Additive Manufacturing (AM) is currently experiencing an unprecedented hype. A lot of people - from politics, associations, analysts to the public press and social networks - though very often refer to it as “3D printing”. For an explanation of the difference in wording between AM and 3D Printing ISO/ASTM 52900 and ISO 17296-2:2015 can give guidance. Some predict the replacement of conventional manufacturing by additive technologies. On the other hand, and - as AM enters production environments, in the future we’ll see more and more applications combining conventional and additive technologies in existing production environments. This already shows the multiple dilemmas the AM technology is facing and it becomes even more important to continuously educate the market. In this context, standardisation can offer additional guidance for those willing to invest into the technology and supports them in making an educated investment decisions.
Standards, by definition, offer a set of rules decided upon by consensus of all persons involved and are based on a regulated standardisation process. At the same time they are meant to represent the current state of science and technology. As such, standards provide a good overview on AM technologies as well as defining conditions and characteristics and supporting customer enablement. They provide an additional level of reliability and safety, at the same time dispelling concerns about the unknown that every new technology is facing in the beginning.
Additive technologies are currently facing an unprecedented hype yet not at every stage of market development the technology is ready for the introduction of standards. In some cases, standards can even endanger the evolution of Additive Manufacturing into a true manufacturing technology by raising too high expectations at a too early stage. Industrial AM technologies are ready for standardisation as this market segment has reached a certain level of market maturity. Here, standards can offer true guidance and explanation. Consumer 3D Printing, on the contrary, is still facing a lot of inflated expectations and isn’t yet ready for it.
For the industrial segment, an overview of the various technologies, capabilities, also limitations, characteristics and conditions was one of the first standards, better say guides, that was introduced first by the German Association of German Engineers (VDI) in 2003. Since then the VDI committees constantly continued to develop guides involving all relevant experts in Germany, including machine vendors like EOS.
The German DIN prepares those papers and submits them to ISO/Technical Committee 261 as new work items. Together with ASTM F42 and based upon a first-time-ever Partner Standards Development Organization (PSDO) agreement between both organisations, unique AM standards are being developed. The newly established CEN/TC 438 will take them over via Vienna Agreement, and very soon the first ISO-ASTM-EN standards on AM will be published.
Every national body has its mirror committee where the national experts collaborate in developing standards. ISO/TC 261 and ASTM F42 have agreed on a common strategy in the ISO/TC 261 business plan, also available on their website.
Associations and other organisations, but also committees of the Standards Development Organizations (SDO) already involved, have started with additional or competing activities. The challenge is to integrate these initiatives into the overall strategy with the goal not to duplicate efforts and lose experts in too many committees.
Already existing conventional standards must be considered. Many of them are also applicable for AM, some need only small supplements. Experts prefer this over re-inventing the wheel. Also cooperation with the corresponding committees makes sense and saves expert resources.
To the same extent as AM shows its potential for series manufacturing applications in aerospace, automotive or medical already today, also certification issues arise. Standards and guides give valuable support in this field.
Links for further information
http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_technical_committee?commid=629086[CJO6] : more information about the current stakeholders and published standards
About the author
Jörg Lenz is the Collaborative Projects Coordinator at EOS GmbH and AM is his life passion for almost 23 years now. Currently he is the chairman of the ISO/Technical Commitee 261 on Additive Manufacturing and also member of the Executive Board in ASTM F42, co-chair of the German DIN NA 145-04-01AA and member of the VDI FA105 on AM.