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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Rapid Prototyping Journal, Volume 16, Issue 6
Sometime ago, I used my editorial to introduce the proposed work to develop a set of standards for the additive manufacturing industry under the auspices of the ASTM International organisation (Volume 15, Issue 2). At the 5th International Conference on Additive Manufacturing (held at Loughborough University during July 2010), Brent Stucker from the University of Louisville gave an overview of the progress that has been made to date. Brent has taken on the role of Chairman for Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies and was therefore in an ideal position to review the activities of the past two years. Six sub-committees have been set up to cover the full scope of additive manufacturing and these are test methods, processes, materials, design, executive and terminology. Each of these is responsible for generating draft standards that are then subjected to a robust review, editing and approval process before being finally published. Brent made it clear that all of these sub-committees would welcome input from anywhere around the world. The different sub-committees have each been progressing in their own area and a good number of new standards have been proposed. The scope of these can be seen by going to www.astm.org/COMMIT/SUBCOMMIT/F42.htm and clicking on any of the sub-committee names. One standard has already moved from the “proposed” to the “active” stage and goes under the title “ASTM F2792 – 10 Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing Technologies”. This document tackles the fairly contentious area of definitions of terms within the AM industry and covers both generic and process-specific terminology. For example, the term “additive manufacturing” was selected to be an all-encompassing term for material additive processes, no matter what they are being used for. Some would argue that it should only refer to end-use manufacturing and that “3D Printing” might be a better umbrella term. Brent encouraged everyone at the conference to get involved to make sure that participation in the process is as wide as possible.
In addition to Brent’s overview of the whole committee F42 process, the conference was also provided with an insight into the detailed workings of one of the sub-committees by Hod Lipson of Cornell University. Hod described the rationale behind the development of a proposed standard for a new additive manufacturing file format, which is being worked on by the sub-committee for design. This work stems from the long-recognised deficiencies of the STL format. He went into quite a lot of detail about what this format will contain, e.g. it will still be a facet-based format (to provide compatibility with STL) and will introduce the capability to define functionally graded materials and meso-structures. The method of defining the standard (an XML-based framework) and the discussions going into its definition were also covered. Hod then provided some examples of files that had been created and how their performance compared to STL. It was a fascinating presentation both in terms of the substance of the new format that is being proposed and also in the description of the intensive process that is being used to create it. If all the standards being proposed require as much discussion as this one then there is a great deal of hard work still needed before a full set of AM standards will be approved for release. Despite the time-consuming nature of the work, this initiative is to be welcomed and Rapid Prototyping Journal would encourage all its readers to get involved in it.