GD&T: A Detailed Introduction to Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing


GD&T means Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing. It is a symbolic language used to communicate manufacturing limitations and tolerances. Implementing Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing aims to avoid confusion, scraps, and rework, all of which result in a loss of business.

GD&T help us to control and communicate variations in manufacturing processes, ensuring that they are appropriately minimized and do not impair the efficiency of the designed parts. The GD&T system is commonly used in many different industries, including automotive, electronics, medical, heavy equipment, aviation, and others.

This article is going to tell you why the GD&T system is very important for optimizing design communication in traditional and advanced manufacturing.

What is GD&T?

Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) is a system used to define and communicate engineering tolerances and relationships. It employs a symbolic language on engineering drawings and computer-generated three-dimensional solid models to clearly express nominal geometry and its permitted variation. It informs the manufacturing personnel of the machines of the required level of precision and accuracy for parts’ controlled features. GD&T is utilized to define the nominal (theoretically ideal) geometry of parts and assemblies, the permissible variation in form and size of individual features, and the allowable variation between features.

Dimensioning specifications define the nominal, as-modeled, or intended geometry. An example is a basic dimension. Tolerancing specifications define the acceptable variation for the shape and perhaps the size of individual features, as well as the allowable variation in orientation and location between features. Examples include linear dimensions and feature control frames that use a datum reference.

The following are the reasons for using Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T):

  • It defines processes for production and inspection.
  • Tolerances restrict the worst-case conditions.
  • It ensures that mating parts fit nicely together.
  • The universal language works regardless of who is collaborators.

Stanley Parker is acknowledged as the engineer behind the development of the GD&T system in 1938. Before that point, all features utilized just the X-Y axes to determine the hole’s location. Giving a positional tolerance on this scale suggests that the circular hole’s position can depart from its intended location in a rectangular pattern.

However, we would like a circle for the tolerance zone since it provides consistent measurement at all angles. In contrast, a rectangle is longer towards the corners and shorter towards the sides. As soon as Parker understood this, he began working on the new concept, which became a military engineering standard in the 50s. Today, GD&T is an essential engineering component, mainly when producing parts that require CNC machining services. If you require a system that focuses simply on the geometry of your design, then the GD&T will serve your needs just fine.

Datum And the Datum Reference Frame

A datum can be expressed as an accurate theoretical plane, point, or axis location from which the other features of a part are referred. The datums are used as a reference for dimensional tolerances.

The Datum Reference Frame (DRF) is one of the most crucial concepts of GD&T. The DRF concept outlines the formation of three theoretically perfect and mutually perpendicular planes. The three planes are necessary for producing and checking a part according to the drawing and detailed below:

  • The primary datum is established with a minimum of 3 contact points of the first feature of the part.
  • The secondary datum is established by contacting at least 2 points on the second feature.
  • The tertiary datum is established by at least 1 contact point.

The DRF is the geometric system’s skeleton—it is the frame of reference to which all referred geometric specifications are associated, as well as the origin of all dimensions and geometric specifications related to it. A DRF creates six degrees of freedom (DOF), three of which are translational and three of which are rotational. The required DOF must be restricted to design, manufacture, and check parts. Parts are mated to the DRF to allow for measurements, processing, and computations.

Why Use GD&T?

There are traditional methods for determining dimensions and tolerances. Why are geometric dimensioning and tolerances still necessary? Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) provide distinct advantages over conventional approaches. Let’s have a look at the advantages included.

Excellent Assembly

An example of a GDT assembly part design

Using traditional dimensioning and tolerancing can create accurate individual components. However, a significant disadvantage of this method is that it does not ensure how effectively each part would interact when combined. Some parts cannot play a considerable role individually, yet they are necessary essential parts of a more oversized compartment that performs a specific function. If this part can not integrate well at the assembly level, it may alter the overall effectiveness of the component.

Consider the connecting rod as an example. It does not supply us with any advantage on its own. When attached to a piston and crankshaft, it will perform a beneficial function. In this case, it converts the linear motion of the piston into the rotational motion of the crankshaft. If you attach this assembly to a larger component, such as a generator or diesel engine, you will observe that it performs better, as these machines provide various purposes.

As a result, it is essential that our parts mate well with each other. This is why we require GD&T. Using it can ensure that our parts will fit properly and perform as intended.

Communicate Design Intent

The geometric tolerance symbols are easily understood. GD&T facilitates engineers’ ability to convey their thoughts to others in their sector. Its definitions, vocabulary, and rules are simple. As a result, it helps the designer in communicating his intent.

Saves Time and Money

If your design does not work effectively for its intended purpose, you may need to create a new one. You may need to repeat the cycle several times until you get a great part design that works for your component. This is not only a waste of your time but also of resources.

Utilizing GD&T can solve the cases mentioned above. GD&T helps in ensuring that you have a flawless design once and for all. Therefore, GD&T should be considered if you wish to reduce waste and get a lot done on time throughout your production process. Additionally, it facilitates your communication with others in the field. Consequently, it saves you time and effort.

What are the Guidelines of GD&T that Should be Considered?

Compared to traditional tolerances, geometric dimensioning and tolerancing is more powerful. However, this is only effective if all departments (design, engineering, production) are proficient in reading and interpreting information.

As a result, it is critical to adhere to the recommended guidelines while making engineering drawings to benefit everyone who will interact with the drawing at any stage of product development. The following guidelines are helpful to consider:

Clarity of the Drawing

The clarity of a drawing is even more essential than its accuracy and completeness. Some approaches for improving a drawing’s clarity include:

  • Draw true profiles for every part feature.
  • The direction of reading must be constant.
  • The reader must be able to read all dimensions when keeping the drawing upright.
  • Dimensions and tolerances should be labeled outside the drawing (not on top).
  • Utilize white space efficiently.
  • Briefly describe the part and its function.
  • Space out dimensions of parallel part features.
  • Specify angles only when they are not right angles (90°).

Tight Tolerances Only When Necessary

Tolerances must be maintained as loose as possible unless a part’s fit or function requires it. This decreases manufacturing costs as well as turnaround time. We propose allowing the machinists to choose the manufacturing method.

Additionally, the designer must provide a general tolerance for a drawing. This serves as the standard tolerance for all part features. For part features with varying tolerance limits, the designer must indicate them in the proper positions. When setting particular tolerance limits, prioritize functional characteristics above other characteristics.

How does GD&T Work?

GD&T works by specifying a design’s needed dimensions and tolerance value. Typically, a design’s tolerance value falls between the minimum and maximum limits. In other words, tolerance is the difference between the maximum and minimum limits.

The art of tolerancing entails specifying exactly the proper variations for every specified design feature to optimize the product approval rate within the limits of the manufacturing processes and following the part’s aesthetic and functional purpose.

We need GD&T symbols to properly ensure that the tolerance of the product does not go above or below the maximum and minimum tolerances. It is a symbol that helps in communicating the design intention and ensuring that the intended function is fulfilled.

GD&T Symbols

GDT Symbols

GD&T is feature-based, with each feature specified by different controls. Geometric tolerances are applied to features by feature control frames. GD&T symbols fall into five groups:

Form Control

Form Control

Form control specifies the shape of features, including:

Straightness: Straightness is classified as either line element straightness or axis straightness. The requirement for straightness describes how straight a target must be. It is used for lines instead of planes, indicating a curve in the center line or generatrix. As a result, straightness is employed to express the warpage tolerance of lengthy objects.

Flatness: The flatness criterion states how even a surface or perfectly flat a target plane should be. The most protruding and concave parts must be located at a certain distance between two vertically separated planes. Flatness is often measured between a surface’s highest and lowest points.

Cylindricity: Cylindricity is the degree to which a feature must resemble a perfect cylinder. It consists of straightness, roundness, and taper, making it costly to check.

Circularity or roundness: The roundness criterion describes how perfectly circular a target—the circular cross-section of a shaft, bore, or cone—must be. It also implies that the feature must be devoid of any characteristics or edges.

Orientation Control

Orientation Control

Orientation controls pertain to dimensions that change at angles, including:

Angularity: Angularity is defined as flatness at an angle to a datum. And it is also determined by two reference planes spaced the tolerance value apart.

Perpendicularity: Perpendicularity indicates flatness at 90° to a datum. It requires two ideal planes between which the feature plane must lie.

Parallelism: Parallelism denotes a parallel line at a specified distance. A cylindrical tolerance zone can be defined by inserting a diameter symbol in front of the tolerance value to define parallelism for axes.

Profile Control

Profile Control

Profile control describes the three-dimensional tolerance zone around a surface. It is further categorized into two, including:

Line Profile: A line profile compares a cross-section in two dimensions to an ideal shape. Unless otherwise indicated, the tolerance zone is defined by two offset curves.

Surface Profile: A surface profile is used to create two offset surfaces between which the feature surface must fall. Surface profile is a complicated control that is usually measured with a CMM.

Runout Control

Runout Control

Runout control indicates the amount by which a specific feature can vary to the datums:

Circular Runout: Circular runout is employed when it is necessary to account for various errors, such as those present in ball-bearing mounted parts. During the inspection, the part is rotated on a spindle to measure the variance or ‘wobble’ around the rotational axis.

Total Runout: Total runout is measured at numerous surface points, describing the runout of a circular feature and a whole surface. This controls changes in straightness, profile, angularity, etc.

Location Control

Location Control

Location control uses linear dimensions to define feature locations:

Position: Position specifies the location of features to the other or the datums and is the most commonly used control.

Concentricity: The concentricity criterion specifies the concentricity’s accuracy of the axes of two cylinders (no deviation of the center). Concentricity compares the location of a feature axis to the datum axis.

Symmetry: The symmetry requirement specifies the accuracy with which a target is symmetrical to the datum (reference plane). This helps to guarantee that there are no irregularities in your design’s non-cylindrical sections. Symmetry is a complex control that is usually measured with a CMM.

Feature Control Frame

Feature Control Frame

Simply said, the feature control frame controls the features of your design. Each feature control frame comprises a single message (requirement); if a feature requires two messages, two feature control frames are necessary.

A feature control frame’s first compartment contains one of the geometric characteristic symbols. A feature control frame may only include one of the symbols; if a feature has two needs, there must be two feature control frames or a composite tolerance. The symbol will specify the feature’s requirements, such as “this feature must be flat” or “this feature must be positioned.”

The second compartment of a feature control frame houses the feature’s total tolerance. If the diameter sign (⌀) appears before the tolerance, the tolerance denotes a diameter or cylindrically shaped zone. If there is no symbol before the tolerance, the default shape of the tolerance zone is parallel planes or a total broad zone, as in the location of a slot or surface profile. A material condition modifier, such as MMC or LMC, can be specified after the feature tolerance in the feature control frame if the feature has a size.

The third compartment provides datum feature references. However, not all designs necessitate the use of a datum feature. For instance, no datum feature reference is permitted if a form tolerance is specified, such as GD&T flatness or straightness. The datum feature references are often specified if a location tolerance such as position is specified.

Material Condition Modifiers

When describing geometric controls, it is frequently necessary to clarify that a tolerance applies to a feature at a specific feature size. An engineer can convey that intent using the Maximum Material Condition (MMC) and Least Material Condition (LMC).

The material condition modifiers are employed in the feature tolerance compartment of a feature control frame. When the features deviate from the stated condition, the MMC and LMC modifiers offer extra geometric tolerance beyond the set tolerance.

Maximum Material Condition (MMC): The condition in which the feature includes the maximum material within the specified size constraints.

Least Material Condition (LMC): The condition in which the feature includes the least material within the specified size constraints.

GD&T Symbols Chart

GD&T symbols are placed in the first compartment of a feature control frame and define the geometry characteristic of the feature that is to be controlled. The characteristics are grouped into four types of tolerance: form, orientation, location, and runout. The general primary control with a few notes is also shown. Below is a GD&T reference chart made by the International Institute of Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing:

GD&T Symbols Chart


The Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) approach can help to save costs while improving quality, dependability, and safety. Implementing the GD&T tools and methods will assist your business by reducing potential manufacturing difficulties, defects, and reworks.

Furthermore, when considering the functional structure of the parts, GD&T allows for the use of a broader tolerance range, minimizing the number of rejected functional parts. Using the GD&T standard language of symbols, you can clearly communicate the design intent to the part’s manufacturer.

If you have any questions about prototyping and manufacturing, welcome to contact LEADRP anytime. With robust manufacturing capabilities, LEADRP can customize any parts or prototypes according to your unique product requirements.


Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) is a system of symbols utilized on engineering drawings to convey information from the designer to the manufacturer. GD&T tells the manufacturer the degree of accuracy and precision needed for each controlled feature of the part.

  1. It saves time and money.
  2. A clear and precise way for the customers, suppliers, and production teams to communicate.
  3. It is a method for calculating the worst-case mating limits.
  4. Excellent assembly ensures qualified production parts.
  1. Form Tolerance.
  2. Profile Tolerance.
  3. Orientation Tolerance.
  4. Location Tolerance.
  5. Runout Tolerance.


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