AP242 – Why the convergence

The competitive nature of the global marketplace has forced manufacturers to reduce expenses and become as responsive as possible to changing market requirements.  Successful design and manufacturing enterprises and their supply chain partners must invest in the latest model based development and product lifecycle management solutions in order to remain competitive. Model based development and product lifecycle management include a wide variety of functions that must share data. If these functions are provided by tools from the same software vendor, then system integration is achieved by virtue of a single common data exchange framework defined by that vendor.  Complete coverage of all functions desired in an enterprise is rarely achieved by a single vendor, however, is difficult to maintain over time, and customers became dependent from that vendor.
Companies today design, manufacture, and provide support for their products as part of a global, distributed enterprise. Acquisitions, mergers, preferred supplier relationships, and a desire to use best-in-class solutions result in a disparate set of software applications rather than a monolithic solution. Large OEMs initially tried to deal with supply chain integration issues by insisting that all their suppliers use specific software solutions.  This approach to integration limits the suppliers’ freedom to use tools that are most efficient for their business and adds cost as suppliers must maintain different systems for each customer.

A successful approach to support new capabilities and control costs is to implement data exchange standards that allow companies to integrate all phases of the product lifecycle using the most cost effective solutions regardless of the solutions adopted by other parts of the enterprise. Low cost CAD systems, viewers, and 3rd party engineering analysis and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) systems make it possible for even small companies to compete in a high technology environment on a cost competitive basis.

The STEP standard focuses on product data representation to support CAD/CAE and PDM data exchange, system integration, visualization, and long term preservation of product information. The automotive and aerospace industry in the US and Europe helped establish organizations to ensure the overall consistency of CAD and PDM information interoperability specifications. Two STEP standards that are widely implemented are AP203 maintained by PDES, Inc. and AP214 maintained by ProSTEP iViP and SASIG. AP203 is primarily supported by the aerospace and defense industry.  AP214 is used primarily in the automotive industry. Both standards are widely used in the supply chains of many industrial sectors.

The two standards share common data structures, but have some differences. Rather than pursue costly parallel development and maintenance efforts, developing a new, convergent STEP standard has been proposed.

This new standard is an opportunity to introduce new functionality, optimize development and maintenance resources, and strengthen the acceptance and support of STEP by the main manufacturing industries.

The major technical impact of the STEP AP242 standard covers the areas of:

  • Model Based Development (MBD),
  • PDM integration and PDM services,
  • Long Term Archiving (LTA),
  • supply chain integration,
  • engineering design data exchange including composites,
  • advanced Product Manufacturing Information (PMI),
  • mechatronics, and requirement management…

The STEP AP242 standard is complementary to popular visualization formats, such as ISO 14739 PRC and ISO 14306 JT, and will support advanced data content, such as advanced PMI, composites, and mechatronics.
A critical priority in the aerospace sector (and increasingly in automotive) is the need to address long-term product model maintenance (archive).

Other areas of interest to both the aerospace and automotive industry are mechatronics, parametrics, electronics, sustainability, data quality, and the exchange of material data for compliance with environmental regulations.  Developing a convergent standard adds new, important capabilities to STEP. The STEP AP242 standard will substantially reduce development costs due to a single development infrastructure and utilization of the new, rapid development and publishing environment.

STEP AP242 Edition 1 provides all the functionalities covered by the AP203 ed.2 and AP214 ed.3.  It includes also new functionalities, such as:

  • the “Shape Quality” modules, derived from STEP Part 59 and based on the SASIG PDQ guidelines,
  • the results of the PDM harmonization between STEP AP242 Business Object Model and AP239 PLCS Platform Specific Model
  • a new model for  STEP 3D tessellated geometry,
  • new generic capabilities for STEP “external element references” used for kinematics and other disciplines.