Process-oriented Tolerancing for Multi-station Assembly Systems
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In multi-station manufacturing systems, the quality of final products is significantly affected by both product design as well as process variables. However, historically tolerance research primarily focused on allocating tolerances based on product design characteristics of each component. Currently, there are no analytical approaches to optimally allocate tolerances to integrate product and process variables in multi-station manufacturing processes at minimum costs. The concept of process-oriented tolerancing expands the current tolerancing practices, which bound errors related to product variables, to explicitly include process variables. The resulting methodology extends the concept of "part interchangeability" into "process interchangeability," which is critical in increasing requirements related to the supplier's selection and benchmarking. The proposed methodology is based on the development and integration of three models: tolerance-variation relation, variation propagation, and process degradation. The tolerance-variation model is based on a pin-hole fixture mechanism in multi-station assembly processes. The variation propagation model utilizes a state space representation but uses a station index instead of time index. Dynamic process effect such as tool wear is also incorporated into the framework of process-oriented tolerancing, which provides the capability to design tolerances for the whole life-cycle of a production system. Tolerances of process variables are optimally allocated through solving a nonlinear constrained optimization problem. An industry case study is used to illustrate the proposed approach.