What are Interchangeable Parts?

A design principal in which the individual parts of a system are defined to meet a specification such that they can be readily interchanged for replacement or expansion. Designing a system of interchangeable parts has many advantages. For example, it allowed gun parts to be exchanged on the battle field so soldiers would only have to change the damaged part of the firearm, and not the whole gun.

How are they used?

One of the first examples of interchangeable parts can be found on Gutenberg's printing press in the middle 1400s. Blocks of type (individual letters) were carefully filed to interlock on a typesetting grid. This grid of letters could be manipulated to form different pages of text for printing. It required an extreme amount of skill to form letters that were even across a line and made an even imprint on a page.

Interchangeable parts much later formed the basis for assembly line mass production.

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