ASTM Additive Manufacturing Standards: What You Need to Know

Additive manufacturing is serious business. What was once trusted solely as an innovative resource for prototyping and model-making has arrived as a force within manufacturing.

Certain early adopters and service providers have utilized additive technologies to produce end-use parts for well over a decade. In order to do so, pioneers like David Leigh, founder of Harvest Technologies and now VP of emerging technologies at Stratasys, addressed a seemingly simple question - “What does it take to make a high-quality part?”. Today interest in AM for end-use part production is growing at an unprecedented pace, so the solution to that all-important question is now more relevant than ever.


“What does it take to make a high-quality part?”

One key to answering this question is standardization. David Leigh is also vice-chair of ASTM Committee F42 and shares insight on how this committee plans to facilitate broader adoption through manufacturing standards development:

  1. In 2009, ASTM International, a global leader in standards development, established Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. Generally speaking, how was this committee brought together?
As the (additive manufacturing) industry has grown in popularity and adoption, there was quite a bit of confusion around the basic premise of what the technology was about.  The Society of Manufacturing Engineers created an association to help coordinate and focus efforts in this area in the 1990s. This association, the Rapid Prototyping Association, changed over the years and realized that the technology being used wasn’t just for “prototyping.”  The current Rapid Technologies and Additive Manufacturing (RTAM) steering committee worked with ASTM to start a new group of industry experts to help coalesce and focus key standards through ASTM’s F42 committee.

  1. What ASTM standards apply to the additive manufacturing industry?

The first set of standards revolved around terminology. Ironically, the term “Additive Manufacturing” was adopted as more inclusive for the industry and “3D Printing” was acknowledged as a subset of additive manufacturing for lower cost “printers”.  As the media hype started driving the conversation, 3D Printing has become the accepted umbrella term for the industry and additive manufacturing implies more of an end-use part or more complex process.  We are now in an industry where we “print” when we used to make “equipment or machines”.

In addition to terminology, work has been done to standardize testing standards, materials standards, and process standards.


  1. Why is standardization important to the future of additive manufacturing?
The adoption of a technology for end-use parts requires a level of standardization that had not been part of the early rapid prototyping movement. Vendors would define success and it would create an apples-and-oranges comparison between similar parts made with conventional technologies. One of the greatest impacts of the effort to standardize is that we have become more technology agnostic (encompassing multiple 3D printing technologies, including Laser Sintering, Fused Deposition Modeling, DMLS, etc.) and have become more application-focused.

Standards allow engineers to design to a known set of parameters and build a level of trust in the fulfillment and manufacturing process. At this point, most major companies using additive manufacturing for end-use part production have to create their own set of materials and processing guidelines. In addition, most of the design tools do not account for the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing – creating a need for design standards.

Standards are part of the necessary evolution of technology.

  1. Does additive manufacturing have any inherent difficulties adhering to current ASTM standards?
There is still limited adoption, so the conversation is typically driven by the OEM vendor or the end-use applications. There is a perception that many of the processes used to make parts give a particular company a competitive advantage. Managing the tension between individual gain and global standardization is not an easy thing. There are no requirements of adhering to standards and it has been stated by more than one company that one major hiccup like a failed part on a critical application could cause doubt within the whole industry.

  1. How will the standards developed by Committee F42 impact the advancement and adoption of additive manufacturing? Does it add a certain level of legitimacy?
Multiple organizations have seen 3D printing's inherent variability impact key stakeholders and realize there is little to no governance of the industry. We are relying on other design for manufacturability standards to apply to 3D printing, but there is a large chasm between additive and conventional manufacturing. Since the ASTM F42 committee was one of the first to try and tackle this issue, there has been quite a bit of collaboration with other standards groups across the globe.

To learn more about the standards development, visit:

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