The STEP Standard - ISO 10303

Future of STEP

Despite the many successes of STEP there is still a question in users minds about the speed of its development and deployment [5]. Many critics point out correctly that the XML standards for e-commerce are being developed much more quickly.

Fundamentally, product model data is different to other kinds of e-commerce data such as invoices, receipts, etc. The traditional method for communicating product model information is to make a drawing and the traditional method to communicate an invoice is to make a form. When you make a drawing or 3D model you need to define information with many subtle and complex relationships and this makes the STEP data exchange problem more difficult.

An XML data format is being developed for STEP but the STEP architecture requires the information requirements of an Application Protocol to be mapped into the common set of Integrated Resources. This allows all of the protocols to share the same information and is essential if all of the interfaces shown in Fig. 4 are going to share and reuse the same set of data. However, the sharing necessarily divides the original data into multiple entities that are not so easy to understand in XML or any other format. This is disappointing because one of the attractions of XML is that is self-documenting (at least for programmers and domain experts). Therefore, a new level of documentation is required in the STEP data to show how the information requirements have been mapped. The required structures are currently in development and it is anticipated that STEP will have a self-documenting XML format in the near future [5].

The real issue that stops faster STEP deployment is the commitment of those with the resources necessary to define the standards. The government does not like to pick solutions for industry, and industry does not like to fund the development of solutions that can also be used by their competitors. Consequently, much work only gets funded in situations of clear and desperate need such as when the high cost of manufacturing is causing excessive job losses.

The Internet and the World Wide Web broke through this cycle when "killer" applications made the benefits of the new infrastructure clear and compelling for all users. AP203 made STEP useful by allowing solid models to be exchanged between design systems. AP238 will make STEP compelling for some users by allowing them to machine parts more efficiently. However, like the early Internet there will be alternatives that are considered more reliable by other users. The killer application that makes STEP ubiquitous has yet to be identified.

DONE: Back to the Library

[5] M. Hardwick, "On STEP-NC and the complexities of product data integration", ACM/ASME Transactions on Computing and Information Science in Engineering", Vol.4, No1, March 2004