STEP Tools, Inc. Awarded "Mind The Gap" Contract from Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII)

Troy, New York - June 18, 2015 - STEP Tools, Inc. is pleased to announce a contract research award from the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) for DMDII-14-02-02 "Mind the Gap: Filling the Gap between CAD and CNC with Engineering Services".

STEP Tools, Inc. is the lead organization, with project participants Vanderbilt University and the Pennsylvania State University Advanced Research Laboratory.

Mind the Gap will develop and deliver cloud services for optimizing and monitoring CNC machining. The new services will operate on 3D digital models which are easier to share and modify than traditional code-based models since they include the geometry of the product being machined semantically annotated with the design requirements.

An NC generation service, developed by Penn State University, will generate machining solutions. A process monitoring service, developed by Vanderbilt University, will enable machining visualization via tablets and web browsers. STEP Tools will team with Sandvik Coromant and Iscar Metals to demonstrate tooling optimization using the new services. GE and Boeing will supply test data for a bracket that holds the engine to the airframe.

Penn State and Vanderbilt are participating to advance the art of model based machining. Sandvik Coromant and Iscar Metals are assisting STEP Tools (as cost share) to enhance their ability to market solutions to customers. General Electric and Boeing are participating (as cost share) because the technology offers an opportunity to reduce machining costs. STEP Tools, Inc. is developing and marketing a next generation simulator for model based machining that will become more functional and cost effective as a result of the project.

Mind the Gap will fill the gap between CAD and CAM with engineering services. CAD model data will be converted into CAM model data using the AVM iFAB tools. At six months, the new services will enable the creation of plans that make the required geometry from the stock material. At twelve months, the services will enable the creation of machining plans that convert the geometry while meeting the required tolerances. A Process Monitoring service will be built by extending the AVM VehicleForge tools. Product and process data will be converted to an integer JSON format to enable fast, remote, web visualizations on any platform.

STEP Tools will work with Iscar, Sandvik, GE and Boeing to demonstrate applications of the new services. At six months, they will optimize one stage of the bracket machining. At twelve months, the complete machining plan will be optimized. Laboratory experiments have shown that model based tooling optimization makes machining programs 15% more efficient by increasing tool life and reducing machining times.

The cloud services will be made available to the DMDII members as open source. Machining shops will be able to use the new services, via the Digital Manufacturing Commons, and ask their cutter vendors to make more cost effective machining solutions. In order to use the service, they will need pre and post-processors for the ISO 10303-238 STEP-NC standard. The interfaces can be added to their CAM and CNC systems as new options for data input and output. Open source solutions are already available for those that want to implement their own pre and post-processors.