Companies, universities collaborate on open standards to help CNC machines, digital manufacturing

The Organization of Machine Automation and Control (OMAC) hosted a two-day industry forum on STandard for Exchange of Product model Data (STEP) for manufacturing, which demonstrated and discussed technologies, projects, and developments by companies and universities. STEP enhancements aim to streamline use of machine tools and digital manufacturing. Savings of 15% to 50% are expected in various stages of the machining lifecycle.

By Chris Vavra March 3, 2015

Open standards in manufacturing are expected to save 15% to 50% in various stages of the machining lifecycle according to the Organization of Machine Automation and Control (OMAC). OMAC hosted a two-day industry forum on STandard for Exchange of Product model Data (STEP) for manufacturing in Orlando, Florida during the 2015 ARC Forum. OMAC is an industry group of end users, technology providers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and academics dedicated to promoting and advocating open standards in manufacturing. According to the Manufacturing Workgroup area of the OMAC site, the goal is to create "flexibility through greater openness and interoperability."

STEP-Manufacturing meets twice per year and is a subcommittee of International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 184/Sub Committee (SC), 4 which is developing an integrated model for the complete product lifecycle. The model is commonly known as STEP, and SC4 has recently released an extension that adds Geometric Dimensions and Tolerances (GD&T) to the previously defined nominal geometry and assembly data.

STEP-Manufacturing is also developing enhancements to STEP to enable digital manufacturing. The standards it manages include:

  • ISO 10303-219 Measurement and Inspection
  • ISO 10303-224 Process Planning and Manufacturing Features
  • ISO 10303-238 Integrated Computerized Numerical Control
  • ISO 10303-21 e3 File format for distributed product models.

Collectively, these standards are known as STEP-Numerical Control (NC), and they enable the direct control of manufacturing machines using digital product, process, and resource data. This helps process solutions to be shared and optimized more easily. When fully deployed, OMAC believes that STEP will lead to a reduction of machining costs by 15% or better through the deployment of more intelligent control applications. OMAC also projects a reduction in process planning costs through developed cloud services by at least 35% and reduced supplier errors through virtual machining by at least 50%.

In the deployment, manufacturing machines will use STEP-NC to define the input, and MTConnect to define the output. 

Upcoming projects

During the meeting, STEP-Manufacturing agreed to continue working on the following projects.

  • The Virtual CMM, which is a coordinate measurement machine that predicts results by measuring machining simulations for conformance to the GD&T of a product model. During the meeting, Mitutoyo America demonstrated a Virtual CMM prototype that measured the results of a STEP-NC machining for conformance to the GD&T defined by an AP242 product model. The company is also going to test the accuracy of its Virtual CMM by measuring virtual and physical results for the circle diamond square (CDS) part.
  • Machining cloud services, which is designed to enable third-party development and optimization of machining solutions.
  • Robot machining. Integration of machining and measurement to enable manufacturing using less rigid devices. 
  • Networked manufacturing. The group agreed to develop new protocols to enable safe, seamless sharing of product model data across the supply chain. 

Other OMAC developments

During the meeting, a number of companies demonstrated their developments and innovations. Among them were:

  • Sandvik Coromant and Iscar Metals showed the automated assembly of highly accurate 3D cutter models from ISO 13399 data. In a related project, Penn State is developing a manufacturing plan so the companies can recommend best-in-class cutters for machining.
  • Vanderbilt University also demonstrated a very fast web viewer for product model data. It was able to reduce the data volume and download times of an XML viewer by a factor of 100 by replacing the XML technology with JSON. In addition, STEP Tools is going to share the source code of its STEP to XML translators with Vanderbilt so that they can build a very fast, Web-based visualization system for product model data.
  • Penn State University is using the results of the DARPA Advanced Vehicle Make (AVM) program to implement a cloud service for NC Generation.
  • STEP-NC output translators exist for CATIA v5 and Mastercam, and one is being developed for NX.
  • STEP Tools Inc. demonstrated an MTConnect interface and showed virtual machining results in Orlando for a part that was being machined in Troy, NY.
  • Makino is developing an interface that may make it possible to track the coordinates of in-process machining jobs to one thousandth of an inch.
  • Boeing and GE are going to test the interoperability of STEP-NC by sharing process model data for an engine bracket on the 737.

The next meeting of STEP-Manufacturing will be in November.

– Edited from meeting notes provided by Sid Venkatesh, associate technical fellow, advanced factory systems, Boeing Research and Technology; Chris Vavra is production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, 


Key concepts

  • OMAC is working with companies and universities on STEP-Manufacturing and encouraging collaboration.
  • STEP-Manufacturing is a subcommittee of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and is developing an integrated model for the complete product lifecycle.
  • Companies and universities often collaborate on STEP developments and innovations.

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Link to related CNC, OMAC, and STEP-NC articles below.

Author Bio: Chris Vavra is senior editor for WTWH Media LLC.