STEP-NC is intended as a method of communicating tool motion data to the machine to facilitate more intelligent and automated programming of parts. The basic idea is to provide more complete information to the machine when compared to ISO 6983 G- and M-codes in order to eliminate setup errors. This type of communication would also allow changes at the machine to be communicated back to the CAM software so that the changes are incorporated.

Gibbs & Associates is working closely with the international community in the development of this new standard. We work closely with STEP Tools Incorporated© who has the lead in the definition of STEP-NC. A member of our staff occupies a seat on the STEP-NC industry review board. We have also sponsored a number of research groups' STEP-NC activities.

As of this moment STEP-NC is early in its development. The evolution of this new standard is in its second phase called International Standard. While many of the defined standards have been finalized others are still being adjusted and modified as time goes on.

This is primarily where the problems start for the implementation of STEP-NC by any CAM software developer.

A CAM software is responsible for creating code that will properly run many different types of CNC machines. The claim that STEP-NC is a portable format seems to be a dream as of this moment. Too many factors make this claim unreasonable. The capabilities of different machine vary wildly. RPM speeds, feed rates, axis limitations, etc are simply not accounted for at this time. You really don't want your high-speed machine running slow and you certainly don't want to drive your standard machine with high-speed feeds and speeds.

We believe that the STEP-NC has promise and are taking an active involvement in its development but we foresee a long development process before this affects the average user. Our best guess is that an effective implementation of this standard is 2 years or more in the future. As developments occur we will post news releases to our web site located at