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Whitney, Daniel E., 2.875 Mechanical Assembly and Its Role in Product Development, Fall 2004. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 07 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Mechanical Assembly and Its Role in Product Development

Fall 2004

Machine tool performance is improved by the precision and flexibility of modern metrology instruments. (Image courtesy of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).)

Course Highlights

This course features a complete set of lecture notes.

Course Description

The course presents a systematic approach to design and assembly of mechanical assemblies, which should be of interest to engineering professionals, as well as post-baccalaureate students of mechanical, manufacturing and industrial engineering. It introduces mechanical and economic models of assemblies and assembly automation at two levels. "Assembly in the small" includes basic engineering models of part mating, and an explanation of the Remote Center Compliance. "Assembly in the large" takes a system view of assembly, including the notion of product architecture, feature-based design, and computer models of assemblies, analysis of mechanical constraint, assembly sequence analysis, tolerances, system-level design for assembly and JIT methods, and economics of assembly automation. Class exercises and homework include analyses of real assemblies, the mechanics of part mating, and a semester long project. Case studies and current research are included.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.



Whitney, Daniel E. Mechanical Assemblies: Their Design, Manufacture, and Role in Product Development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780195157826.

Course Goals

While much is written about the design and manufacture of individual parts, there is surprisingly little information about how those parts go together into a product that actually does something. This course addresses the following question: What is a competently designed assembly, and how would we know one if we saw one? Specific objectives for students include:

  • Understand a systematic approach to analyzing assembly problems.
  • Appreciate the many ways assembly influences product development and manufacturing.
  • See a complete approach that includes technology, systems engineering, and economic analysis.
  • Get a feeling for what is technologically feasible.
  • Practice the systematic process on a semester-long project of your own.



Course Mechanics

  • Class lectures and discussions
  • Readings for each class session
  • A project to be done in phases during the term
  • Homework
    • 6 project reports ~ 2 weeks apart
    • 4 problem sets
  • A mid-term and a final project presentation
  • No quizzes or final exam


Homework 1/3
Project Report 1/3
Midterm and Final Presentations 1/3


Lec # Topics KEY DATES
1 Introduction, Logistics, Context, History  
2 Assembly in the Small - Step-by-step Process - Assembly Motions and Forces  
3 Assembly in the Small-Rigid Part Mating Theory and RCC Student project descriptions due
4 Key Characteristics  
5 Mathematical Models of Assemblies, Feature-based Modeling of Assemblies Problem set 1 due
6 Constraint in Assembly-1  
7 Constraint in Assembly-2 Project report 1 due
8 Variation Buildup in Assemblies-1  
9 Variation Buildup in Assemblies-2 Problem set 2 due
10 Assembly Sequence Analysis, Algorithms, and Software  
11 The Datum Flow Chain-1  
12 The Datum Flow Chain-2 Problem set 3 due
13 More DFC  
14 Assembly in The Large - Basic Issues, Economics, Step-by-step Process Problem set 4 due
15 Product Architecture, Flexibility  
16 Design for Assembly - Theory and Examples Project report 2 due
17 AITL System Design Issues: Kinds of Assembly Lines and Equipment, Production Volume, Cycle Times  
18 Mid-term Presentation of Student Projects Covering First Three Reports Project report 3 due
19 Assembly in The Large: Workstation Design Issues  
20 Assembly System Design Techniques and Simulation Project report 4 due
21 Economic Analysis of Assembly Systems  
22 Flexible Manufacturing Systems Project report 5 due
23 Outsourcing, and Supply Chain Management or Student Show and Tell  
24 767 Wing Case Study Project report 6 due
25 Student Project Presentations   Tell A Friend