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May/June 2009

From Brainstorm to Standard

Starting Up Your New Standards Development Activity

Standards work in ASTM International often begins well before a draft test method or specification becomes a work item — it commences with a need, an idea. If that idea has been circling around your task group or industry, how can you turn it into a standard?

Perhaps a young technology has become more widely used and would benefit from standards, or an industry association has a standard and decides it should go through the ASTM consensus process. Or perhaps no standards exist in an area where they are needed.

In addition, answers to the following questions also point to possible new standards activities. Are there performance issues or safety concerns connected with your standards idea? What standards are needed and how would they be used in the marketplace? Who would be interested in the activity and in any standards that result? Do you believe that a group of interested professionals would be willing to work on such a standard?

If you can provide positive answers to some of these questions, take the next step. Begin the discussion. Contact your subcommittee chair to talk about your proposed activity; if you’re new to ASTM International and think your idea would be in the scope of an existing committee, call or e-mail the committee staff manager. (A complete list of ASTM technical committees can be found at; this Web page also features an “Ask ASTM” function to transmit standards ideas or other questions to staff.) If you think no committee currently exists that can meet your needs, contact Pat Picariello, a director in ASTM’s Technical Committee Operations division who focuses on proposed standards work (phone: 610-832-9720).

Once you have relayed your idea to a subcommittee chair, staff manager or Picariello, he or she will be in touch with you, each other and with other key committee members about it. Their goal is to investigate what standards may already exist on a subject, discuss the questions mentioned above and consider where a prospective activity may be housed, all steps that help determine whether or not to proceed.

ASTM undertakes these actions to avoid duplication of effort in standards work and to ensure that any expressed need goes beyond the scope of any existing standards. In addition, there needs to be a group of industry stakeholders committed to a particular standards development project.

At times, the call for standards can result in a new ASTM committee, as with the recent organization of F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. The creation of Committee F42 came about through conversations in the Society of Manufacturing Engineers via its Rapid Technology and Additive Manufacturing Community; SME approached ASTM to develop standards to address diverse needs in this broad subject area. A series of positive exploratory sessions and a planning meeting brought together key members of the additive manufacturing community followed by an organizational meeting held in January.

And while new activities originate in various ways, they share a common origin: an individual or a group had an idea and acted on it.