Multi-Axis Machining at JPL and NIST

JPL Pasadena, CA.

On January 29-30, 2003, STEP Tools Inc. held its 6th Industrial Review Board (IRB) Meeting at the 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. JPL is testing the new technology as a participant in the STEP-NC Phase One Implementers program.

multi-axis machining STEP Tools and JPL rapidly converted AP203 (STEP) models into AP238 (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 feature recognition and STEP-NC Machine can enable the manufacturing process by managing and automating machining and planning operations.

NIST Gaithersburg, MD. The next STEP-NC demonstration was held at NIST in Gaithersburg, MD, on June 4-5, 2003. For the first time, the STEP-NC demonstration focused on a complex surface model provided by Boeing that was milled on a 5-axis CNC machine tool. STEP Tools and NIST will show the rapid conversion of AP-203 (STEP) models into AP-238 (STEP-NC) CNC-independent control data containing tolerances. Also, for the first time, a STEP-NC Machine plug-in for MasterCam software (CNC Software, Tolland, CT) was featured to generate toolpaths and output CNC code. STEP Tools also demonstrated a STEP-NC Machine plug-in for GibbsCAM software (Gibbs and Associates, Moorpark, CA).

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

Some materials from the IRB Meeting at JPL: