QIF (Quality Information Framework): Definitive Guide

11 Aug 2020 by Jimmy Nguyen

Table of Contents

  1. What is QIF?
  2. Why is QIF Important?
  3. Who Benefits from Using QIF
  4. How to Use QIF in MBD & MBE Process
  5. Timeline of QIF
  6. Webinar Tutorials on QIF
  7. Contact Us About QIF

What is QIF? 


QIF (quality information framework) is an open-standard CAD format made specifically for introducing 21st century concepts such as digital transformation, digital thread, and IoT (Internet of Things) to computer-aided technology and engineering applications.

The two main points of QIF are interoperability & traceability throughout the entire product lifecycle. From design to planning to manufacturing to analysis, full metadata can be mapped back to the “single source of truth” (native CAD). 

QIF is built on the XML framework for easy integration & interoperability with other systems, web/internet applications, and other formal standards– a unified and universal approach. 

  • Structured Data: Featured-based, characteristic-centric ontology of manufacturing quality metadata.
  • Modern Approach: XML technology-- simple implementation and build-in code validation.
  • Connected Data: Information semantiically linked to model for full information traceability to MBD.
  • Standard Data: Approved ISO and ANSI interoperability standard.

It also contains holistic, semantic PMI (product manufacturing information) / 3D product definition and other metadata that is both human-readable and computer-readable for MBD (model-based definition) implementation.

QIF is an ANSI and ISO standard managed by the Digital Metrology Standards Consortium (DMSC), an international leader in the field of metrology. QIF supports Design, Metrology, and Manufacturing as it enters the Industry 4.0 initiative: data that is semantic, machine-readable, standard, and interoperable to enable the smart factory. 

QIF is a key conversation starter for companies beginning the MBD/MBE (model-based enterprise) process, especially for metrology-related information in PLM (produce lifecycle management) and PDM (product data management).

Top 10 Benefits of QIF

  1. Automation: Defined business process & software compatibility leads to the possibility of automation.
  2. Interoperability: Enables authority CAD file to be reused on different software by different departments and companies.
  3. Single Source of Truth: Derivative models for robust, semantic PMI, metrology features, and mappings back to any native CAD model.
  4. Big Data: Manufacturing data is moved upstream for analytics & design improvements.
  5. Faster Time to Market: Automation and decreased manual translation & validation begets shorter production cycles.
  6. Cost-Savings: Up to 80% of total hours saved for annotation, control planning, and inspection processes together, meaning less resources needed for a particular task and reducing overhead.
  7. Work Efficiency: Automation is repeatability, relying less on human involvement (and possible error) and freeing the engineer to focus on other value-add work.
  8. Process Over Personnel: Avoiding the “human-in-the-loop” method provides documented process-driven strategy.
  9. Better Product: Faster time to market leads to more iteration and breakthroughs in product, process, or pricing.
  10. Better Bottom Line: Automated work processes, less bottlenecks, and faster iteration & feedback for ideation all leads to cost savings in time & money.

Why is QIF Important?

The Problem

qif-industryThe rapid growth of the internet and wireless technology has led to an influx of raw, unlimited data. Companies that are able to collect, analyze, and execute upon internal data have become cultural & business revolutions such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

As more industries refine their data, breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, automation, Internet of Things, and predictive analytics begin to showcase the influence of Big Data–especially the ability to connect different data sets and provide actionables that can impact the bottom line and society.

Nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century, while many new industries are creating digital transformation and older industries embracing it, today’s manufacturing enterprise is still stuck with last century’s practices & mindset.

Especially when it comes to data that is disconnected and disorganized. 


Though terms like Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things, and Model-based Enterprise outline a fundamental need for digital transformation and a basic understanding of its importance– for manufacturing, it’s still more theory than practice.

And nothing highlights this better than the different data file formats used from design to manufacturing. Many of today’s manufacturing practices depend on disparate data sets and manual transcription & validation that impede the ability for automation.

Not all data is created equal.

Different data file formats (e.g., PDF, TXT, TIF, CSV, XLS, STEP, JT, IGES, PRT, QIF, XML, etc.) from different software are either proprietary or lacking robust data capabilities to produce true MBD. The incompatibility and inaccessibility prevents connecting data throughout the whole product lifecycle– traceability & automation in the digital thread.  

With multiple stakeholders throughout the supply chain with their own CAD, CAM and CMM software and custom-made data, exchanging inoperable data with a disjointed approach results in multiple disconnections in the digital thread.

Incompatibility is the first “unimportant issue” when dealing with For Want of a Nail.

The Solution


QIF is an MBD-ready, XML-based, CAD-neutral and open standard that includes the following:

All these features allow seamless handoff of data downstream, enabling automation to quality control and production with full traceability to the single source of truth: the CAD model. 

It empowers businesses for a better product, faster process, and bigger bottom line. 

This is the purpose of MBD and MBE in manufacturing!

And this all begins with quality information.

According to the DIKW Pyramid & QIF, data is a number while information is data with context. In a 3DCIC presentation, Curtis Brown (2019) states that decisions made from data requires a "human-in-the-loop," while decisions made from information leads to automation.

qif pyramid

Decisions from Data:

  1. Interpretation. 
  2. Tedious process.
  3. High cognitive load. 
  4. More opportunities for error.
  5. Costly solutions.
  6. Inconsistent solutions.

Decisions from Information:

  1. Increases speed of task completion.
  2. Lowers cost due to decreased labor requirements.
  3. Frees up valuable personnel for other tasks more suited for the human mind.
  4. Repeatable solutions.
  5. Lower risks.

Anyone can collect data. But data in action is wisdom.

Members of DMSC (Digital Metrology Standards Consortium) 



Who Benefits from Using QIF


Up to 33% of design time is spent on 2D drawings. Because QIF is a 3D CAD + PMI, all documented information is already embedded within the CAD file. 

Eliminating drawings not only saves time, it also doesn’t hold back the next generation of design engineers who’ve only worked with 3D.


CMM technicians translate drawings into physical models. They must have expert knowledge in GD&T, CAD, and measurement to transcribe 2D drawings into their CMM (coordinate measuring machine). 

A single part can take days to several weeks. However, up to 60% of 2D drawings don’t match the 3D model. With the added burden of manual transcribing & interpreting 2D to 3D, the high risk error greatly increases.

QIF allows for automation from CAD design to CMM, reducing dependency on human labor and reducing up to 81% of time for CMM process.


For metrologists, QIF can be used to transmit information between supply chain partners on how and what to measure, as well as communicate the results from the measurement.


For PLM/PDM owners, QIF can be used to bring your quality information into the “digital thread” for your manufacturing operation and associate all your quality information directly to your master model.


With up to 80% of total hours saved for annotation, machining, and inspection processes together, it improves processes for faster products, more efficient processes, quicker iterations, and less redundancies. 

Important QIF Information

  1. QIF Standards (official website) : https://qifstandards.org/download/
  2. MBD Conferences:

  3. QIF MBD Software:
  4. GitHub Community:

How to Use QIF in MBD & MBE Process

General Overview:

CAD Translation & Validation:

Whether it's a CATIA, NX, Creo, or SolidWorks CAD file, it needs to be translated to a neutral format like QIF that can be passed downstream and handled off to different stakeholders & departments. Then it needs to be validated to ensure the original CAD & QIF CAD are aligned.

Ballooning & First Article Inspection: 

Measurement control plans must be created, along with putting IDs on tolerance requirements, and finally generating inspection documents. This is all done from the MBD model.

CMM Programming: 

Instead of using a 2D drawing and manually transcribing GD&T and other annotations into the CMM, QIF automates this process saving time & skilled labor use.

Harvesting Results:

All QIF data generated throughout the entire process is linked to the authority model. This fulfills traceability requirements, and provides fertile opportunities for data mining leading to better products, processes, and more-informed people.


Other Vocabulary Related to QIF

  1. Big Data: Large volume of data that can be structured & analyzed for business insights.
  2. Industry 4.0: The fourth industrial revolution with focus on wireless connectivity, connectivity, and the smart factory.
  3. Industrial Internet of Things: IIoT is a network of connected industrial equipment that monitor, collect, exchange, and analyze data to predict future outcomes & prevent failure.
  4. MBD: Model-based definition or digital product definition, practice of using 3D CAD with semantic PMI that is both human & machine readable. 
  5. MBE: Model-based enterprise, using the 3D CAD with semantic PMI as the sole source of authority for all activities in a product's lifecycle.
  6. Digital Twin: Digital replica of a physical thing to be tested through simulation for discovering product improvements & vulnerabilities. 
  7. Digital Enterprise: Company using digital technology for automation, data mining, and reducing costs.
  8. Digital Thread / Tapestry: Connected workflow from conception to production across different departments.
  9.  Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise: Companies using innovative & cutting edge technology to deliver improved products & processes.

Timeline of QIF 


QIF 1.0 Created:

  • ANSI-standard 


QIF 2.0/2.1 Enhancements:

  • ANSI update
  • First widely adopted release.


QIF 3.0 Enhancements:

  • Expansion of measurement workflow use cases supported by QIF
  • Improvements to PMI modeling to support common CAD system annotations, such as those from SOLIDWORKS, Creo, NX and CATIA
  • Concise measurement point storage
  • Increased harmonization with the ISO Geometrical Product Specification
  • Improved support for metrology software and fitting algorithm specifications
  • Improved traceability in statistics, including an option for bulk raw data
  • Enhanced support for a comprehensive array of measurement device types in QIF resources
  • Support for measurement resource selection via QIF Rules

Ready to get started? Download QIF 3.0. It's free.

File Formats That Are MBD-Ready:

  • QIF
  • STEP 242

Webinar Tutorials on QIF

QIF 101: Understanding QIF Basics


QIF 102: Outlining the QIF Schemas

QIF 103: A Beginner's Guide to QIF 3.0 Implementation

Need to Learn More About QIF and Applying It to Your Workflow?

Contact Us

Starting a pilot program or needing to know the right information to start MBD, contact us today and become the spark that brings your company into the digital age.


Brown, C. (2019). Trust Digital with the QIF. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://www.action-engineering.com/3dcic.

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