The birth of iges
In 1979, events took place that catalyzed the CAD vendor and user community to create the first national standard for CAD data exchange. Mechanical CAD systems were less than ten years old, andthere were only a handful of products with any significant market penetration. Even at this early stage, users were overwhelmed by the inability to share data among these tools and with their own internally-developed databases. Frustration was evident at a fateful two-day Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) meeting in the Fall of 1979. On the first day, an attendee from General Electric (GE) challenged a panel of CAD vendors, that included Computer Vision, Appliconand Gerber, to work together to enable a common neutral exchange mechanism. While this need was intuitive from a user perspective, this was a very threatening proposition to the CAD vendors - who feared that publicly sharing the structures of their databases would be tantamount to giving away their competitive advantage. It would have been easy to gloss over the challenge; after all, the major vendors all had at least token representation on the ANSI committee responsible for CAD standards. Instead, the Computer Vision representative responded with a challenge of his own: If Boeing and General Electric (and perhaps others) would contribute the CAD translators they had already developed, the vendors would share their database structures.What led to this offer was a fortunate blend of business motivation and private agendas.It just so happened that the evening before the CAD panel, a CAD vendor representative was busily recruiting employees for his (unannounced) new robotics company. In forming this company, he gained the user's perspective: his product was going to need to have access to CAD data! If he couldset the wheels in motion for the CAD vendors to make public their database structures, his new company would have a better chance at success; however, an exchange standard was also in theCAD vendors' best interest. The CAD vendors tried to differentiate themselves based on loyalty to their customers, that also had the negative effect of dividing the end users into camps.
There were large Navy contracts looming on the horizon, and no vendor wanted to look unresponsive to customer requirements.
In the evening after the panel, several interested parties gathered in a smoke-filled room and asked themselves if a common translator was really possible. The room had the right combination of people at the right time. This included an Air Force ICAM representative willing to fund such an effort and a National Bureau of Standards (NBS) representative who, after a call to his boss at home for a sleepy approval, was willing to champion it. This whole initiative was thus initiated with a $50,000 contract that established the effort's initial structure and requirements :
- An NBS representative was placed in the lead 2;
- Two initial IGES committees were formed: the Steering Committee to manage the
effort and a Working Committee to perform technical work;
- A draft was to be delivered within three months.
With the fundamentals decided, conversation turned to a name for this