STEP – QIF Discussion Gains Momentum

24 June 24

One of the goals of the recent MBE/QIF Summit was to encourage dialogue among proponents of two standards – the STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product model data) community and the QIF (Quality Information Framework) community. Individually, both standards are well-known in the industrial manufacturing universe, and each comes from different starting concepts on the design vs quality approach to manufacturing.

What Are STEP and QIF files?

STEP files are vendor-neutral CAD files that contain product data, including geometry, assembly information, PMI (product and manufacturing information), and other metadata. QIF also starts with CAD data but is focused on communicating manufacturing and inspection data.

Both ISO standards, STEP and QIF are standards that are accepted by companies that have moved ahead with a Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) as a strategy. However, such forward-thinking applies to a small number of large companies that understand the vision and the benefits of how MBE will benefit their bottom line. The decision to move to MBE is an important corporate strategy and has major effects on corporate critical processes and ways of thinking about the whole process as one, which leaves uncommitted companies cautious about starting the MBE journey.

Allison Barnard-Feeney (NIST) presenting at MBE SummitIs One Better than the Other?

As essential as both STEP and QIF are in an MBE environment, there is confusion about which standard is the “right one.” In some cases, the decision is made using a specific point of view as the starting point, and a comprehensive understanding of STEP and QIF eludes some companies as they examine their own MBE implementation.

The confusion about whether to use STEP or QIF as strategic tools continues and has hampered the widespread implementation of MBE. Each standard has advantages and disadvantages, leaving companies feeling like they need to make the decision “either.” In reality, STEP and QIF can work together and, indeed, may be found to be complementary standards that support a MBE strategy.

Better understanding is the key. At the 2024 MBE/QIF Summit, experts started a conversation on harmonizing STEP/QIF functionality and usage within the manufacturing community. At this point, the formation of a discussion group is in the early stages. Representatives from PDES, Inc., DMSC, Inc., and the user community are forming a discussion group to work through technical issues and dispel misconceptions.

Sam Gambrel (Lockheed Martin and DMSC BoD member) is monitoring these early discussions on behalf of DMSC.

Expect to see future DMSC announcements about this important discussion group.