Troy, New York - September 30, 2002 - STEP Tools, Inc. , the forerunner in developing STEP and STEP-NC software solutions for the global marketplace, announced today NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA) will join a select group of top U.S. companies to be the first to incorporate STEP-NC technology into their manufacturing operations. STEP Tools has lead the STEP-NC effort in North America, and the development of this breakthrough technology is supported by an Advanced Technology Program (ATP) Award issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Administration. Dr. Martin Hardwick, president and CEO of STEP Tools, is the STEP Manufacturing leader in the international STEP community of over 200 independent product data specialists. STEP (Standard for Product Data Exchange) is a comprehensive standard for CAD design data. STEP-NC, the manufacturing extension of this standard, annotates this design information with manufacturing data.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by the California Institute of Technology, is NASA's main center for robotic exploration of the solar system. JPL will initiate the STEP-NC Phase One Implementation program, and execute the project in systematic phases within their manufacturing operations. Eventually, JPL will expand the knowledge into their supply chain of qualified contract manufacturers. During this process, JPL will also STEP-NC enable a few Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) machine tools and drive them with full fidelity 3D design data derived from any CAD system.
"JPL's in-house manufacturing facility and experienced staff will play a vital role in early benchmarking and break new ground in CNC machining," states Dr. Hardwick, president and CEO of STEP Tools. "This strategic STEP-NC environment will perform extensive testing and set new initiatives to further advance the STEP-NC program. JPL will be among a core group of technology-leading companies to take advantage of this new-to-the-market data input standard and reap the benefits very early in the game."
Today's machine tools are driven by Numerically Controlled (NC) programming based on G & M codes developed in the 1950s for antiquated paper tape readers. CAM programmers go through a lengthy process to translate part geometry, generate toolpaths, determine feeds and speeds, and select tool sizes. STEP-NC will make G and M codes obsolete. Using STEP-NC technology, an external software program like a Process Planning system or an integrated CAD/CAM system, can create instructions for making a part on a machine tool and send those instructions (via DNC, LAN, WAN or the Internet) to a CNC milling machine containing an embedded CAM system.
STEP-NC streamlines the manufacturing process by defining data as "working steps", which is a library of specific operations that might be performed on a CNC machine tool. Now a machine tool can receive STEP-NC data, "understand" what it means, and produce the piece without any more instructions.