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B02 Marks 100 Years of Nonferrous Metals and Alloys Standardization

by Richard F. Lynch, Ph.D.

In 2002, ASTM Committee B02 on Nonferrous Metals and Alloys marked its 100th anniversary. Historic information provides an intriguing look at the development and structuring of Committee B02, and ASTM itself in its early years. It is interesting to realize that, in many ways, ASTM International operates within the same principles as it did in its first decade. At the same time, ASTM and B02 have undergone tremendous changes over the years to accommodate growth, new areas of activity and the dramatically different world in which we now live. Certainly this is a tribute to the people who make up ASTM. B02 is a committee that serves a mature industry with limited growth and scarce resources, yet its members continue to find new areas where standardization is critical to their industry and its future success.

The Early Years

Committee B02 on Nonferrous Metals and Alloys was organized in 1902 largely to standardize nonferrous materials used by the railroad industry. This was the same reason ASTM itself was created four years earlier. In fact, the history of B02 provides a window into the way ASTM was originally organized and the changes that have taken place over the years in response to growth and changing times. There was a real need for ASTM when it was founded. Only 70 members made up ASTM in 1898, yet membership increased to 1,280 by 1910.

In that year, B02 had a chairman and a total of 19 members — individual and corporate members with one company representative. In 1911, four vice-chairmen joined the leadership to assist the chairman. The 27 members that year included 12 non-producer members and 15 producer members. However, “the members of Committee B-2, classified as Producers, stand in the relation of Producer for certain products, and in that of Non-Producer to other products within the province of the Committee.”

By 1935, there were a total of 104 members in B02, with 49 producer members, 31 consumer and 24 general interest members. There was a Coordinating Committee on Non-Ferrous Metals and Alloys that consisted of two members from each of the Society’s nonferrous metals (“B”) committees. Its principal function was “the coordinating of the activities of the committees in dealing with non-ferrous metals and alloys, especially matters of scope and jurisdiction that may arise in the activities of these committees.” It was also to “act with and advise the several administrative committees of the society in such matters as research, standardization and the preparation of the technical programs in the field of non-ferrous metals and alloys.”

B02’s early subcommittees focused on pure metals, wrought and cast metals and alloys, tin, lead and zinc, railroad equipment, methods of sampling and chemical analysis, aluminum, methods of testing, and the nomenclature of metals and alloys. In subsequent years some subcommittees were reorganized while new ones were added for lead pipe, metallic fluxes and deoxidizers, strip zinc, gold and silver solders, and die cast metals and alloys. By 1933 there had been 16 subcommittees, as listed in Table 1. There was a major re-organization in 1936 that reduced the number of subcommittees to 10. Some subcommittees were consolidated, some discontinued, and others left B02 to become part of other newly formed “B” committees.

During the second World War, B02 participated in the development and rapid issuance of “emergency standards.” Some such B02 standards, for example, had lower than normal tin content in certain alloys to deal with wartime shortages of tin.

Significant Expansion

Subsequent reorganizations took place, with subcommittees formed on coated metals, nickel and high nickel alloys, precious metals and alloys, and miscellaneous refined metals. By 1950 the structure of B02 more closely reflected that of today. There were now eight subcommittees and a total of 118 members. There was also a Joint Coordinating Committee because the scopes of Committees B02, A01, A10 and B04 on Materials for Thermostats, Electrical Heating and Resistance, Contacts and Connectors “cannot be definitely limited” and it was necessary to “decide questions of jurisdiction.”

Over the years, subcommittees expanded their activities, symposia were held on various subjects including “newer metals,” STPs were published, and joint activities took place with other ASTM committees. B02 took part in a working relationship with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), with appropriate standards approved as American National Standards. Likewise, certain B02 standards were approved for use by agencies of the Department of Defense. By 1965, additional subcommittees had been added, reflecting new interest in less common metals and alloys, titanium and titanium alloys, and zirconium and hafnium. By 1986, an editorial subcommittee had been added, as had the U.S. Technical Assistance Group (TAG) to International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee (ISO/TC) 155 on Nickel and Nickel Alloys.

Over the years, B02 has spawned quite a number of other committees including B05 on Copper and Copper Alloys, B06 on Die-Cast Metals and Alloys, B07 on Light Metals and Alloys, B10 on Reactive and Refractory Metals, E03 on Chemical Analysis of Refined Metals, and G01 on Corrosion (initially spun off as B03 on Corrosion of Non-Ferrous Metals and Alloys) and contributed to the development of other committees and activities.

B02 Initiatives

An outstanding contribution B02 made to voluntary consensus standards was the initiation of the Unified Numbering System (UNS) for metals and alloys. In the 1960s, a B02 subcommittee was finding it difficult to title specifications because proprietary names were not allowed and the use of the chemical names of the elements did not allow a sufficient number of combinations to distinguish between the alloys. The B02 staff manager at the time, Harold M. Cobb, spearheaded the effort to develop a new method of identifying all alloys. This effort took the better part of a decade and resulted in the publication of Society of Automotive Engineers/ASTM Recommended Practice for Numbering Metals and Alloys, first published in 1974.

In the mid 1980s, it was recognized that there were traditional zinc specialty casting alloys as well as new alloys for which no common specifications existed. In 1990, Committee B06 on Die-Cast Metals and Alloys merged into B02, B05 and B07 because of reduced participation. This situation provided an opportunity to review and consolidate some zinc casting specifications. It was later realized there was no common color code marking system to identify zinc casting alloy ingots, rather, customers had their own systems, sometimes creating confusion. A new standard was developed that has since been adopted by the industry.

Also around 1990, it was realized that continuous sheet galvanizing lines were increasingly using continuous galvanizing grade zinc alloys in place of commercially pure zinc plus alloy additions, to achieve better product quality and line control. After extensive cooperative efforts with Subcommittee A05.11 on Metallic- Coated Steel Sheet Specifications, a new standard was developed, which has recently been substantially revised to accommodate subsequent industry advances. Since then, other standards have been developed for this industry sector including a standard for a separate color code used in system for zinc ingot galvanizing.

Other new areas of recent activity have been in zinc wire for thermal spraying, zinc alloy solder wire, and standardization of zinc ingot configurations. Consensus on an international level is now taking place through ISO/TC 18 on Zinc and Zinc Alloys, with a stronger recognition of the benefit of existing ASTM standards in other parts of the globe. As a result of all these efforts, the number of standards under the jurisdiction of B02.04 has risen from five standards in 1980, to 12 in 1990, to 19 in 2002, with two standards discontinued due to consolidation.

A Merger

In 1998, a significant merger took place between B02 and Committee B04 on Materials for Thermostats, Electrical Heating and Resistance, Contacts and Connectors. B04 recognized its declining member activity and sought out possible merger partners. Investigation revealed there was a strong synergy between the precious metal alloy contact material activity in B04 and precious metals efforts in B02. In addition, there was some connection between nickel and cobalt alloys in B02 and materials in B04. Accordingly, B02.05 on Precious Metals and B04.02 on Electrical Contact Materials were merged to produce a stronger B02.05 subcommittee. The current B02 subcommittee structure is shown in Table 2.The membership of B02 is currently at a record high level, with over 200 members. Membership is shown by decade in Table 3.

B02’s Members

B02 has been extremely fortunate to benefit from strong leadership over the years in the form of main committee officers, members-at-large, subcommittee officers and those who have been the leaders and technical experts within subcommittees and task groups. Unfortunately, it is difficult to identify and recognize all those who have contributed. Nevertheless, those individuals who have held certain offices can be recognized. A listing of those who have served in B02 leadership positions is found in Table 4.

In addition, B02’s membership has contributed to the leadership of ASTM. In recent years, we have been honored to have two B02 members become chairmen of the ASTM board: Robert G. Redelfs (1986) and Arthur Cohen (1996). Also, Gary M. Kralik served on the board of directors from 1996 to 1998.

Recognition for exemplary service to B02 and ASTM are recognized by peer awards given for outstanding contributions. Committee B02 has established two awards to recognize contributions by our members in addition to the Society Awards. Recipients are found in Table 5.

The Award of Appreciation was established in 1998 to show appreciation for short-term accomplishment, enthusiastic contribution, or an activity distinct from those appropriate for the committee’s other awards.

The Committee B02 Distinguished Service Award was established in 1992 to recognize exceptional service to Committee B02, one of its subcommittees or one of its activities. In 2001, it was renamed the Committee B02 Gary M. Kralik Distinguished Service Award in honor of his contributions to B02.

The Award of Merit is ASTM’s highest honor. The recipient also becomes an ASTM Fellow. B02 has been fortunate to have a significant number of its own qualify for this award over the years.

The Honorary Member Award, which predated the W. T. Cavanaugh Memorial Award, was a highly prestigious Society award that has been presented to five B02 members.

Staff Managers

B02 has been fortunate to have many outstanding staff managers over the years. Those members who work closely with ASTM headquarters recognize the effective and professional assistance staff provides to ASTM volunteers. Recent B02 staff managers are listed in Table 6.

B02’s Future

From its earliest years to the present, B02 has demonstrated the ability to reinvent itself to meet the challenges and opportunities called for by changing times. The committee has been able to deal with the changes and downsizing necessitated by being involved in a mature industry. Fortunately, as B02 greets the start of its second century, it is a strong committee comprised of over 200 members, and is the largest of ASTM’s “B” committees.

B02 has a wonderful record of having been where the action is. From its beginning in 1902, the members of B02 have consistently identified areas where new standardization activities were required and moved to fill the void. When the first subcommittees were formed in 1913, they focused on pure metals, wrought and cast metals and alloys, and tin, lead and zinc. Over the years, new subcommittees were added; others were reorganized and expanded their activities; new ASTM committees grew out of B02; symposia were held on various subjects including “newer metals”; STPs were published; and liaison activities took place with other ASTM committees. B02 worked with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), with certain standards approved as American National Standards. Likewise, appropriate B02 standards have been approved for use by agencies of the Department of Defense.

If past history is a guide, in its second century Committee B02 will continue to find ways to expand into new areas and carry out its standardization mandate. This effort could result in further changes to maximize available resources and manage responsibilities in a cost-effective manner. It is not clear what the future will bring but it could well include further mergers of ASTM “B” committees down the road to spread out the administrative work load and allow members to concentrate more effectively on technical matters. Certainly, the move ASTM has championed toward electronic information transfer and Web-enabled standards development will be a part of this future. But, as always, the key will be to discover the best ways for committed people to work together effectively toward our common standardization objectives. //

Copyright 2003, ASTM

Richard F. Lynch, Ph.D., is president of Lynch and Associates, Inc., ametallurgical and marketing consulting firm. He is honorary chairman of B02, chairman of B02.04 on Zinc and Cadmium, B02.94 and A05.92 on Long Range Planning, and ISO/TC 18 SC 3 on Primary Zinc. Lynch received the Award of Merit from ASTM Committeees B02 and A05 in 1990.

B02’s First Standard

B02’s first specification is widely known to be B 6, Specification for Zinc. However, in its earliest known form, as published in ASTM’s 1911 Yearbook, B 6’s obvious ancestor has no alphanumeric designation, no reference to zinc, and no reference to B02! The document is titled Specification for Spelter. Today spelter is a little-used term meaning zinc cast in slabs for commercial use or crude zinc obtained in smelting zinc ores. Actually, by today’s standards, both definitions apply.

There were four grades of zinc in the 1911 version, with high grade and prime western still existing in B 6 today. The other two grades were intermediate and brass special. A fifth grade, selected, was introduced in 1918 while special high grade, today’s highest purity grade, was introduced in 1933. It was further stated in B 6-33 that for slush castings and certain zinc-aluminum alloys, a special grade of slab zinc (spelter) may be required, as noted in “Spelter: Its Grades and Uses,” as published in Appendix I to the report of Committees B02 on Non-Ferrous Metals and Alloys (Proceedings, Am. So. Testing Mats., Vol. XVI, Part I, p., 183 (1916)). The selected grade was eliminated in 1962 while intermediate and brass special grades were eliminated in 1977.

Today, with its latest revision in 2000, B 6 contains three grades including two that were in the 1911 version. At that time, high grade was the purest zinc grade, with lead, iron and cadmium impurities controlled individually and in aggregate not exceeding 0.10 percent. It was also to be free of aluminum. This was 99.90 percent pure zinc. Today high grade still has a 99.90 percent minimum zinc content, and controlled impurity levels for lead, iron, cadmium and aluminum, with total non-zinc being 0.10 percent maximum. It turns out our predecessors got it exactly right.

It appears there was a real need for the standardization of zinc grades during the start of the first World War. Specifically, the report of Organizational Proceedings of the American Zinc Institute in 1918 contains a table titled Spelter Classifications, 1911-1918, compiled by C. E. Siebenthal of the U. S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. In this summary of spelter grades, compositions are grouped into four categories: A, B, C and D. Each category contains the composition specified in ASTM standard specifications (1911, 1917 or 1918), U. S. Army Ordnance Department Specifications (1918), Navy Department (1913), and/or New York Metal Exchange Specifications, American Metal Market (1916). This analysis indicates specifications from various entities were in competition. It appears that ASTM was chosen by the marketplace and B 6 became the standard in the United States and elsewhere. This situation may also explain why zinc is the only non-ferrous metal beside copper to receive the earliest attention of B02. B 6 is the only one of the first 17 B02 standards not specifying copper or a copper alloy.