The VAMAS (Versailles Project on Advanced Materials and Standards) Technical Working Area 10, Materials Data Banks, has a project on materials designation systems in progress at the present time. The author is coordinator of this project that seeks to produce a world-wide inventory of materials designation systems. With it there will be a guide describing the method by which each system works, how new designations are assigned and by whom, and the conflicts and pitfalls of which users of multiple systems are often unaware.
As a growing reliance is placed upon information from computerized sources and more design and manufacturing processes are linked directly to numerical data banks, so the dangers from a lack of expertise and knowledge in the total system increase. Data exchange across the man-computer and the computer-computer interfaces rely increasingly on a lack of ambiguity and lack of uncertainty in the terminology and labels attached to the information.
In the western world, this situation may be aggravated by falling numbers of scientists and engineers in industry and the increasing numbers of computers. While a computerized system is more capable of producing repeatable results, it is also more likely to make connections that might either not be made other than by an expert, or might in some cases be rejected by an expert. Some of these connections could be advantageous, and some, disastrous if they go undetected.
A computer search for data on a material using the string 356 could produce numbers that relate to a brass, a steel, or an aluminum alloy. The response might be appreciated by some users but not necessarily by another computer program.
There needs to be greater understanding of the present situation with a view to constructing the appropriate interfaces and safeguards, and to reducing the complexity at the source.
The paper reviews items of interest from the project and the possible methods of dealing with the problems.