Additive Manufacturing Gets a 'Universal Language'

SME and ASTM develop rapid manufacturing industrys first standards for terminology, design and testing methods.

Some call it rapid prototyping, others rapid technology, while in some circles it's referred to as layered manufacturing. All are referring to the same technology. The only question is what to call it. But a recent collaboration between the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and International American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has finally decided on a name: rapid technology.

In an effort to eliminate the confusion over terminology, design, testing methods, materials and processing differences, SME's Rapid Technologies and Additive Manufacturing (RTAM) community approached ASTM to develop the industry's first-ever standards.

ASTM, in turn, formed the Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing, including members of the RTAM community, to write new standards. The initial result is the publication, "Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing Technologies," which was recently made available for purchase online. Prior to this publication, the lack of consensus within the additive manufacturing community often boiled down to something as basic as the name of the industry itself.

"Rapid prototyping has meant different things to different manufacturers," says Brent Stucker, a member of SME's RTAM community and an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Utah State University. "It means quick prototyping to one and layered manufacturing to another. Now it's called additive manufacturing."

Stucker, who is also the chairman of Committee F42 says that terminology standards "will help clarify communications" especially in industries such as medical manufacturing and aerospace where consistency is a must.

And according to ASTM, these new standards will "allow manufacturers to compare and contrast the performance of different additive processes" and "enable researchers and process developers to provide repeatable results."

In addition to terminology, Committee F42 will also develop other key industry standards. "Test methods will more than likely be our next effort, but additive manufacturing industry design, materials, and processes are also in the works and will be developed in parallel," says Stucker.

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