ISO/TC261 And Committee F42: Why Standardisation Matters In Additive Manufacturing

20 July 2023
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Image Credit: Tom Claes via Unsplash 

ISO/TC261 and Committee F42 are likely not instantly recognisable terms. However, the role they have to play in the advancement of the Additive Manufacturing industry cannot be understated. Both ISO/TC261 and Committee F42 function to research, ratify and implement industry wide standards, with the ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) and ASTM International being the key players in this development and implementation process. The two bodies often combine, and implement standards for Europe and North America at the same time.

What is ISO/TC261 And Why is it Important?

ISO/TC261 has a wide scope. Their mission is defined as:

‘‘Standardisation in the field of Additive Manufacturing (AM) concerning their processes, terms and definitions, process chains (Hard and Software), test procedures, quality parameters, supply agreements and all kinds of fundamentals”.

The standards implemented and the research conducted constantly by the Technical Committee seek to keep abreast of developments in the industry, as well as ratifying parameters.

The Technical Committee aims to consider the needs of the key stakeholders and users in the industry, identified in 2017 as ‘suppliers of medical devices and implants, OEMs in Aerospace and Automotive, OEMs in High-Tech equipment, Universities and R&D organisations and AM equipment and material suppliers’. As such, there is a vast range of industry experts and individuals involved in AM who are consulted during the drafting and implementation of standards. 

There are individuals from 27 participating countries, as well as 8 other countries represented by observers and collaboration with 33 other ISO committees – demonstrating how wide the uses of Additive Manufacturing are.

Standards allow for wider certification, which is necessary to allow AM to be utilised in a range of industries where greater quality assurance is required, including the rapidly growing medical and aerospace industries. Standardisation increases product quality, encourages development and strengthens market access to trade. All these benefits converge to ensure greater customer satisfaction and trust, helping fuel the industry. 

The purpose of ISO/TC261 and Committee F42 is to be able to react quickly to trends and movements in the market. Part of this reactionary process occurs through the mandatory 5 year review function. All standards are reviewed and re-written every 5 years, with amendments made if required. The process of consistent updating ensures standards encompass all the detail they require to be effective. The remit of standards is liable to change, as a result of the rapidly evolving nature of AM.

How Does Committee F42 Function?

ASTM are responsible for the creation and maintenance of Committee F42, which was formed in 2009 and has 1200 members, encompassing 10 subgroups. The subgroups have different focus areas, with an emphasis on Aviation (F42.07.01), Medical (F42.07.03) and Electronics (F42.07.06) legislation amongst others. 

The committee and the associated subgroups seek to identify and define industry standards to be adopted, in tandem with ISO/TC261. As a result of the partnership, in 2021 30 standards had been developed and instigated, with more than 45 in the development process. The partnership has allowed for the  constant sharing of information, with suggested proposals balloted at the same time. The joint, simultaneous approach ensures those in the American market are on equal footing with European counterparts, as ISO standards are implemented into European legislation. Once standards have passed the balloting process, they are implemented as ISO/ASTM standards immediately, meaning there is no slow down in the process despite differing  jurisdictions. Wider standardisation negates the need to navigate a minefield of smaller, individually tailored legislation in specific countries, increasing the global profile of Additive Manufacturing. 

Key Standards:

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Image Credit: Lenny Kuhne via Unsplash – Standards relate to a range of industries, including automotive.

ISO/ASTM52900:2021

 Furthered the standardisation of terminology that began with F2792 and was expanded on in 2015 through ISO/ASTM52900. Updated in 2021,the evolving guidelines ensure all those involved are on the same page. Not only does this increase customer confidence in what is being purchased, but the standard was key in uniting various global standardisation bodies. ASTM and ISO collaborated, jointly developing the standard that was then unequivocally accepted by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). As such the standard, although referring to terminology rather than specific practices, uses the same level of categorisation and scrutiny as is applied to practices themselves, with terms only applicable in defined situations. 

ISO/ASTM52901

Alongside the collaboration to streamline terminology, this collaboration between the ISO and ASTM aimed to increase customer and purchaser confidence. Guidelines that defined requirements that purchased AM parts have to adhere to were implemented. There are now clear rules over what qualities parts have that need to be highlighted, as well as the requirements they meet. Customers are not the only ones benefiting from this standard, as producers are able to identify what buyers are actively asking for, allowing them to be completely aware of what needs to be supplied in specific parts. 

ISO/ASTM52910 

Having knowledge of customer expectations is as important as understanding the limitations of specific Additive Manufacturing methods, particularly when applied to new and emerging design. Design parameters were therefore established, aiming to  demonstrate what considerations need to be taken into account regarding design decisions. This attention to detail is imperative, due to the vast range of AM manufacturing processes that currently exist, and those that are being developed. The standard is aimed at those who already have a footing in the industry, such as product designers, but also aims to educate those looking to enter the industry, such as students and those in training. By looking to identify issues before they arise, the standard becomes not only a ‘rule’ to follow, but encourages future design and manufacturing processes.  

Ongoing Research

Encouraging stringent processes and ensuring standards are upheld and followed is also a constantly evolving task, as evidenced by the release of the Standardisation Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing Version 3.0. Created by America Makes and ANSI (American National Standards Institute), the roadmap suggests standards that need to be refreshed or adopted to ensure the standards remain applicable. Although not under the same umbrella of ISO or ASTM, the roadmap proves the level of scrutiny that standards face, and the steps being taken to ensure they benefit the industry as a whole at every turn. 

Why is it Important to the Growth of AM?

The increasing emphasis on standardisation ensures continuity throughout the growing Additive Manufacturing industry, as well as allowing various industries to experience the benefit of AM processes without compromising consumer and producer values. 

Collaboration between industry experts, including those in more established AM spaces and processes as well as newly identified designs, processes and markets. Standardisation is therefore a tool in the armoury of the AM industry that will improve output, encourage research and streamline processes.

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