3D Printing Standards

Diversity startup business team working together by 3D printer. Looking at printed objects and discussing. Selective focus to 3D printer printing an object with creative team in background.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of turning digital files into three-dimensional solid objects. While there are different 3D printing technologies and materials you can print with, they are all based on the same principles. By making a virtual design, for example, a CAD (Computer Aided Design) of the object you wish to create, this file is then created using a 3D modelling application and turned into a physical, three-dimensional object by adding material layer by layer. 

While 3D printing is looked at and spoken about as a relatively new futuristic concept, it has in fact been around for more than 30 years. It was first invented in 1984 by Charles Hull and was used for industrial use. In 2009 the first desktop 3D printer was created, starting off at the $200,000 price point. They are now available for $2000.

3D printers have been used to create:

  • Car parts
  • Smartphone cases
  • Fashion accessories
  • Artificial organs
  • Acoustic guitar
  • Camera lens
  • Flute
  • Children’s drawings
  • Coffee cups
  • High heels
  • Bikini

The International Organisation for Standardisation and the American Society for Testing and Materials have banded together to create the Additive Manufacturing Development Structure, which aims to provide technical standards across the board.

Who is the ISO?

The International Organisation for Standardisation, or the ISO, is the largest organisation that develops and implement standards across a wide range of industries. Founded in 1947, it has members from 162 countries around the world and operates in about 200 countries. Experts come together to develop “voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant international standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges”.

International standards work to provide specifications for products, services and systems, to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. The ISO has published more than 21,000 standards covering a variety of industries and they have been instrumentals in facilitating international trade.

Who is ASTM International?

The American Society for Testing and Materials, or ASTM International, is a global leader in the development and delivery of voluntary consensus standards. They have produced more than 12,000 standards that are being used around the world to improve quality, enhance health and safety and strengthen market access and trade, while also building consumer confidence.

ASTM has contributions from more than 30,000 of the world’s top technical experts from around 140 countries around the world. Their members create the test methods, specifications, classifications, guides and practices that support industries and governments internationally.

Additive Manufacturing Development Structure

The ISO and ASTM International have come together to craft the Additive Manufacturing Standards Development Structure. This is a framework that will help meet the needs for new technical standards, specifically in relation to 3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM).

The new structure will:

  • Guide the work of experts and standards development organizations involved in AM.
  • Identify gaps in standards in the AM industry.
  • Prevent an overlap of standards in the AM industry.
  • Ensure cohesion of AM standards.
  • Build on usability and acceptance among the AM community, including manufacturers, entrepreneurs, consumers, and others.

Standards can be developed at three levels:

  1. General standards, for example, concepts, common requirements, guides, safety.
  2. Standards for broad categories of materials (e.g. metal powders) or processes (e.g. powder bed fusion).
  3. Specialised standards for a specific material (e.g. aluminum alloy powders), process (e.g. material extrusion with ABS), or application (e.gs, aerospace, medical, automotive).

“This structure will help experts worldwide interact in a more streamlined and meaningful way, leading to the integration and application of new technologies at an accelerated rate,” said Carl Dekker, president of MET-L-FLO Inc., and chair of ASTM International’s committee on additive manufacturing technologies (F42). “In the future, we could see even more benefits, such as uniform workforce training and a stronger ability to focus on constant quality improvement rather than potential confusion surrounding specifications.”



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