STEP Frequently Asked Questions

What is STEP ?
Step is an unofficial name. The actual designation of the STEP standard is ISO10303 Industrial Automation Systems - Product Data Representation and Exchange.

The STEP project was initiated in 1984 by the ISO (International Standards Organization). The objectives were:

For further details, we suggest an article by Julian Fowler called Extract from STEP for Data Management, Exchange and Sharing.

Why is STEP needed ?
Information on products and processes which the enterprise uses, is created, modified, and used throughout the life of the enterprise. This product information may include Computer Aided Design outputs, Control and Information Systems and Document Databases. In many cases, this product information has a very long life, since the products it describes will remain in service for 10 to 20 years.

By contrast,, the computer applications, operating systems, and hardware used to access this product information has a lifetime of 3 to 5 years (or less). Thus, it will be necessary to migrate product data to new generations of hardware and software several times during the life of the enterprise.

The objective of STEP is to provide a product data standard which is independant of any proprietary formats. This standard may be used during the design phases to transfer information between different computer systems and organizations (e.g. different engineering and construction contractors). During the operations phases, the standard will facilitate management of design, manufacturing and operations data from startup until decommissioning. Finally, for certain regulated industries, it may also be required to maintain and access this information in archives for many years thereafter.

How is STEP Being Developed ?
Requirements for a minimal "first release" were issued in 1990. These were published by ISO in 1995 as 12 parts. Work is progessing on a further 60 parts which will be progressively delivered over the next several years.

Jim Nell at NIST maintains a 2-page summary of all STEP standards and their status. Print this on both sides of a single page and keep it as a handy reference.

The following groups are developing Step Standards:

Other Step Background Information
Rensselaer Lab for Industrial Information Infrastructure - STEP Mosaic
Step News
STEP News from PDES

by Gary Rathwell reserved

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