Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) is a way language for designers, engineers, and manufacturers to communicate complex geometric requirements for parts and assemblies. GD&T helps ensure that every team member understands exactly what is required for the product to function correctly, regardless of their location or the language they speak.

When a part is designed, it needs to fit into the larger assembly with exact specifications. Traditional dimensioning might say that a hole must be a certain diameter. However, without GD&T, there's no way to communicate the acceptable variance in that diameter or its exact location relative to other features. This is where GD&T comes in. It provides tools to specify the allowable deviations, which are known as tolerances.

The language of GD&T is made up of symbols. These symbols represent geometric characteristics like flatness, straightness, circularity, cylindricity, profile, orientation, location, and runout. These symbols are universally recognized, making the drawings understandable globally.

Read on to understand GD&T’s core concepts.

1. One of the key components of GD&T is the datum reference frame. A datum is a point, line, or plane from which measurements are made. In GD&T, datums are the foundation from which other geometric characteristics are defined. They act as a reference point for all other measurements on the part, ensuring that everyone measures in the same way.
2. Tolerance is another fundamental concept in GD&T. It's the total amount that a specific dimension is permitted to vary. Tolerances are crucial because they allow for some deviation in the manufacturing process while still ensuring the part functions as intended. For instance, if a hole must be 10mm in diameter, a tolerance might specify that it can be 10mm plus or minus 0.1mm. This accounts for slight variations in the manufacturing process.
3. Form controls are a part of GD&T that define the shape and geometry of a feature. For example, they dictate that a hole must not only be in the right place but also the correct shape. If a hole is meant to be circular but comes out oval, it won't function correctly even if it's in the right position.
4. Orientation controls are another aspect, ensuring that features are correctly aligned with the datums. For example, a hole might need to be perpendicular to a surface. Orientation controls ensure that this is the case.
5. Location controls in GD&T specify the position of features. They make sure that a hole is not just the right size and shape but also in the right place. This is critical in complex assemblies where parts must fit together precisely.
6. Finally, runout controls are used in parts that rotate, like shafts or wheels. They ensure that the part will run smoothly when turning. Without proper runout control, a part might vibrate or wobble, leading to premature wear or failure.

By allowing for a controlled amount of variability, GD&T helps manufacturers know when a part is good enough to function correctly, avoiding unnecessary waste and cost.