Working with additive manufacturing standards

Standards are critical to the goal of helping users put additive manufacturing (AM) machines into more effective use across a global marketplace.

Standards are the basis for developing conformance acceptability criteria. The use of standards can help users manufacture parts faster.

A standard is a set of rules decided by a consensus of people. For AM, one of the main standards bodies is the ASTM F42 committee. Members of ASTM have the ability to vote and it doesn’t matter the size of your organization, everyone has one vote.

F42 was established in 2009. There are about 14 standards already, some of which have been adopted by ISO/TC 261 through agreements. ANSI acknowledges the F42, ISO TAG group or technical advisory group as the representative for the US.

Some of the challenges for AM, however, include facilitating the adoption of standards, implementing standards, and ensuring the workforce understands exactly how to take standards information to the next level.

Carl Dekker, president of Met-l-flo Inc., and Chair of the ASTM F42 committee gave a webinar on what is new in additive manufacturing standards. You can listen to the webinar here.

Helping additive reach its potential

No one has complete understanding and knowledge about additive manufacturing technology. Therefore, standards help provide an overview and deliver recommendations.

Standards are not going to be a rulebook that everyone or every machine must follow and conform to. But as the standards enable vendors to develop systems with more reliability and acceptance, they increasingly address and dispel many concerns about additive.

Additive machines are basically systems used to produce an end product or add material where you want it in a specific way. Notes Carl Dekker, ……, “It’s not that additive was really that amazingly new, it’s just it wasn’t a manufacturing technology.”

This is an important point; for probably 25 of the last 30 years of AM’s history, it has functioned as a prototyping technology.

Continued Dekker, “It’s been a learning process. It’s not completed, final technology. It’s a process and we are still learning. But we are moving up the learning curve quite nicely.”

With additive, the goal is how quickly we can produce a good piece, not how quickly we can produce a piece. As knowledge of how to produce good parts increases, we’re going to see the applications of added manufacturing move to the next level and open the doorway for more opportunities.

To ensure acceptance …

Defining repeatability and part reproducibility is a key issue that AM must go through. It’s critical to have knowledge on what to contain and constrain so that products can be made in a distributed manufacturing format. “The limits are what need to be there to make a good part, that’s key,” notes Dekker.

“We need to get the expertise that understands all the different ways to build parts to move additive technology forward,” continued Dekker. “We don’t want to make these standards so wide or so academic that they become difficult to follow. We want to make them for manufacturing.”

Working with the standards

Task groups to develop a standard are formed based on common needs and interest. For example, the health and safety group was most recently formed.

Standards are developed in a modular approach from general to specific. This method makes it easy to break down a standard and say, “Well, I want a standard on finished materials that is going to be specific to polymer products, and then I’m going to use that and I’m going to apply that through a system which is going to use that polymerization and I’m going to have that become specific to a finished part which will get applied in a medial application.”

The standards groups and committees have set up a system that helps users develop a standard that address a specific need. For example, there are a number of different applications, but how do you ensure that the intricacies associated with an end use don’t require developing a whole new standard all the way up. The standards bodies are working to ensure that specifics needed for an application or an extension of a general application, ensuring the needed information meets everyone’s needs.

For more on standards, listen in to the recent webinar.

Leslie Langnau

Make Parts Fast