STEP is commonly used in
industry to share 3-D CAD model
geometry with organizations using
different CAD software with different proprietary data formats. Thus,
STEP is commonly used to move
data between CAD systems (
CAD-to-CAD) in a neutral data format.
More importantly, STEP is also used
as the basis for downstream processes, such as inspection, manufacturing, and assembly. These uses are
significantly improved by the release
of the new standard.
The full title of this new STEP
application protocol standard is ISO
10303—Industrial Automation Systems and Integration—Product Data
Representation and Exchange—Part
242: Application Protocol: Managed
Model-Based 3D Engineering. It’s
often abbreviated to AP242.
From my perspective, the biggest
benefit that AP242 offers to industry
is the promise of neutral 3-D seman-
tic data models of parts and their
product and manufacturing informa-
tion (PMI). So now, in addition to
the geometry, all that PMI will be
available in downstream processes.
AP242 offers the promise of true
data interoperability in a neutral
format. It’s the next step in the
transformation of business from the
old 2-D drawing world that started
with the Industrial Revolution to
the semantic 3-D data world where
we’re heading. Semantic models of
3-D product definition data and the
resulting increase in productivity are
where the promise of computerization leads. It’s a natural progression.
Semantic means the data is correctly modeled, structured, and
formatted in a predictable manner
properly associated to the applicable
3-D geometric data.
Interactive, semantic 3-D datasets
are superior to 2-D product defini-
tion data in many ways. The query
and graphical response capabilities
as well as the capability to rotate and
zoom in 3-D systems are key reasons
to move away from 2-D drawings.
Also, much more information can
be conveyed in 3-D and the information is presented more naturally and
is easier to understand. Static, 2-D
media like drawings can’t provide
the same interactivity and ability to
group, filter, and drill down into data
that 3-D systems can.
The STEP AP242 standard lies at
the convergence of many technological improvements. With the ubiquity
of laptops, tablets, and other portable
viewing tools, more of the workforce
can and should have access to these
interactive datasets. And with ever
more powerful data management
systems, datasets can be structured
to encompass more of the product
lifecycle and remain relevant longer.
A geometric tolerance is queried using the IDA-STEP GD&T editor. Selecting the profile of a surface tolerance causes the
associated surface to highlight in response. “Query,” in this context, means to obtain information from the model, which
includes geometry, product and manufacturing information, attribute data, metadata, and the like. Note that the related
semantic PMI entities are also highlighted in the GD&T view list.