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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Quality Information Framework: The Digital Thread For Interoperability

September 21st, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Interoperability, collaboration, inspection, quality, standards, proprietary data, neutrality, competition, and innovation. Over the years there have been myriad attempts to bring these processes together, all while protecting IP. However, as we know, while the attempts to make this happen have often been valiant, too often they have fallen well short, or worse, failed altogether.

That legacy of failure is on its way to being a thing of the past with the advent of the Quality Information Framework (QIF), an ANSI standard that supports digital thread concepts in engineering applications ranging from product design through manufacturing. Based on the XML standard, it contains a Library of XML Schema ensuring both data integrity and data interoperability in Model Based Enterprise (MBE) implementations.

QIF supports design, metrology, manufacturing, and is critical to the Industrial Revolution 4.0. Because it is XML based, QIF can be relatively easily integrated with Internet applications, and unlike other existing standards, there is no real barrier standing in the way for industry adopting QIF. It also effectively supports newer technologies, including additive manufacturing and the Internet of Things (IoT).

With QIF, all discrete manufacturers now have a standard platform that ensures quality while minimizing costs and making processes more transparent.

All information models for transporting quality data are derived from common model libraries so that common information modeling components can be reused throughout the entire quality measurement process. As a consequence, the entire process is inherently interoperable.

The video below demonstrates QIF, a feature-based ontology of manufacturing quality metadata, built on XML technology, and semantically linked to the CAD model. A group of leading CAD and metrology software providers teamed up to demonstrate a digital metrology workflow for IMTS 2016.

The starting point for this workflow is a CAD model with PMI, in either PTC Creo or SOLIDWORKS. Then, the following steps are followed:

  • A QIF model is generated
  • Balloon numbers are added and measurement resources are assigned to PMI
  • Caliper measurements are performed
  • A CMM workflow is carried out

The result is a QIF MBD model, QIF Plan data, and a set of QIF Results data. This data can now be cross-referenced, analyzed, and visualized by a variety of software packages.

QIF Interoperability Demonstration

The diagram below shows the six QIF application area information models, Model-Based Design (MBD) which is equivalent to QIF Product, Plans, Resources, Rules, Results, and Statistics. The “QIF Execution” model is, in the current version of QIF, a placeholder for future standardization. The order of generation of QIF data generally proceeds clockwise around the diagram, beginning with QIF MBD and ending with QIF Statistics. Users of the QIF information model are not required to implement the entire model for it to succeed. In other words, any of the six application models can be used individually for exchanging quality data between software systems.

 QIF Architecture

QIF Architecture

How QIF Works

The flow of QIF data starts with generation of CAD + PMI data exported as QIF Model Based Design (MBD) application data. Quality planning systems import the MBD and generate Plans (“whats”), then import Resources and Rules information and export Plans (“whats” and “hows”). Programming systems import Plans to generate Dimensional Measurement Equipment (DME) specific programs, or general instructions to guide inspection. Dimensional measurement equipment executes programs and evaluates characteristics of a single manufactured part or assembly and exports the measurements as Results. Analysis systems, typically performing statistical process control, import single parts Results and generate analysis of multiple part batches as QIF Statistics data.

QIF is intended to handle both lossless feed-forward information translation, and cater to the ability to provide feedback integration to the product lifecycle in a unified and universal XML format. Currently, the translation from a CAD model based definition into the QIF format has been approached, and commercial products are available and standard processes being developed. One goal of QIF is to satisfy the input specification requirements of GD&T. Another goal of QIF is to satisfy the requirements derived from output results of quality assessment standards.

From the beginning, QIF has been fostered by the Dimensional Metrology Standards Consortium (DMSC) based on the realization of the need for a “common communication language,” because every CAD system produces its own output measurement language, and every coordinate measuring machine (CMM) had its own internal language that it accepts for processing. Like older machining languages, translators and “post-processors” have become rampant (as in, a problem not quite yet solved). Every CAD system has to have a different output for every coordinate machine in the factory. A common language has been badly needed for some time. Thus, the need for QIF that hopes to resolve these age-old problems of interoperability.


DMSC’s mission is to identify urgently needed standards in the field of dimensional metrology, and to promote, foster, and encourage the development and interoperability of these standards, along with related and supporting standards that will benefit the industry as a whole. QIF is one of the results of these standards that the consortium has the responsibility to continue development, maintain and support, as well as to coordinate with other related standards efforts.

While a bit slow in getting started, QIF is quickly becoming one of the true universal manufacturing standards that is very likely to proliferate. Many companies have made a lot of money in a lot of ways through non-standard, proprietary data, but that will change in a big way through the acceptance and adoption of QIF. With QIF there is still plenty of potential for a lot of money to be made. This time, however, the cards will be dealt to everyone equally instead of being stacked for the benefit of a few.

We believe that QIF is such a big deal for manufacturing moving forward that we will devote significant coverage as developments unfold in the coming months. Because there is so much to cover, I’ll dive into several of the parts of QIF and how adoption will improve the lives of those who implement it.

Editor’s Note: We’ll be in Golden, CO in a couple weeks for the 2017 3D Collaboration & Interoperability Congress – 3D CIC.  QIF will also be the subject of a detailed discussion during the Congress. If there is anything special we should know about at 3D CIC, make sure you get a hold of me at 719.221.1867. Hope to see you there!

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