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The first clear example of exploded view drawings


Exploded view
(Image: Leonardo da Vinci)

Together with the cutaway view the exploded view was among the many graphic inventions of the Renaissance, which were developed to clarified pictorial representation in a renewed naturalistic way. The exploded view can be traced back to the early fifteenth century notebooks of Marino Taccola (1382 – 1453), and were perfected by Francesco di Giorgio (1439 – 1502) and Leonardo.¹

One of the first more clear examples of an exploded view created by Leonardo da Vinci in his design drawing of a reciprocating motion machine. Reciprocating motion, also called reciprocation, is an up-and-down (or back-and-forth) motion which repeats over and over again. It is found in a wide range of mechanisms such as reciprocating engines and pumps. The two opposite motions that comprise a single reciprocation cycle are called strokes. Leonardo applied this method of presentation in several other studies, including those on human anatomy.² His methods of illustration were particularly inventive: the bones of the thorax drawn orthographically; the three upper cervical vertebrae in an exploded view; the hand through six stages of dissection; the shoulder muscles reduced to lines of force to depict the whole system in a single drawing; the arm in seven views through 180 degrees; and so on.

His works showed components of an object slightly separated by distance, or suspended in surrounding space in the case of a three-dimensional exploded diagram. An object is represented as if there had been a small controlled explosion emanating from the middle of the object, causing the object's parts to be separated an equal distance away from their original locations.

The term "Exploded View Drawing" emerged in the 1940s, and is one of the first times defined in 1965 as "Three-dimensional (isometric) illustration that shows the mating relationships of parts, subassemblies, and higher assemblies. May also show the sequence of assembling or disassembling the detail parts."³


¹ Eugene S. Ferguson (1999). Engineering and the Mind's Eye. p.82.
² Domenico Laurenza, Mario Taddei, Edoardo Zanon (2006) Leonardo's Machines. p.165
³ Thomas F. Walton (1965). Technical Data Requirements for Systems Engineering and Support. Prentice-Hall. p.170

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