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May/June 2009
Editor's Note

Making Something Out of Nothing?

Michelangelo is widely quoted as saying, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Throughout history, artists, artisans and manufacturers have commonly made something out of something, subtracting material to discover and reveal the artistic or functional object within.

When contrasted to this technique — called subtractive manufacturing — it’s almost possible today to make something out of nothing. Paired with computer-aided design, sophisticated devices can now build functional objects one layer at a time in a process called additive manufacturing. Slices of computerized designs can be translated into three-dimensional reality by using inkjets to “print” multicolored objects into existence layer by layer, heat-treating material with electron beams, hardening liquid or powder with laser beams or extruding thermoplastics.

ASTM International got involved with stakeholders in the additive manufacturing community when the Society of Manufacturing Engineers realized that standardization was necessary to advance the field. Without the infrastructure to develop standards itself, SME approached ASTM International about the possible formation of a new technical committee where additive manufacturing experts could gather to develop test methods and other standards for processes, materials and design. Through this partnership, Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies was formed.

The benefits of standards development to the additive manufacturing community include the well-known benefits that accrue to all sectors that embrace standardization.
Reliable performance measurement across processes, quality assurance, convenience when specifying parts and equipment, and calibration capabilities are a few of the ways people in the AM industry expect standards to help develop their technologies.

I titled this editorial “Making Something Out of Nothing?,” but that’s only an easy play on words. Whether used for modeling prototypes or creating actual industrial or consumer items, additive manufacturing is the fruit of decades of ingenious research and development. With the help of Committee F42, this fascinating field will realize its full potential.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief