Boeing Implements STEP As Production Exchange Process With Three Engine Companies

August 22,1997 - Boeing Commercial Airplane Group has agreed with Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and GE Aircraft Engines to use STEP as the production data exchange process in support of the 777 and 767-400 Extended Range programs. STEP will also be the preferred process for future programs. Boeing and the engine companies exchange product data in support of the Digital Pre-Assembly (DPA) process, which verifies the form and fit of the parts that integrate the airplane engine and the airplane. In the previous process, large assemblies of solid models were exchanged using the proprietary data format of Dassault Systemes' CATIA. The engine companies used custom built software translators to exchange data between their CAD system and CATIA, and typically involved manual rework of the models to carry out the exchange process. Custom translators are expensive to develop and maintain.

Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and GE Aircraft Engines have now implemented a new DPA exchange process based on STEP (ISO 10303-203). This new process was developed through the PowerSTEP project, which built on technology developed by the PDES Inc. AEROSTEP pilot project. These projects were joint development efforts involving Boeing and the engine companies and their CAD system suppliers: Dassault Systemes (CATIA), EDS (Unigraphics) and Computervision (CADDS).

To date, more than 500 production models have been exchanged between Boeing and the three engine companies via STEP. Between 80 - 90% of the models transfer successfully without any intervention. In the remaining models, typically only one of the components will have a problem and old processes and/or manual intervention are used in those cases. Processes are in place to improve the success rate with the goal to eliminate the old process and all manual intervention. The exchange process is performed by the end users, not STEP specialists, and is capable of hundreds of exchanges per week.

The STEP process is based on open systems standards and software products from the computing system suppliers. The STEP process will return significant cost and flowtime reductions compared to the old process. The data are exchanged using STEP translators offered by the CAD suppliers, and the results are verified using a comparison of the mass properties (volume and center of gravity of the solids) between the sending and receiving system. The software is integrated to provide a complete end to end validated solution to the business process for DPA data exchange. A successful exchange requires the exact assembly tree as well as the creation of a valid solid model for each of the component parts. Each model file may contain up to several hundred solids. The STEP data exchanged is an integrated structure of solid model geometry, product identification, assembly/component relationships and administrative data.

Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce are members of PDES, Inc., a joint industry/government consortium specifically formed to accelerate the development and implementation of STEP. PDES, Inc. is composed of more than 25 major industrial companies and government agencies who represent more than $600 billion in annual revenue.