems ‘assembly-centric’. To be able to lay out, analyze, outsource, assemble and debug complex assemblies, we need ways to capture their fundamental structure in a top-down design process, including the designer's strategy for constraining the parts kinematically and locating them accurately with respect to each other. We describe a concept called the ‘Datum Flow Chain’ to capture this logic. Most assembly problems occur due to ineffective datum logic or the choice of assembly procedures that are not consistent with the datum logic, if any, that was used to design the parts. The DFC relates the datum logic explicitly to the product's key characteristics, assembly sequences, and choice of mating features, and provides the information needed for tolerance analyses. Two types of assemblies are addressed: Type-1, where the assembly process puts parts together at their pre-fabricated mating features, and Type-2, where the assembly process can incorporate in-process adjustments to redistribute variation. Two types of assembly joints are defined: mates that pass dimensional constraint from part to part, and contacts that merely provide support. The scope of DFC in assembly planning is presented using several examples. Analysis tools to evaluate different DFCs and select the ones of interest are also presented.


Assembly Datum flow chain Fixtureless assembly Kinematic constraint Tolerances 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Mantripragada
    • 1
  • D. E. Whitney
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical Engineering & Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial DevelopmentMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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