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DOI 10.1007/s00170-012-3925-6

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

envelopment analysis

Sohyung Cho & Joon-Young Kim

Received: 17 May 2011 / Accepted: 10 January 2012 / Published online: 11 February 2012

# Springer-Verlag London Limited 2012

Abstract In today's world of precision engineering, robustness and accuracy in the evaluation of the form

tolerances are considered as competitive advantages for

manufacturing enterprises. Amongst various methods for

accurate and robust evaluation, which have been studied, nonlinear optimization methods based on operational research have proved to be successful as far as they

can ensure unique and global convergence in practical

applications. However, it is well known that ensuring

the convergence is the most difficult thing to deal with

for a nonlinear optimization technique because the performance is in general highly sensitive to parameter

setting. Therefore, this paper introduces a robust linear

programming formulation-based algorithm in which the

performance is not dependent on the quality of parameters. Interestingly, in this algorithm, the data envelopment analysis technique is used to form a convex hull

that decides the minimum enclosed zone in a robust

manner. From the computational experiments, it is

shown that the proposed algorithm can be a promising

alternative to the traditional nonlinear optimization

method for straightness and flatness evaluation.

S. Cho (*)

Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering,

Southern Illinois University,

Edwardsville, IL 62026-1805, USA

e-mail: scho@siue.edu

J.-Y. Kim

Division of Marine Equipment Engineering,

Korea Maritime University,

Youngdo-gu,

Busan 606-791, South Korea

envelopment analysis

1 Introduction

The geometric form of manufactured components deviates

from its nominal design to a certain extent due to errors in

manufacturing, wear, etc. that can be confirmed by measurement and evaluation. While uncertainty in measurement has

been significantly reduced by recent technological advancement in inspection methods, evaluation of geometric tolerances is still considered as a major challenge because of its

nonlinear nature. There are numerous algorithms that can

evaluate various geometric tolerances by modeling the evaluation of geometric tolerances as nonlinear optimization

problems and then solving the problems optimally (or close

to optimal). However, it is known that the convergence of

nonlinear optimization techniques is highly sensitive to setting of parameters such as starting conditions. It should be

pointed out that in today's world of precision engineering,

enhancing robustness as well as accuracy in the evaluation

of the tolerances is greatly required as important competitive

advantages for manufacturing enterprises.

The purpose of geometric tolerance evaluation is to provide the exact value of the error in measured data points

from manufactured parts conforming to a standard, for example, ANSI Y14.5M [1]. Specifically, ANSI and ISO

promote the use of the minimum zone form tolerance that

is based on minimizing the maximum deviation of the

inspected surface from a reference feature. The objective

of the minimum zone criterion is to fit the data points with

minimum peak-to-valley deviation to the fitting line. The

studies show that the minimum zone criterion yields more

accurate fitting results because: (1) it yields a zone value

732

the standard definition of physical fittings [2]. The minimum zone form tolerance can be evaluated either using

specific computational geometry techniques [3, 4] or by

solving non-linear optimization problems [57]. However,

this optimization function has numerous local minima, and

most solution methods need a set of good starting points to

obtain the global minimum solution. In addition, the formulation for the tolerance zone is typically non-differentiable,

which limits the use of conventional gradient-based optimization techniques. Recently, evolution or machine-learning

algorithm-based evaluation methods have been studied in

order to solve nonlinear optimization problems more efficiently [810]. Examples of evolution algorithms include

particle swarm, genetic algorithm, simulated annealing, and

support vector machine learning. It has been reported that

these methods can solve the problems faster than conventional nonlinear optimization methods [10]. However, it is

known that the performance of these methods in terms of

computational efficiency and accuracy depends on the quality of initial conditions and other parameters such as specific

kernel functions in the case of support vector machine

learning.

Straightness is a condition where an element of a surface or

an axis is a straight line. A straightness tolerance specifies a

tolerance zone within which the considered element or axis

must lie. Each element of the surface must lie between two

parallel lines separated by the amount of the prescribed

straightness tolerance [1]. For discrete measurement, the

straightness error is defined as the minimum separation between two parallel lines within which all the data points must

lie. The region bounded by two parallel lines with minimum

separation is defined as the minimum zone of the data points.

The definition that confines the straightness error to the minimum zone is called minimum zone criterion. Flatness is the

condition of a surface having all elements in one plane. A

flatness tolerance specifies a tolerance zone defined by two

parallel planes within which the surface must lie [1]. Similar to

the straightness problems, evaluation of flatness under the

minimum zone criterion is to find two parallel planes that

bound all measured data with minimum separation.

Focusing on the aforementioned issue of computational

efficiency and accuracy in the evaluation of form tolerances,

this paper introduces a novel algorithm to evaluate straightness and flatness using the data envelopment analysis (DEA)

approach, which is based on the linear programming (LP)

model and used to assess an organization's operational efficiency. Due to its nature of LP model, the algorithm introduced in this paper expects to be robust (stable) in terms of

computational time and efficiency. Interestingly, the first approach to find the minimum zone using not only efficient

frontiers that are typical output of DEA but also inefficient

frontiers obtained from modified DEA is introduced and

related research works. An overview of DEA is provided in

Section 3. In Section 4, traditional DEA is modified to be used

for evaluation of form tolerances, particularly straightness and

flatness. In Section 5, performance of the proposed algorithm

in this paper is compared to other algorithms such as least

square, nonlinear programming, and other LP-based algorithm, respectively. The robustness of the proposed algorithm

is addressed in the same section, and the conclusion of this

paper is provided in Section 6.

2 Literature review

Research works for the evaluation of form tolerances, particularly straightness and flatness, focus on one of the following techniques:

1. Least squares method (LSM): Among several techniques existing for evaluation of straightness and flatness

tolerances, LSM is a widely accepted technique used in

industry for the evaluation of form errors. This technique finds the minimum sum of squared errors of the

measured points from the nominal feature and thus

provides only an approximation solution quickly [11].

More specifically, LSM does not ensure precise values

of straightness and flatness errors due to a different

objective function from the minimum zone criterion.

2. Computational geometric approach (CGA): Lai and

Wang [12] and Traband et al. [3] proposed computational geometry-based techniques for calculating exact

values of the minimum zone straightness and flatness.

More specifically, these research works proposed the

minimum solution for straightness and flatness problems in accord with the minimum zone criterion. The

basic principle of this technique is to find the minimum

zone of the convex hull that encloses all the measured

points. The minimum zone was determined by a pair of

parallel supporting lines parallel to an edge of the convex hull. Based on the same concept, Lee [13] presented

an approach, called convex-hull edge method, which

guarantees the minimum zone solution of flatness evaluation problems. Samuel and Shunmugam [4] also used

similar computational geometric techniques to solve the

minimum zone and function-oriented solutions for the

straightness and the flatness problems.

3. Operational research techniques (OR): Wang [5] used

optimization techniques for minimum zone evaluation

of form errors. Form errors were formulated as nonlinear optimization problems, and solution procedures

were developed to solve the nonlinear optimization

problems. Kanada and Suzuki [14] studied an application of some nonlinear optimization techniques for

The following summary can be drawn from the review of existing research: some reported algorithms in

CGA, such as convex hull/polygon method, minmax

method, control geometric feature rotation scheme, and

median approach, have been proved to be successful in

view of minimum zone evaluation. However, none of

these CGA algorithms satisfies the universality requirement to be able to evaluate various form tolerances. In

fact, the mathematical definition of minimum zone form

errors in the ANSI standards yields a nonlinear discontinuous optimization problem. To tackle this problem,

various nonlinear optimization techniques and OR methods have been proposed and tested. Among them are

Chebyshev approximation [17], downhill simplex method [14], and HookeJeeve direct search method [18].

Among these approaches, few have proved to be successful if unique and global convergence is ensured in

practical applications. However, it is known that ensuring the convergence is the most difficult thing to deal

with for a nonlinear optimization technique because the

performance is in general highly sensitive to parameter

setting. Therefore, a robust algorithm of which performance is not dependent on the quality of parameters is

highly required, and this paper introduces such

algorithms.

Examples of commonly used efficiency measurement

methods include ordinary least squares (OLS), corrected

ordinary least squares (COLS), stochastic frontier analysis (SFA), and DEA. Figure 1 illustrates these methods

with their unique nature. In the figure, dots represent

producers that use a set of inputs to produce a set of

outputs. For instance, consider a set of banks. Inputs

can be a square footage of space and a number of

tellers, etc., and outputs can be a number of checks

cashed and number of transactions, etc. OLS, COLS,

12

COLS

10

8

Output

minimum zone flatness. They also applied various optimization algorithms to calculate the minimum zone

straightness. Carr and Ferreira [15] developed algorithms to verify minimum zone straightness and flatness. The proposed model searched for two parallel

supporting planes so that all measured points were

below one plane and above the other while both planes

were as close together as possible. The model was a

constrained nonlinear programming problem, but the

objective function and all but one constraint were linear.

Hence, the successive linear programming algorithm

was used to solve a sequence of linear programs that

converge to the solution of the nonlinear problem. Cheraghi et al. [6] formulated straightness and flatness errors

as nonlinear optimization problems and then developed

a linear search method that reduces the nonlinear optimization problem to a linear programming problem with

only two constraints. It was reported that the exact error

values are quickly found by an iterative search procedure. Weber et al. [16] presented a unified linear approximation technique for the evaluation of various

form tolerances. They formulated a linear program model using a Taylor expansion of the minimum zone tolerance function.

4. Evolution algorithms (EAs): Malyscheff et al. [9] modeled minimum zone straightness and flatness by modifying a support vector classification that is based on

statistical learning. In this research work, a gradient

ascent approach was introduced to sequentially solve a

formulated non-convex optimization problem, noting

that straightness and flatness share some similarities

their functions are in 2D and 3D linear forms, respectively, which are also the basic functions used in support

vector machines. In Kovvur et al. [10], particle swarm

optimization, which is one of the most recent and popular EAs, has been shown to perform well for the

evaluation of minimum zone form tolerance such as

circularity, cylindricity, sphericity, flatness, and straightness form tolerances. In this approach, each particle of

the population, called the swarm, progresses toward the

optimal solution by adjusting its trajectory toward its

own previous best position and toward the previous best

position attained by any member of the population. The

advantage of using PSO over other optimization methods is the relatively insignificant impact of the starting

conditions.

733

OLS

6

DEA

SFA

4

5

Input

10

DEA method

734

assumption for a functional form while DEA is nonparametric and thus requires no assumption of the functional form [19]. In the parametric approach, any misspecification of the functional form can result in

catastrophic results. Among these methods, SFA and

DEA are the two competing paradigms on efficiency

analysis [20].

Since the introduction by Charnes, Cooper, and Rhodes [21], DEA has proven to be an attractive method

for assessing and evaluating the efficiency and performance of decision-making units (DMUs) within organizations producing multiple outputs from multiple

inputs. The linear programming model for the inputoriented constant return to scale (CRS) model was introduced by Charnes et al. [21], also referred to as the

CCR model, is given by:

have been utilized in many industries and organizations, such

as hospitals, restaurants, US Air Force wings, universities,

cities, courts, business firms, and more [24]. There is, however, another competing paradigm on how to construct frontiers

to evaluate and assess the performance and efficiency of

DMUs, which is the stochastic frontier function approach

(SFA) [25]. DEA utilizes mathematical programming techniques, whilst the SFA approach utilizes econometric regression

theory. The major advantage of the DEA approach is that no

assumption has to be made about the functional form other

than the concavity of the frontier functions. To the contrary,

the SFA approach imposes an explicit and possibly overrestrictive, functional form for the data.

min j

n

P

lj xij j xij

This paper introduces the first-time approach that uses traditional DEA for identifying inefficient frontiers such that

both efficient and inefficient frontiers are used to form a

convex hull that encloses all the data points measured inside

as shown in Fig. 2.

j1

n

P

lj yrj yrj

i 1; 2; . . . ; m

r 1; 2; . . . :; s

j1

lj 0

j 1; 2; . . . :; n

4.1 Straightness evaluation

where j is the efficiency score for the jth DMU; where there

are n systems or DMUs, the jth DMU represents one of the n

DMU under evaluation, xij and yrj are the ith input and rth

output for the jth DMU, respectively, and s are dual variables. The CCR model (or CRS model) assumes constant

return to scale economies, which means that doubling output

exactly doubles inputs. The CCR model was extended to the

variable return to scale (VRS) model by Banker, Charnes, and

Cooper [22], referred to as the BCC model. The VRS inputoriented model is the same as the CRS model except for the

fact that the sum of s is equal to 1 and is written as:

min j

n

P

lj xij j xij

j1

n

P

j1

n

P

lj yrj yrj

lj 1;

lj 0

max j

n

P

lj xij j xij

j1

n

P

i 1; 2; . . . ; m

r 1; 2; . . . :; s

measured data points, set S0(xj, yj), and data points that

satisfy the condition of j 01 are identified as efficient

frontiers. Note that other DMUs (data points) with j <1

are not as efficient as the efficient frontiers. In Fig. 2,

the efficient frontiers are the ones that form the upper

envelop. Next, Eq. 2 is modified to be used for identifying inefficient frontiers as follows:

j 1; 2; . . . :n

j1

n

P

lj yrj yrj

lj 1;

i 1; 2; . . . ; m

r 1; 2; . . . :; s

lj 0

j 1; 2; . . . :n

j1

j1

where j is the efficiency score for the jth DMU; where there

are n systems or DMUs, the jth DMU represents one of the n

DMU under evaluation, xij and yrj are the ith input and rth

output for the jth DMU, respectively, and s are dual variables. It should be emphasized here that the DEA model

assumes monotonicity [23].

The solution of Eq. 3 provides information on inefficient frontiers which are used to create the lower

envelop in Fig. 2. In fact, the inefficient frontiers are

identified with the condition of j 01, and other data

points satisfy j >1. Note that the efficient and inefficient frontiers generate a convex hull that contains the

set S. Finally, the data points form efficient and

inefficient frontiers that are used to compute two parallel lines with minimum distance (d) that contains the set

735

S. The minimum distance d is straightness. The algorithm to find the minimum distance d is as follows:

736

(points) and inefficient frontiers

(points) out of n030 (one of the

parallel lines to enclose all the

data points passes the point

marked by *)

90

80

70

y values

60

50

40

30

20

10

0

(n05) as shown in the following table:

n05

X values

Y values

Point 1

1.0

1.1

Point 2

2.0

1.9

Point 3

3.0

3.3

Point 4

4.0

4.0

Point 5

5.0

4.8

10

15

x values

(points) and inefficient frontiers

(points) out of n05

25

30

Figure 4 illustrates a problem instance randomly generated

for the flatness evaluation (n0100). For these data points,

problem formulation for straightness by Eq. 2 is modified

for 3D flatness evaluation as follows:

min j

n

P

lj xij xij

and points 1, 2, and 5 as inefficient frontiers. Step 3 gives deff,i 0

max(dk)0[0.4709 0.5600], and step 4 gives deff,i 0[0.4685

0.3116]. Finally, step 5 provides d00.3116. The following

figure shows the efficient and inefficient frontiers and the

convex hull generated for this problem instance (Fig. 3).

20

j1

n

P

j1

n

P

j1

n

P

i 1; 2; . . . ; m

lj yrj yrj

r 1; 2; . . . :; s

lj ztj j ztj

i 1; 2; . . . ; u

lj 1;

lj 0

j 1; 2; ::::n

j1

4.5

Y-values

3.5

2.5

1.5

1.5

2.5

3

X-values

3.5

4.5

737

Table 2 Accuracy comparison for examples in Table 1

30

DEA

OTZ

NLP

LSM

25

20

15

10

n05

n010

n015

n020

n025

2.1213203

2.1213204

2.1213204

2.5860858

0.8578577

0.8578577

0.8578577

0.8877250

0.0051857

0.0051857

0.0051857

0.0053790

0.1645859

0.1645859

0.1645859

0.1705494

0.0013113

0.0013113

0.0013113

0.0014633

5

0

10

10

8

j1

n

P

4

y

2

0

max j

n

P

lj xij xij

100, scale in millimeters)

in order to form a 3D convex hull instead of a 2D convex hull.

Here, data points that satisfy the condition of j 01 are identified as efficient frontiers. Note that other DMUs (data points)

with j <1 are not as efficient as the efficient frontiers. Next,

Eq. 4 is modified to be used for identifying inefficient frontiers

in flatness evaluation as follows:

j1

n

P

j1

n

P

i 1; 2; . . . ; m

lj yrj yrj

r 1; 2; . . . :; s

lj ztj j ztj

lj 1;

i 1; 2; . . . ; u

lj 0

j 1; 2; . . . :n

j1

frontiers. In fact, the inefficient frontiers are identified with

the condition of j 01, and other data points satisfy j >1.

Note that both efficient and inefficient frontiers are used to

form a convex hull that includes the set S0(xi, yi, zi). Finally,

the data points that form efficient and inefficient frontiers

n05

xi

2

1

0

1

2

yi

3

5

2

1

2

n020

xi

0.05

0.10

0.15

0.20

0.25

0.30

0.35

0.40

0.45

0.50

n010

xi

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

yi

2.428

2.891

3.445

2.931

3.895

4.196

4.497

4.662

4.545

yi

xi

yi

n015

xi

0.3952

0.6953

0.9669

1.2762

1.5797

1.8593

2.1333

2.4197

2.6001

n025

xi

0.1288

0.1309

0.204

0.1841

0.1329

0.1570

0.2608

0.2588

0.2237

0.1891

0.55

0.60

0.65

0.70

0.75

0.80

0.85

0.90

0.95

1.00

0.1000

0.1837

0.1712

0.2304

0.1753

0.2107

0.1820

0.1730

0.2723

0.1949

0.2845

0.6600

1.2041

1.4994

1.8494

2.2261

2.5724

2.9076

3.2548

3.4142

yi

0.1010

0.1026

0.1000

0.1014

0.1005

0.1035

0.1032

0.1049

0.1049

xi

3.0662

3.2165

3.4217

3.6179

3.8185

yi

0.1067

0.1025

0.1068

0.1069

0.1089

yi

xi

yi

xi

yi

0.0006

0.0008

0.0010

0.0005

0.0004

0.0015

0.0012

0.0014

0.0009

0.0009

3.6307

3.9237

4.2647

4.5122

4.8150

5.1334

5.3603

5.6534

5.9058

6.0774

0.0011

0.0011

0.0012

0.0012

0.0013

0.0013

0.0010

0.0008

0.0020

0.0021

6.2962

6.5240

6.7114

6.9960

7.2076

0.0021

0.0021

0.0023

0.0021

0.0023

738

distance (d) that includes the set S, and the minimum dis-

distance d is as follows:

in Matlab is used to generate a convex hull formed by only

efficient and inefficient frontiers.

that the DEA algorithm finds the optimal solution for all

the test problem instances without the fine tuning of any

parameters. In other words, while the accuracy and computational time of NLP and OTZ depend on the quality of

initial conditions and other parameters, the DEA algorithm

can evaluate the straightness and flatness in a more robust

manner due to its nature of LP model.

5 Computational experiments

Straightness First, the performance of the proposed DEAbased algorithm in this paper has been compared to other

approaches such as LSM, nonlinear programming approach

(NLP) from Malyscheff et al. [9], and optimization technique zone (OTZ) from Cheraghi et al. [6]. Problem instances are shown in Table 1, and performance comparison for

these test problems is provided in Table 2.

Next, randomly generated problem instances have been

used to test the performance of the DEA algorithm. Here,

problems have been generated based on the following linear

relationship with disturbances (): yi b 0 b 1 xi " . It

should be pointed out here that the performance of other

algorithms highly depends on the quality of parameters such

as incremental angle parameter in the case of OTZ and

initial condition in the case of NLP. Table 3 and Fig. 5 show

performance improvement (percent) by the DEA algorithm

against LSM and computational effort of the DEA compared

to OTZ and NLP. Note that each output in Table 3 has been

obtained as an average of ten replications, particularly for

NLP with different initial conditions.

been tested for problem instances from the literature [6]. For

these instances shown in Table 4, the DEA finds the optimal

values of 1.9612 (n015) and 4.8573 (n025) like other

algorithms such as NLP.

Next, the performance of the DEA has been tested for

randomly generated problem instances and Table 5 shows

that the accuracy of the DEA is identical to the performance

data points

n

10

50

100

500

Improvement by DEA

CPU-DEA

CPU-OTZ

13.8

1.05

5.46

4.5

2.69

5.48

5.2

5.26

5.47

10.1

6.28

6.93

9.2

7.93

8.64

1.53

3.62

5.96

11.79

35.50

CPU-NLP

1,000

739

Fig. 5 Performance

comparison for straightness

evaluation (n01,000) by

various algorithms

field has been obtained as an average of ten replications. In

the flatness evaluation, DEA reduces the number of points

that form a convex hull such that in the case of n0196 only

14% of the data (27 points) are required to form a convex

hull with which the flatness can be accurately evaluated.

Table 4 Problem instances for flatness evaluation from Cheraghi et al.

[6]

n015

n025

xi

yi

zi

xi

yi

zi

xi

yi

zi

2

1

0

1

2

2

1

0

1

2

2

1

0

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

1

5

4

1

2

2

4

3

3

2

2

3

4

2

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

25

25

25

25

25

50

50

50

50

50

0

25

50

75

100

0

25

50

75

100

0

25

50

75

100

2

5

6

8

9

5

7

8

9

12

6

7

8

9

11

75

75

75

75

75

100

100

100

100

100

0

25

50

75

100

0

25

50

75

100

7

7

6

7

9

7

6

6

6

8

This implies that the other 86% of the data (169 points) are

enclosed in the convex hull.

6 Conclusion

This paper has introduced a robust algorithm for the evaluation of form tolerances, especially straightness and flatness

of manufactured parts. Specifically, this paper has developed a DEA approach-based algorithm that can form a

convex hull from both efficient and inefficient frontiers,

which enclose all of the measured data points. Computational experiments showed that this algorithm is more robust

than other existing methods in terms of the accuracy and

computational effort because it is based on LP formulation.

Table 5 Flatness performance comparison for randomly generated

data points

DEA/LSM

(% improvement)

DEA/NLP

(% improvement)

(nn)/n (%)

25

9.2

15

40.0

49

100

144

196

4.2

3.8

3.4

3.5

0

0

0

0

17

21

25

27

65.3

79.0

82.6

86.2

740

points, the required number of points to form a convex hull is

reduced by 86% that ensures considerable saving in computational effort. Future research may focus on the application of

the DEA algorithm for circularity and sphericity tolerances.

Acknowledgments The authors acknowledge partial support for this

research from the (Unmanned Technology Research Center (UTRC) at

the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST),

originally funded by DAPA, ADD.

References

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3. Traband MT, Joshi S, Wysk RA, Cavalier TM (1988) Evaluation

of straightness and flatness tolerance using the minimum zone.

Manuf Rev 2:189195

4. Samuel GL, Shunmugam MS (1999) Evaluation of straightness

and flatness error using computational geometric techniques. Comput Aided Des 31(13):829843

5. Wang Y (1992) Minimum zone evaluation of form tolerances.

Manuf Rev 5(3):213220

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(1):3037

7. Zhu LM, Ding H, Xiong YL (2003) A steepest descent algorithm

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8. Hong LJ, Shultes BC, Anand S (2001) Robust evaluation of

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