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NIST Engineer Presents the Blood, STEP, and Tears Involved in Digital Manufacturing Standards

NIST Engineer Presents the Blood, STEP, and Tears Involved in Digital Manufacturing Standards
Credit: CTL

In March 2024, NIST’s Rosemary Astheimer presented efforts to capture and leverage Product Manufacturing Information (PMI) in ISO 10303, referred to as STEP (Standard for Exchange of Product model data), at the 3D Collaboration and Interoperability Congress in Golden, CO.  The event is an opportunity for implementors and stakeholders to share their findings and challenges on implementing a model-based approach to drive the adoption and use of the digital thread. This year’s theme, “The Digital Future…” encompassed stories of success, challenges, and business strategy and the supporting technology and standards.

ISO 10303: Automation systems and integration — Product data representation and exchange is a standard for the computer-interpretable representation and exchange of PMI to drive automated manufacturing devices, such as Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machines and Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) for automated inspection, which eliminates human error associated with re-entering information, improves efficiency, and reduces cost. The STEP standard has been widely implemented and is well-suited for archiving purposes, but new requirements are continuously identified during industry implementation. Astheimer introduced the MBx Interoperability Forum, a joint testing effort between AFNeT Services, PDES, Inc., and prostep ivip, that organizes testing efforts between users, CAD and CAE vendors, and second or third-party software developers to address those requirements. With support from NIST, the forum organizes test activities to address identified concerns; NIST supplies data sets for testing and the NIST STEP File Analyzer helps vendors troubleshoot problems that arise during the test round to improve exchange capabilities. Users read in and write out STEP files and report results to the team to review progress and identify items for the next test round. The team meets twice a year and has been testing in this capacity since 1995, demonstrating the value of this forum. Astheimer ended by speaking to the complexity of organizing and managing the information, which makes continued testing imperative to success.

Released April 1, 2024, Updated May 24, 2024