Troy, New York - June 9, 2003 - STEP Tools, Inc. announced today the results of its STEP-NC technology meeting cohosted with NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) last week at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, MD. Members of the STEP-NC Industrial Review Board and attendees from major U.S. manufacturers, machine tool companies, and software developers observed a series of "firsts" in the progression of STEP-NC demonstrated at NIST's Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory (MEL). NIST is a pilot member of the STEP-NC Implementers program. STEP Tools spearheads the development of STEP-NC effort in North America, and is a highly visible participant in the global STEP community of over 200 independent product data specialists. Dr. Martin Hardwick, president and CEO of STEP Tools, is the international team leader of the STEP Manufacturing group.
The most significant advancement presented at the event was the process of integrating complex surface models into STEP-NC (AP-238) CNC-independent control data. The full fidelity data was successfully used to machinea demonstration part constructed by Boeing Defense on a multi-axis CNC machine tool. The purpose of the demonstration was to show OEMs they can send the definition of a surface model to their suppliers as a part of the STEP-NC file, and in turn, the supplier can evaluate a full fidelity description of the surface on the CNC machine tool. The benefits are twofold: 1) much greater production accuracy because of the elimination of approximations, and 2) a vastly reduced data volume, because a surface's functional STEP-NC definition is very small as compared to megabytes of outmoded G & M codes.
Also debuting at the demonstration was a STEP-NC plug-in for Mastercam software (CNC Software, Tolland, CT), which was used for toolpath generation. For the first time, STEP Tools presented the definition of GD&T tolerancing in STEP-NC using their Planning software. The audience was given a tour of the new STEP Index Library, a C++/COM library of useful functions for creating and modifying applications using STEP-NC (AP-238) machining data. The software solution was created by STEP Tools to simplify and expedite AP-238 programming, lower the learning curve for newcomers, and saving time for STEP experts.
The STEP-NC team also previewed a probing application with NIST. This demonstration will be followed by subsequent meetings for input to fuel further development in this area of manufacturing.
The meeting concluded with a look to the future, and an emphasis on STEP-NC's overall theme of data integration from design through manufacturing. STEP-NC is in the final stages of development. The STEP community is working hard to finalize the standards with a last call to industry for enhancements before it becomes a draft standard. This highly anticipated technology is expected to eliminate some of the most troublesome bottlenecks to manufacturing productivity - cumbersome post processors, antiquated G & M codes, data redundancies, multiple CAD files, and more. The international standard is expected to usher in a new era of manufacturing automation in terms of productivity, safety, reliability, and CNC machine tool usability and interoperability.