ISO 10303-21

ISO 10303-21

STEP-File is the most widely used data exchange form of STEP. Due to its ASCII structure it is easy to read with typically one instance per line. The format of a STEP-File is defined in ISO 10303-21 "Clear Text Encoding of the Exchange Structure".

ISO 10303-21 defines the encoding mechanism on how to represent data according to a given EXPRESS schema, but not the EXPRESS schema itself. STEP-File are also called "p21-File" and "STEP Physical File". The file extensions ".stp" and ".step" indicate that the file contain data conforming to STEP Application Protocols.


Some details to take care of:
* The first edition of ISO 10303-21:1994 had some bugs and got fixed by a Technical Corrigendum. If you want to study this standard you better read ...
* The second edition ISO 10303-21:2002, including all the fixes and extensions for several data sections.
* Part 21 defined two conformance classes. They differ only in how to encode complex entity instances.
** Conformance class 1 which is always used enforce the so called "internal mapping" which is more compact.
** Conformance class 2 which is not used in practise enforces the "external mapping" always. In theory this would allow better AP interoperability since a postprocessor may know how to handle some supertypes, but may not know the specified subtypes.
* The 1st edition of part 21 enforces the use of so called SHORT NAMES. which is optional in the 2nd edition. In practice SHORT NAMES are not used today.
* The 2nd edition allows for several data sections. In practise only one data section is used (1st edition encoding)

ISO 10303-21 Building blocks


A typical example looks like this:

ISO-10303-21;HEADER;FILE_DESCRIPTION(/* description */ ('A minimal AP214 example with a single part'),/* implementation_level */ '2;1');FILE_NAME(/* name */ 'demo',/* time_stamp */ '2003-12-27T11:57:53',/* author */ ('Lothar Klein'),/* organization */ ('LKSoft'),/* preprocessor_version */ ' ',/* originating_system */ 'IDA-STEP',/* authorization */ ' ');FILE_SCHEMA (('AUTOMOTIVE_DESIGN { 1 0 10303 214 2 1 1}'));ENDSEC;DATA;
#11=PRODUCT_DEFINITION_CONTEXT('part definition',#12,'manufacturing');
#12=APPLICATION_CONTEXT('mechanical design');
#16=PRODUCT('A0001','Test Part 1',,(#18));
#20=ORGANIZATION_ROLE('id owner');ENDSEC;END-ISO-10303-21;

HEADER section

As you can see from the example given above the file is split into two sections following the initial keyword "ISO-10303-21;":

The "HEADER section" has a fixed structure consisting of 3 to 6 groups in the given order. Except for the data fields "time_stamp" and "FILE_SCHEMA" all fields may contain empty strings.
** description
** "implementation_level". The version and conformance option of this file. Possible versions are 1 for the original standard back in 1994, 2 for the technical corrigendum in 1995 and 3 for the second edition. The conformance option is either 1 for internal and 2 for external mapping of complex entity instances. Most often you will find here the value __'2;1'__. The value '2;2' enforcing external mapping is also possible but only very rarely used. The values '3;1' and '3;2' indicate extended STEP-Files as defined in the 2001 standard with several DATA sections, multiple schemas and FILE_POPULATION support.
** "name" of this exchange structure. It may correspond to the name of the file in a file system or reflect data in this file. There is no strict rule how to use this field.
** "time_stamp" indicates the time when this file was created. The time is given in the internal data time format ISO 8601, e.g. "2003-12-27T11:57:53" for 27 of December 2003, 2 minutes to noon time.
** "author" the name and mailing address of the person creating this exchange structure
** "organization" the organization to whom the person belongs to
** "preprocessor_version" the name of the system and its version which produces this STEP-file
** "originating_system" the name of the system and its version which originally created the information contained in this STEP-file.
** "authorization" the name and mailing address of the person who authorized this file.
* FILE_SCHEMA. For version 2 only one express schema together with the object identifier of the schema can be listed here. From version 3 on this is relaxed for several entries.The last 3 header groups are only valid from version 3 on.
* FILE_POPULATION, indicating a valid population (set of entity instances) which conformas to an EXPRESS schemas. This is done by collecting data from several data_sections and in addition referenced instances from other data sections.
** "governing_schema", the EXPRESS schema to which the indicated population belongs to and by which it can be validated
** "determination_method" to figure out which instances belong to the population. Three mehods are predefined: SECTION_BOUNDARY, INCLUDE_ALL_COMPATIBLE, and INCLUDE_REFERENCED.
** "governed_sections", the data sections whose entity instances fully belongs to the population.
** The concept of FILE_POPULATION is very close to schema_instance of SDAI. Unfortunately during the standardization process it was not possible to achieve an agreement to get these concepts fully synchronized. Therefore JSDAI adds further attributes to FILE_POPULATION as intelligent comments to cover all missing information from schema_instance. This is supported for both, import and export.
* SECTION_LANGUAGE allows to assign a default language for either all or for a specific data section. This is needed for those Express schemas which do not provide the capability to specify in which language string attributes of entities such as name, and description are given.
* SECTION_CONTEXT provide the capability to specify additional context information for all or single data sections. This can be used e.g. for STEP-APs to indicate which conformance class is covered by a particular data section.

DATA section

The DATA section contains application data according to one specific express schema. The encoding of this data follows some simple principles.
* Instance name: Every entity instance in the exchange structure is given a unique name in the form "#1234". The instance name must consist of a positive number (>0) and is typically less than 263. The instance name is only valid locally within the STEP-file. If the same content is exported again from a system the instance names may be different for the same instances. The instance name is also used to reference other entity instances through attribute values or aggregate members. The reference instance by be defined before or after the current instance.
* Instances of single entity data types are represented by writing the name of the entity in capital letters and then followed by the attribute values in the defined order within parenthesis. See e.g. "#16=PRODUCT(...)" above.
* Instances of complex entity data types are represented in the STEP file by using either the internal mapping or the external mapping.
** External mapping has always to be used if the complex entity instance consist of more than one leave entity. In this case all the single entity instance values are given independently from each other in alphabetical order as defined above with all entity values grouped together in parentheses.
** Internal mapping is used by default for conformance option 1 when the complex entity instance consists of only one leave entity. The encoding is similar to the one of a single entity instance with the additional order given by the subtype definition.
* Mapping of attribute values:
** Only explicit attributes get mapped. Inverse, Derived and re-declared attributes are not listed since their values can be deduced from the other ones.
** Unset attribute values are given as "$".
** Explicit attributes which got re-declared as derived in a subtype are encoded as "*" in the position of the supertype attribute.
* Mapping of other data types:
** Enumeration, boolean and logical values are given in capital letters with a leading and trailing dot such as ".TRUE.".
** String values are given in " ". For characters with a code greater than 126 a special encoding is used. The character sets as defined in ISO 8859 and 10646 are supported. Note that typical 8 (e.g. west European) or 16 (Unicode) bit character sets cannot directly be taken for STEP-file strings. They have to be decoded in a very special way.
** Integers and real values are used identical to typical programming languages
** The elements of aggregates (SET, BAG, LIST, ARRAY) are given in parenthesis, separated by ",".
** Care has to be taken for select data types based on defined data types. Here the name of the defined data type get mapped too.
* See also "Mapping of Express to Java" for more details of this.


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