STEP Tools' 6th Industrial Review Board Meeting at JPL Concludes with Another Milestone in STEP-NC Progression and Industry Participation

Troy, New York - February 10, 2003 - STEP Tools, Inc. announced today the results of its 6th Industrial Review Board (IRB) held last week at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. STEP Tools worked with JPL to demonstrate the machining of a part using full fidelity STEP-NC product data as direct input to a multi-axis CNC milling machine. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a participant in the STEP-NC Phase One Implementers program and is testing the new technology. STEP Tools leads 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.

The most important results of JPL benchmarking were the following interval measurements comparing new versus old manufacturing processes. On the JPL shop floor, the demonstration was performed on a Fadal 5-axis machine tool. The old method used an AP-203 file (STEP) and the new method used an AP-238 (STEP-NC) file. The machining time for the STEP-NC method was slower at this point, but this interval will continue to decline as the IRB team and STEP Tools continue to compile and optimize STEP-NC control files.

Manufacturing Tasks Old Methodology STEP-NC Method
Programming 105 minutes 12 minutes
Setup 90 minutes 90 minutes
Machining 16.5 minutes 23 minutes

STEP Tools and JPL rapidly converted AP-203 (STEP) models into AP-238 (STEP-NC) CNC-independent control data with tolerances using JPL Crib sheets, and presented an automated set-up wizard for defining setup and fixtures. The ultimate goal of the STEP-NC initiative is to serve as direct input to a CNC machine tool, thus eliminating post processors, G & M codes, data redundancy, multiple CAD files, and more. During the demonstration, STEP Tools also showed how to enable the manufacturing process by managing and automating machining and planning operations. The tool used to convert design data to CNC-independent control data is now available for further testing by Phase One Implementers (POI) and those interested in becoming members.

As the meeting concluded, it became apparent that many IRB members feel micromachining is clearly one of the optimum applications for STEP-NC technology. Automatic machining, smart computing, and simulation based on STEP-NC will greatly support this application where miniscule features and geometric entities can not monitored by CNC operators during the production process. STEP-NC is expected to forge a new era for manufacturing in terms of productivity, safety, reliability, and CNC machine tool usability and interoperability.

The next STEP-NC demonstration will be held at the NIST meeting at Gaithersburg, MD, on June 4 and 5, 2003. Using a NIST CNC machine tool, a General Dynamic Land Systems part or a Brooks-PRI part will be machined and benchmarked in real time. The part will contain five-axis surfaces. STEP (Standard for Product Data Exchange) is a comprehensive ISO standard for CAD design data. STEP-NC, the manufacturing extension of this international standard, annotates the design information with manufacturing data. STEP became a full ISO standard in 1994. STEP-NC is on its way to becoming a Draft International Standard this year.