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Mainstream Press

April 28, 2012

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:29

Is it now fashionable to talk about additive manufacturing and 3D printing? It sure seems so. Almost everywhere I turn, I see or hear someone talking about it, whether it’s a blog, web article, or printed story. Even the U.S. government is focused on it like never before. After nearly 25 years of watching AM develop to where it is today, it’s exciting to finally see it receive the attention it deserves.

The mainstream press/media has indeed discovered the technology and can’t seem to get enough of it. I was at an airport two weeks ago and randomly picked up the current issue of Forbes magazine. I thumbed through it and in seconds stumbled across an article on 3D printing.

The most talked about is the February 10, 2011 issue of The Economist. The “Print me a Stradivarius” issue showed a laser-sintered violin on the front cover and included two feature stories. I did not learn until much later that the articles were written by Paul Markillie, innovation editor at the magazine. Markillie attended our 13th annual additive manufacturing conference at EuroMold 2011, so I had the pleasure of meeting him.

In the current (April 21-27) issue of The Economist, Markillie authored a special 14-page spread of eight finely-written articles on the digitization of manufacturing and how it will transform the way products are made. Most of them discuss AM and 3D printing, some in great depth. With “The third industrial revolution” spread across the front cover, I suspect that this issue will bring even more attention to the technology than the one published 14 months earlier.

Last Thursday, Bloomberg Businessweek published a multi-page story titled 3D Printers: Make Whatever You Want. It discusses the technology’s history, its many applications, and where it’s headed. The depth and breadth of the article are impressive and author Ashlee Vance clearly did his homework. Rumor has it that a story on 3D printing will soon appear in an issue of SmartMoney, a publication by The Wall Street Journal.

Almost weekly, I am reading about the technology in an on-line article or blog from a mainstream publisher. An example is an article that Forbes ran recently titled 3D Printing Industry Will Reach $3.1 Billion Worldwide by 2016. Television news programs are also covering the subject and we can expect a lot more in the future. CNN, Canada’s Business News Network (BNN), Sky News in Australia, and many regional and local broadcasts have featured the technology.

ASTM ISO Collaboration

April 13, 2012

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 12:38

ASTM International Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies was organized in 2009 to develop industry standards. To date, new standards on terminology, testing, a new file format (as an alternative to STL), and a titanium alloy (Ti-6Al-4V) have been completed by the committee.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) also has a technical committee on additive manufacturing, called TC 261, with an almost identical focus and charge. Many of the same people and organizations are a part of it and the F42 committee. As one might expect, two “competing” standards groups involving the same people could lead to confusion and other problems.

To reduce and potentially eliminate opposing standards and duplication of effort, the leadership from the two committees discussed the need to cooperate. These discussions were then elevated to the top management at ASTM and ISO, which resulted in an agreement that is a first between the two organizations. It was signed in September 2011 by the ISO secretary general and ASTM International president.

This unprecedented agreement means that TC 261 can apply a “fast track” process to existing ASTM F42 standards, making them ISO standards quickly. Likewise, ASTM can easily adopt ISO TC 261 standards. The collaboration especially encourages the development of joint ISO/ASTM standards. In each of these cases, the two organizations can co-brand the additive manufacturing standards. In the process, a co-branded standard replaces a standard that would otherwise be published exclusively by ISO or ASTM.

This collaboration, in my opinion, is an important milestone in the additive manufacturing industry. It will result in standards that will be adopted much more widely here in the U.S. and around the world. Also, it should reduce conflict, and conflicting standards, between the ISO and ASTM committees on additive manufacturing. This collaboration is new to both organizations, so difficulties will likely develop, but with support at all levels in both organizations, these problems will be overcome.