Computer-aided design (CAD)/computer-aided manufacturing (CAM)/computer-aided engineering (CAE) integration offers designers, analysts, and manufacturers the opportunity to share data efficiently throughout the product development process. CAM for NC programing and tool design integrated with solid model data from CAD systems represents a large portion of the CAD/CAM/CAE domain. Sustained integration whereby successive changes to a CAD model are reintegrated with downstream applications is considered the most advanced and useful integration. Sustained integration is typically maintained when working in a homogeneous CAD/CAM environment. However, when working with applications that do not share a common environment (i.e., heterogeneous integration), sustained integration fails, and this lack of sustained integration can result in a loss of detailed information as a design progresses through the engineering design process. In the current paper, the authors discuss and demonstrate a novel approach to achieve sustained integration when working in heterogeneous CAD/CAM environments. After providing basic background information to establish a context, then discussing state-of-the-art and emerging solutions, the paper discusses virtual persistent identifiers as described via design change vectors (VPI/DCV). A series of three case studies shows sustained integration based on neutral formats like STEP working as well as that observed in homogeneous environments. This novel approach demonstrates success as a generic solution using common export formats from the current CAD systems and avoids the need to establish any new standards to achieve sustained integration. The paper finishes with a summary of observations learned from these case studies along with possible future research topics.

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