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Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109

Striving for a total integration of CAD, CAPP, CAM and CNC
X.W. Xu*, Q. He
Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Auckland, 20 Symonds Street, Private Bag 92019, Auckland New Zealand Received 14 August 2002; received in revised form 30 June 2003; accepted 7 August 2003

Abstract Over the last 50 years, conventional programming of the numerical controlled (NC) machine tools has been based on a data model stipulated by ISO 6983, or otherwise known as G-codes. It was designed to sequentially pass instructions to the controls of machine tools with little, if any, intelligence. It has been realized that this standard has led to serious impediments for the fulfilment of total CAD/CAM integration. The forthcoming ISO 14649 defines a new interface for exchange of information between CAD/CAM systems and NC machine tools. ISO 14649 is strictly harmonized with ISO 10303 (STEP), hence the name STEP-NC meaning an extended STEP for numerical control. There has been substantial amount of research being carried out concerning STEP-NC, in particular EU and USA; its benefits and potentials are revealing and appealing. The manufacturing industry may have to embrace itself with a revolutionary change even more dramatic than that of introduction of numerical control about half a century ago. r 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: G-code; Numerical control; STEP,STEP-NC,CAD/CAM

1. Introduction Modern manufacturing enterprises are built from facilities spread around the globe, which often contain equipment from different manufacturers. Immense volume of product information must be transferred between the various facilities at different locations. Today’s digital communication technology has solved the problem of reliably transferring information across the global networks. For mechanical parts, the description of product data has been standardized by ISO 10303 (also known as STEP) in form of exchangeable files, application programming interfaces and database implementation. This leads to the possibility of using standard data throughout the entire product process chain in the manufacturing environment. The impediments to realizing this principle are believed to be the data format used at the machine level. Most computer numerical control (CNC) machines are programmed using the ISO 6983 ‘‘G-code’’ language, or otherwise known as RS274D. CNC programs are typically
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +64-9-373-7599; fax: +64-9-3737479. E-mail address: x.xu@auckland.ac.nz (X.W. Xu). 0736-5845/$ - see front matter r 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.rcim.2003.08.003

generated by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) systems that use information from a computer-aided design (CAD) system. The problems occurred to the CNC machines are further magnified due to the indispensable role these CNC machines are playing in the manufacturing world. ISO 14649 is a new standard for data transferring between CAD/CAM systems and CNC machines. It remedies the shortcomings of ISO 6983 by specifying the machining processes rather than machine tool motion by means of ‘‘Workingstep’’, as the basic entity. Workingsteps are effectively machining tasks that correspond to high-level machining features and associated process parameters. The future CNC controllers are responsible for translating Workingsteps, instead of G, M codes, to axis motion and tool operations. A major benefit of using ISO 14649 is its total conformity to ISO 10303. In fact, the standard that ISO 14649 defines is called STEP-NC, namely STEP extended to NC. This paper overviews the STEP-NC standard and the G-code that is to be replaced by STEP-NC. The current research activities are summarized; the benefits, potentials, challenges and opportunities concerning STEP-NC are also discussed.

Socalled turnkey CAD/CAM systems were developed based on this concept and became popular in late 1980s. punches. instead. hence the CNC programs are not exchangeable. ISO 6983 does not support the spline data. Z. It only supports one-way information flow from design to manufacturing. There is limited control of program execution and it is difficult to change the program in the workshop. STEP/ISO 10303 defines the industrial automation systems and integration for product data representation and exchange.W. if not impossible. 4. can be communicated among different users. the Initial Graphics Exchange Standard (IGES) and the Product Description Exchange for Standard (PDES). The CAD data are not used directly on the machine. rather than the machining tasks with respect to the part. but in most cases leaves the semantics ambiguous. It provides a set of basic types that are predefined and available to use in defining higher-level types. S (Spindle Speed). B. Y. The most widely accepted formats have been the Drawing Transfer File (DXF). He / Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109 2. independent of any particular system. Xu. A . it is rooted from a long established international standard— ISO 6983. A graphical form of the language. Miscellaneous commands: M (also called Machine function). only to obtain a set of low-level. as it is critical to all the subsequent activities in the product cycle. the linking between CAD and CAM is made easier. Hence. they have to be processed by a machine-specific post-processor. incomplete data that makes verification and simulation difficult. EXPRESS is general and similar to an object-oriented programming language. Integrating CAD with CAM The basic role of CAD is to precisely define the geometry of a design. which is used to describe some of the application protocols (APs). the interface for neutral (mostly geometric) data exchange between CAD and CAM or two different CAD or CAM systems. Their primary purpose is to exchange geometric data. bends or turns raw stock into a finished part. The later. STEP provides a neutral mechanism by specifying a form capable of describing the entire product data throughout the life cycle of a product. Because of the efficiency in processing. which are summarized underneath. the changes in the shopfloor cannot be directly fed back to the designer. (a) The language focuses on programming the path of the cutter centre location (CL) with respect to the Data Exchange—Exchange product data with consumers and suppliers to improve contracting. and the interface for communications between a CAM system and a CNC machine tool. was also defined in the standard. cuts. Because a 3D model contains enough information for NC cutter-path programming. Nevertheless. Feed and speed commands: F (Feed Rate). not just geometric information. invaluable experiences on the shop-floor can hardly be preserved. Unlike its other predecessors. Q. The big difference between STEP and other data format is that STEP is designed so that virtually all the information pertaining to a product. CAM is the technology concerned with the use of computer systems to plan. a number of problems are found with ISO 6983. C. Vendors usually supplement the language with extensions that are not covered in the limited scope of ISO 6983. One of the earliest developed technologies in the areas of CAM is Numeric Control (NC). (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) machine axes. There are three main reasons for implementing STEP: * 3. Part of STEP (AP11) renders a data description language ‘‘EXPRESS’’. there are two types of interfaces. In an integrated CAD/CAM environment. which makes it incapable of controlling five or more axis milling. Data exchange in CAD/CAM Many data exchange formats have been developed in the past. . The former is now available and generally considered sufficient. T (Cutting Tool). precision in machining and easiness in operating. grinds. CNC machines have been widely used in manufacturing industries all over the world.102 X. Similarly. which is effectively the machine control data (NC part program). Axis motion commands: X. ISO 6983 and the problems According to ISO 6983. Admittedly. which is the technique of using programmed instructions to control a machine that mills. the CNC coding is based on the following stipulations [1]: Preparatory functions: From G0 to G99. Published in 1994. called EXPRESSG. The standard defines the syntax of program statements. presents a weak link in a much-needed integrated CAD/CAM environment. Identification commands: N (Block number). manage and control manufacturing operations through either direct or indirect computer interface with the plant’s production resources so that a design can be materialized.

ISO 14649-10:2003 General process data and ISO 1464911:2003 Process data for milling. ISO 14649-1:2003 provides an introduction and overview of a data model for Computerized Numerical Controllers and explains its advantages and basic principle. turning. On the programming system. ISO 14649-12 for turning). etc. It can be described using this part of ISO 14649 together with the technology-specific parts (ISO 14649-11. The general title for ISO 14649 (STEP-NC) is Data Model for Computerized Numerical Controllers. ISO 14649-11:2003 specifies the technology-specific data elements needed as process data for milling. Q. 1 depicts the relationships among the various APs in ISO 10303 STEP [2]. This programme includes geometric and technological information. ISO 14649-10:2003 provides the control structures for the sequence of programme execution. Note that . AP-238 is considered as a replacement for both RS274D and IGES. STEP-NC and the benefits Within several research projects. which are referenced from ISO 10303’s generic resources. Fig. 1.). Fig. STEP-NC supports a bi-directional information transfer between CAD/CAM and NC. is the definition of technology-specific data types representing the machining process for milling and drilling. It includes the definition of the workpiece. ISO 14649-10:2003 cannot stand alone.g. Comparison of ISO 6983 and ISO 14649 [4]. or lathes with motorized tools capable of milling. mainly the sequence of working steps and associated machine functions. grinding and wood & glass processing. a feature catalogue containing features which might be referenced by several technologies. Additional parts will follow to describe schemas for other manufacturing processes such as turning. it describes the interface between a computerized numerical controller and the programming system for milling. The ‘‘machining schema’’ defined in ISO 14649-10:2003 contains the definition of data types which are generally relevant for different technologies (e. AP238—STEP integrated version of STEP-NC. milling. which are defined in separate parts of ISO 14649. STEP-NC was introduced to an ISO Working Group in 1997 as a Draft International Standard (DIS) called ISO 14649 by ISO Technical Committee TC184/ Subcommittee SC1.X. and AP-238 (ISO 10303) can be the technical definition. industries and academic institutes from around the world have been developing STEP-NC. It can be used for milling operations on all types of machines. and Internet Collaboration—Product data can be easily accessed via Internet. The first ISO 14649 publications are. This includes both milling of freeform surfaces as well as milling of prismatic workpieces (also known as 2D-milling). ogy-specific part (e. These data elements describe the interface between a computerized numerical controller and the programming system (i. which is described in ISO 14649-11:2003. AP-238 Integrated CNC 5. and the technology-specific definitions. be they milling machines. Not included in this schema are geometric items and representations. Both feature description and the model structures in ISO 14649 are harmonized with ISO 10303 [3]. Fig. ISO 14649-11 for milling. 2. grinding).e. ISO 146491:2003 Overview and fundamental principles. EDM. CAM system or shop-floor programming system). He / Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109 * 103 * Data Sharing—Store product data in a standard database for use by external and internal supply chains. 2 shows the comparison of ISO 6983 (G-code) and ISO 14649 (STEP-NC) [4].W. ISO 14649-10:2003 specifies the process data which is generally needed for NCprogramming within all machining technologies. machining centres. As a new NC-programming interface. based on the concepts of Product Data. Together with the general process data described in ISO 14649-10. An implementation needs in addition at least one technol- Fig. the programme for the numerical controller is created.g. the general executables and the basis for an operation definition. Xu. Subject of the milling schema.

There are three types of executables: Workingstep. (e) Machine tools are safer and more adaptable because STEP-NC is independent from the machine tool vendor. and geometry description. instead of direct coding of sequences of axis motions and tool functions as per defined in ISO 6983. The data generated from CAD/CAM systems or graphical user interfaces is normally processed automatically with computers. This section contains all the information about manufacturing tasks and geometries. Xu. This instance should contain a main workplan that contains sequenced subsets of executables (executable manufacturing tasks or commands) and may also include information of workpiece to be machined [8. The Data Model is a layer that provides a standard interface between the controller interpreter and the different sources of data supplied. The contents of the data section are further divided into three parts: workplan and executables. Workplan/executables and Geometric description. D e s c r ip tio n o f th e te c h n o lo g ic a l d a ta : w o r k in g s te p s . author.g.W. The executable is the base entity of all executable objects. STEP-NC describes ‘‘WHAT’’ to make. STEP-NC describes tasks (pre-drilling. The program format follows the same format for STEP as described in a Physical File Format (ISO 10303 Part 21). technology descriptions. a direct exchange of information between CAD/CAM and NC can be realized. (b) There will be significant reduction in number of drawings sent from CAD to CAM. . so feature definitions. A multitude of benefits of using STEP-NC have been recognized [5–7]: (a) Because the tasks are easier to define. The data can be generated by a CAD/CAM system. The second and main section of the program file is the data section marked by the keyword ‘‘DATA’’. As shown in Fig. modifications at the shop-floor can be saved and transferred back to the planning department that enables a better exchange and preservation of experience and knowledge. to o ls . The project entity serves as a starting point for executing the part program. Each part program must include an instance of this entity in a ‘‘DATA’’ section of an ISO 10303 Part 21 file. te c h n o lo g ie s references A A W oor r k pla nn W k p la aanndd E xx ecc ut a bble ss E e u ta le E x e c u tio n o f th e s e q u e n c e d ta s k s B B T eecchhnnoolo ggyy T lo ddeess c r ipt io nn c r ip t io C C G eeoom eet r r y G m ty ddeess c r ipt io nn c r ip tio D e s c r ip tio n o f th e g e o m e try U s e r a c c e s s e s s y s te m u s in g g ra p h ic in te r fa c e (s h o p flo o r p r o g r a m m in g ) Fig. i. where axis motions and machine functionality are generated. Structure of the object oriented Data Model [4]. (g) Modification at the shop-floor can be saved and fed back to the design department hence bi-directional information flow from CAD/CAM to NC is achieved. (h) XML files can be used for information transfer hence enable Web based manufacturing or e-manufacturing. The first section of the part program is the header section marked by the keyword ‘‘HEADER’’. technology description. part of libraries and/ or graphic user interface. (d) Post-processors will be eliminated because the interface does not require machine-specific information.) so that the part program supplies the shop-floor with higher-level information. steps and pockets are the examples of the features defined in STEP-NC. so that no information is lost between the different stages of the process. readability and completeness have been given higher priority than compressed coding. As a result. while G-code and M-code describe ‘‘HOW’’ to make. as STEP-NC data is self-documenting. Q. (c) Machining time for small to medium sized job lots can be reduced because intelligent optimization can be built into the CNC controller.9]. date and organization. some general information and comments concerning the part program are given. STEP-NC data model and data format The fundamental principle of the STEP-NC Data Model is the object-oriented view of programming in terms of manufacturing features. the information about machining tasks and technological data on top of pure geometrical and topological information. The objects in this case are manufacturing features and their associated process data. e. etc. linked with geometric and technological information.104 X. finishing. As geometry of raw piece and finished parts are both described using the STEP syntax. drilling. He / Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109 holes. 2. 3. In this header. Extra Information in STEP-NC includes a Project entity.e. The interpreted data are supplied to the CNC kernel. Fig. (f) STEP-NC provides a complete and structured data model. This new model can accept data from several sources. roughing. NC function and H ee a dee r ss e c t oo n H a d r e c tii n G eenneer r al l in f oor r maat io nn a in f m t io G D aa t a ss e c t oo n D ta e c tii n P r r oje cc t P o je t 6. 3 shows the relationship among these significant parts of an ISO 14649 data set. significant reduction in CAM planning time and data preparation can be achieved. filename.

FILE DESCRIPTION((‘A STEP-NC testing file’).000. #8=BLOCK(‘Block’. #20=DIRECTION(‘‘.#6. Tooling information including tool type. #44=AXIS2 PLACEMENT 3D(‘Reference point to Machine zero. HEADER. // Machining technology #43=MILLING TECHNOLOGY($.5.#13. controls. #19=CARTESIAN POINT(‘Position of contour’.#39.$).).30.#21). all geometrical data for workpiece.’Steel’.0. operational and process sequence data.$.. #23=COMPOSITE CURVE(‘Contour Profile’.. He / Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109 geometry workpiece S[0:?] 105 workplan L[0:?] geometry machining_feature machining_workingstep 1 pocket plane hole region S[0:?] machining_operation 1 side_milling plane_milling geometry drilling L[0:?] tool technology strategy toolpath 1 cutter_contact_trajectory cutter_location_trajectory parameterised_path Fig.F.#57).(‘‘). END-ISO-10303-21.$.RIGHT.’’).$).#3.210.$.#48.0.TCP.3.000). (40. // Project and workplan #1=PROJECT(‘Contour’.$. // Geometric data #9=AXIS2 PLACEMENT 3D (‘BLOCK’.$.$. is also included in a STEP-NC file.(#17).000.. Partners from four regions are invited to participate in the project: EU.()).(#7)).10.000). #18=AXIS2 PLACEMENT 3D(‘Position of contour’.#2. Xu.#5). (#24.(20..000. #45=CARTESIAN POINT(‘‘. A system that cannot process technological information but can display or manipulate geometry. The exert from a STEP-NC file is shown as follows: ISO-10303-21.#32.50.$.F.$.$.#17).3.W.000.000)).$.(#3)). They covered the manufacturers of all systems related to the data interface (CAM-systems. FILE NAME(‘sample part1.#22.(50.$.. yyyy // Manufacturing features #16=GENERAL OUTSIDE PROFILE (‘Profile’. 4 shows part of the internal structure of STEP-NC data. #6=MATERIAL(‘ST-50’. In STEPNC. tool geometry and expected tool life. yyyy // Tool data #40=CUTTING TOOL(‘Endmill 10 mm’.000.000.$.F. Current research with STEP-NC The global research in the areas of STEP-NC has been primarily coordinated under a single IMS (Intelligent Manufacturing System) project that effectively entails an international package of actions. the users and academic institutions.#46.#40.10.F.#47).$. // Operation data #17=SIDE ROUGH MILLING($. ’Prototype Mill’.#56).000). ENDSEC.#20.0.90. #22=TOLERANCED LENGTH MEASURE(20..01..’Contour profile’. #2=WORKPLAN(‘Work plan’. as in a CAD system.$. 7. #3=WORKPIECE(‘Workpiece’.stp’. etc.).0)).#8. Switzerland and USA. 4.$).1.000..#31.(#4).. The regional coordinators are .X.#41. Korea.$. By strictly separating geometrical. #57=POLYLINE(‘Second cut of the contour’.000)).#23. ENDSEC. #19.$.().$. set-ups and manufacturing features are described based on ISO 10303 parts 21 and 42/43.260. Q.. // Working steps #4=MACHINING WORKINGSTEP(‘Rough Contour’. #21=DIRECTION(‘‘. and machine tools).#11.000.(0.0.0.#10.0)).’1’).20..$.$)..000).#12).#25.0.$. technology and process information in STEP-NC [4].#16. #7=PROPERTY PARAMETER (‘E=200000 N/mm^2’). Table 1 shows the participants and the distribution of the technological scope within the proposed project.#18. yyyy #56=COMPOSITE CURVE SEGMENT (..’’.0. #42=TOOL DIMENSION(10.(‘AUMS’).(1.100.(#51)).#43.10.$.$. This data is also used directly by the CNC machines to avoid conversions between different data formats that may result in reduced accuracy... Fig.#38. #41=TAPERED ENDMILL(#42. 0. (#29.0.T.#33. thus might easily use the STEP-NC program file for data input or output.110.#9.0. #5=SETUP(‘main setup’. DATA.$.#30. the information access and storage are simplified and exchange between highly specified modules becomes possible. FILE SCHEMA((‘STEP-NC milling schema’)).000.#44.3333.#27)).$.CONTINUOUS.000. Geometry.000.#45. The workplan combines several executables in a linear order or depending on given conditions if conditional controls are used. program structure.T.

Europe The European ESPRIT STEP-NC project started on January 1st 1999 and ended on December 31st 2001. etc.and M-codes passed to the machine. Daimler Chrysler and Volvo. As there are no more simple G. a Siemens’ shop-floor oriented NC programming tool. Xu. Q. control (Siemens. late changes in technology. used this prototype to gain experience with the new NC programming interface. The most active research activities are found among the partners in the EU regions.W. Open Mind). The prototype for milling was realized by the European STEP-NC consortium in October 2001 in Aachen. General Motors. All these changes were visualized and simulated in ShopMill directly at the machine tool and stored back into the STEP-NC file to ensure there is no loss of information. machine tools (CMS) and end-users (Daimler Chrysler. Especially during the first test period some late changes in program sequence and optimization of technology had to be done. although substantial amount of pioneering research commenced as early as mid-1990s. This program file was then passed to the shop-floor. STEP Tools (USA) and ERC-ACI (Korea). Open Mind and Dassault Systems. SC1 has started . The prototype is based on commercial systems from Siemens. 7.1. all commencing with a milling scenario. Siemens is also the inter-regional coordinator. Turning. Germany.106 X.) Machine tool manufacturer Control manufacturer * CMS (Italy) Siemensà OSAI (Italy) Fidia Open Mind Dassault * * AGIE Starrag * * * CAM manufacturer * * * CADCAMationà * Cubictek * * * * Research institute * * * Association * WZL (RWTH AACHEN) ISW (University of Stuttgart) KTH CECIMO (Belgium) * * EPFL EIG I-tech * * * ERC-ACIà KIST NRL-SNT * * * AMT * * * STEP Tools Gibbs & Associate BA Solutions Numerical Control Services Louisiana Centre for Manufacturing Sciences Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories NIST Department of Energy Army’s National Automotive Centre (NAC) Siemens (EU). USA and Korea. participating as endusers in the STEP-NC project. He / Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109 Table 1 The IMS STEP-NC project partners Region Technologies covered EU Milling Contour cutting. CADCAMation (Switzerland). OSAI). The CAM modules from Open Mind (HyperFact) and Dassault System (Catia V5) generated the STEP-NC programs including high-level CAD geometry data. operation data and sequencing information. where a Siemens Sinumeric 840D control and ShopMill. Twenty industrial and academic partners with rich experience in the fields of CAD/CAM (Dassault. & Inspection End-user * * * * Switzerland Korea USA Wire/Sink EDM * * Rapid Prototyping * AIM for Milling & Turning * * * * * Daimler Chrysler Volvo Franci (Italy) Progetti Derendinger Wyss Samsung IRB(including Boeing Lockheed Martin General Electric General Dynamics. Volvo) in Europe joined the project. program sequence or even geometry can be easily realized and processed without the need of timeconsuming post-processor runs and iterations in the planning department. The current work within the European project is the installation of a milling-scenario on machine tools with different kinematics and abilities. were adapted to process the programs.

2. and visually verified using GibbsCAM’s Cut Part Rendering capability. The part was then programmed using GibbsCAM’s graphical user interface. Soon there will be an integrated infrastructure for manufacturing that allows multiple machines at multiple sites to make parts using many different processes. The first scenario used BA Solutions’ GibbsCAM STEP Translator to read in the demonstration part in STEP AP203 format. Gibbs and Associates. Korea Ministry of Science and Technology in Korea has established the National Research Laboratory for STEP-NC Technology (NRL-SNT) in a close conjunction with the CAM Lab in the Department of Industrial and Production Engineering. technology and tool description) into ASNC internal data format which is then processed in the form of a ‘Process Sequence Graph’ (PSG). using GibbsCAM’s Developer’s Toolkit (DTK) application programming interface (API) and their library of STEP processing utilities. The demonstration consisted of three scenarios that progressively showed capabilities realized through the utilization of the new advanced technologies. the STEP-NC Adaptor created GibbsCAM tooling. which contained all the information needed to manufacture the part along with its geometry. Code Interpreter. Pohang University of Science and Technology.. (3) Interface module: (4) Control module: The Interpreter converts ISO 14649 information (e.3. task description. General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS). PSG is a graphical representation of the sequence of workingsteps described in terms of the machining features and machining operations using AND-OR relationship. Daimler-Chrysler. Graph System. an AP238 data file provided all the manufacturing information enabling GibbsCAM to generate toolpath data. Professor Hwan’s team proposed a conceptual framework of Autonomous STEP-Compliant CNC (ASNC). process and geometry elements and executed GibbsCAM functions to generate toolpath corresponding to the AP238 manufacturing features.and M-code CNC output. This scenario represented conventional solids-based manufacturing as enabled by STEP AP203. It is a $3 M project funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The toolpath data was then sent to the OMAC controller on a LCMS’ KT600 horizontal milling centre through a stroke-level inter-process communication rather than an ASCII file of conventional RS274D G. Using the tooling and operation parameters specified in the AP238 file. etc. and a team of subcontractors as a ATP (Advanced Technology Program) program in October 1999.and M-codes. OS. Setup Manager. This scenario demonstrated the ability of the OMAC API to allow a higher level of CAM/CNC integration than what is normally realized through an RS274D format.W. For the third scenario.X. As in the second scenario. Task Scheduler. On-line Inspector CORBA. In the second scenario. machining centres and rapid prototyping. 7. The goal is to build a database that contains all the information required to make a part. Tool Path Generator. The AP238 file was downloaded from the Internet and read into a GibbsCAM STEP-NC Adaptor plug-in. Database MMI (Man Machine Interface). Communication System. After realizing that ISO 14649 is not an easy task by manual programming. Q. Xu. General Motors. The Industrial Review Board (IRB) includes representatives from organizations such as Boeing. Inc. 7. GibbsCAM was used to post-process the data to generate conventional RS274D G. He / Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109 107 working on operations for measuring machines. Gibbs and Associates and the Department of Energy. Lockheed Martin. USA ‘‘Super Model Project’’ is a name for the Model Driven Intelligent Control of Manufacturing project awarded to STEP Tools. General Electric. ASNC takes ISO 14649 as input and controls the machining tasks intelligently and autonomously [10]. a CAM software developer. geometry. and NC Kernel (NCK)/PLC. orchestrated a STEP-NC/OMAC demonstration at General Dynamics Land Systems’ Scranton manufacturing facility in August 2001. the Super Model Project joined the Korean projects in the international IMS STEP-NC project. The AP238 data facilitated GibbsCAM to generate the complete toolpath without any operator intervention. The architecture of the ASNC is composed of four modules: (1) Basic modules: (2) Functional modules: System Configuration. An MDSI Open CNC controller that had been retrofitted to a Bridgeport vertical milling machine was the platform on which the GibbsCAM and STEP-NC software ran for the second scenario. The interpreter also transforms manufacturing parameters for each workingstep into an internal database to be accessed by the Scheduler and . This scenario demonstrated the ability of STEP-NC to completely automate CAM processing and toolpath generation. Since late 2001.g. which was developed by STEP Tools Inc. STEP-NC capability was demonstrated using an AP238 file. Operation Monitor. GibbsCAM was integrated with an Open Modular Architecture Controller (OMAC) machine tool controller using OMACs API and the GibbsCAM DTK API.

ST-Repository. or otherwise known as ‘‘plug-ins’’. also suggested that ISO 14649 should also be able to accommodate a nonlinear process sequence scheme instead of fixed sequence to provide the STEP-compliant CNC with room for flexibility and optimization. Opportunities with STEP-NC STEP-NC also offers ample opportunities for different parties. Executor and Monitor. Q. 9. opportunities also exist. the tool path segment for the unit feature is retrieved and converted to NC-code for execution by the NC kernel (NCK). the converted NC codes are stored in an NC code database. turning. It is worth noting that in June 2003 STEP Tools Inc. Challenges for STEP-NC Challenges are inevitable and abundant. The entire machining operation is under continuous surveillance by the Monitor. (b) updates PSG based on the report from the Tool Path Generator..g. and save time for experts. By pulling a unit tool path from the tool path database and converting into NC-codes. Some of these challenges are summarized as follows: * More easy-to-use and affordable software tools for creating.e. can easily extend their competitive edge in today’s much globalized world economy. The Tool Path Generator generates the tool path for the node specified by the Scheduler based on ISO 14649 information. In order to automate the machining processes and achieve maximum productivity. These opportunities. etc. jigs and fixtures. 8. Even more so is the development of capable CAM functionalities that are imbedded in the new CNC controller. lower the learning curve for newcomers. The primary function of these types of software tools is that of feature recognition. spindle. tool magazine. all the machining facilities have to be electronically available and searchable. One of the new items introduced to the project in 2003 is inspection. The 10. * * * * * STIX Library is distributed under the GNU General Public License. EDM and other STEP-NC supported processes need to be developed and standardized. e.g. ST-XML and ST-ACIS developed by STEP Tools Inc. and (c) reports the current status of machining task being executed upon requests from the external functions. In a similar manner. given the long history of industry using the ISO 6983 standard and the millions of CNC machine tools that employ this standard. has launched a STEP Index Library for AP-238. This is believed to be the forerunner of the STEP-NC’s commercialization mission. The verified tool and tool path are stored in the tool path database for execution. with which machining optimization can be achieved. ASNC executes the tool path in the order of unit features instead of line after line CNC code (Gcode). companies who grab the opportunities will surely excel. Resistance can be expected from the manufacturing industry for the reason that ISO 6983 has deeply rooted in both people’s minds and machinery’s structure. Those who venture into investing and supplying machine tools with STEP-NC enabled CNC controllers will certainly put them in an advantageous position in the market. The Executor executes the tool path for the unit feature. STIX. editing. and EGE (EXPRESS Graphical Editor) and EDM (EXPRESS Data Manager) developed by ProSTEP GmbH. These facilities may include the machine tools themselves. the databases for milling. STIX is a C++ library of functions for STEP-NC AP-238 machining data. Each time. i. Software vendors can invest in and develop STEPNC translators. For instance. Security issues have to be sufficiently addressed when transmitting STEP-NC via Internet or LAN to enable e-manufacturing. The Scheduler (a) determines the next working step to be executed. interpreting and presenting STEPNC files need to be developed. pallets. the manufacturing firms who have successfully implemented STEP in their Product Data Management system and e-manufacturing/e-business. much of the work related to STEP-NC across Europe.e. Since 2002. will be transformed into threats. ST-Viewer. Xu.108 X. Conversely. Similar tools for STEP standards have been available. ATC. machine table. cutters. As STEP-NC is gradually implemented on the CNC machines. Korea and USA has been largely coordinated under the international IMS STEP-NC Project (2002-2004). For the machine tool manufacturers. for the major CAD/CAM systems. The NC code is pulled by NCK and executed by driving the hardware unit (e. this applies to CNC controller manufacturers.W. ST-Developer. Suh et al. Conclusions CNC programming following ISO 6983 standard has made sizable impact on manufacturing industry in a . APC and coolant). should they be missed. Development of intelligent STEP-NC controllers poses a big challenge. He / Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109 Tool Path Generator. embodiment of AP203 files to achieve AP224 and eventually AP238 files. CAM and even CAD/CAM vendors can increase their competitiveness by adding STEP-NC compliant software to their product. The goal is to simplify AP-238 programming. i.

STEP-NC + Status of Standardisa. Wolf J. P. NC—Controllers. J Wolf and . In the vision that is soon emerging. ISO TC 184/SC 1. May 23. With STEPNC. STEP-NC—The STEP compliant NC programming interface. WZL RWTH-Aachen. With the development and implementation of STEPNC. Germany for their provision of the ISO 14649 (DIS).15(2):168–77. Kiritsis D. CAM and NC data can be stored in a single database. References [1] ISO 6983-1 Numeric control of machines—Program format and definition of address words—Part 1: Data format for positioning. 2003. August 28–30. March 3. October 2001. ISO TC 184/SC 1. [9] ISO 14649-11:2003 Industrial automation systems and integration—Physical device control—Data model for computerized numerical controllers—Part 11: Process data for milling. The ISO standard 14649 defines a new interface for a more effective. 2001.stepnc. to which each CAx system or NC controller can have access for information retrieval. He / Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing 20 (2004) 101–109 109 drive to achieve more efficient and accurate production as compared to the conventional machine tools. fully compatible with the widely disseminated STEP standard (ISO 10303). ISO TC 184/SC 1. It is of a feature-based. September 2001.W. modern graphical visualization and modification of a complex NC programme at the shop-floor level. AIAG. containing all the relevant information to realize an intelligent and productive production. This is a consistent STEP-NC data set. Ascona. objectoriented structure. [3] ISO 14649-1:2003 Industrial automation systems and integration—Physical device control—Data model for computerized numerical controllers—Part 1: Overview and fundamental principles. alteration and appending.X. [10] Suk S-H. 2001 IMS Project Forum. bi-directional information exchange between CAD/CAM systems and NC controllers. Professor M Weck. May 23. Hong H-D. [2] Hardwick. [5] Muller. On the architecture of intelligent STEP-compliant CNC. a [7] Scarcelli A. November 2000. line motion and contouring control systems. all CAD. Monte Verit" Conference Resort. USA. Digital manufacturing using STEP-NC. 1982. Its linear and circular movement instructions in a rigid sequential manner are not sufficient to support more flexible and complex machine functionalities. http://www. Prototype implementation of STEP-NC in CATIA V5. [6] Weck M. September 2001 [8] ISO 14649-10:2003 Industrial automation systems and integration—Physical device control—Data model for computerized numerical controllers—Part 10: General process data. However. Issue 3. tion ISO 14649. such a part programme only contains a small subset of the information that is available in any CAD/ CAM environment. EMO Hannover.org/. AUTOTECH 2001 Conference & Exhibition. Detroit’s Cobo Centre. Xu. the STEP-NC sample files and the most generous advice and comments on issues concerning STEP-NC. M. It is the re-shaping of manufacturing. 2003. Int J Comput Integrated Manuf 2002. Q. what is happening is not simply the re-shaping of CNC. [4] STEP-NC Newsletter. Switzerland. Acknowledgements The authors wish to acknowledge the kind assistance of the following people in this work: Mr. 2003. EMO Hannover. Cho J-H. the CNC machine tool will be playing a more important role than ever.