ASTM: The Breakdown on Quality Materials

on Monday, February 9, 2015 8:25:00 AM

What’s ASTM? No, it’s not a disease. It’s not contagious. It stands for American Society for Testing and Materials. The ASTM (or as of 2001, ASTM International), is an organization that develops and publishes a voluntary consensus of technical standards. 1

Kendall Howard prides itself on the ongoing mission to always deliver the best quality products from the best quality materials. (Go ahead and ask. I know you want to.) How do we know its quality material? Wow, that is a great question! All the material we use complies with standards set forth by the ASTM International.

ASTM standards are applied to a wide spectrum of materials, products, systems, and services. In essence, these standards are applied to anything sold, bought, and/or processed. Of course the ASTM standards are not haphazardly concocted by some guy sitting in a cubicle power leveling through Candy Crush Saga. No, some serious thought goes into it.

Committees and subcommittees consisting of users, producers, consumers, and general interest members meet to review new potential standards. The approval process is extensive and very detail orientated, which includes a balloting process that goes through three levels of technical scrutiny. If I had to describe this process in just one word, that word would be “rigorous” because I encountered that word over and over again while reviewing ASTM.

Once the standard is voted on and put into effect, it doesn’t just become some blurb in an obscure regulatory journal. No, we’re talking about it being published in a 77-volume Annual Book of ASTM Standards, packed with more than 12,000 principals – principals which have become the basis for manufacturing, management, procurement, codes, and regulations. 1

These new standards fall into one of six categories.

Standard Specification defines the requirements to be satisfied by subject of the standard. 1

Standard Test Method defines the way a test is performed and the precision of the result. The result of the test may be used to assess compliance with a Standard Specification. 1

Standard Practice defines a sequence of operations that, unlike a Standard Test Method, does not produce a result. 1

Standard Guide provides an organized collection of information or series of options that does not recommend a specific course of action. 1

Standard Classification categorizes a division of materials, products, systems, or services into groups based on similar characteristics such as origin, composition, properties, or use. 1

Terminology Standard is the agreed definitions of terms used in the other standards. 1

Now that you know what it is, let’s talk a little bit about why it was first developed.

ASTM began with a group of scientists and engineers led by Charles Benjamin Dudley, a Pennsylvania Railroad employed chemist. 2 After insurmountable train accidents, rails splits, and breaking, Dudley decided to head an investigation into the chemical composition and metallurgical structure of rail tracks.3 He found that there were many variations in the properties and quality of steel. It was at that moment he committed to publish his findings. “Does the Wearing Power of Steel Rails Increase the Hardness of the Steel?” was published in 1879. 2

The results sent the steel industry into a fit, crying foul. The outrage stemmed when the steel industry declared they were in the business of steel, and therefore it should be their decision about what is and what is not quality. 2 The public did not share “Big Steel’s” sentiments.

Dudley led the way to publish many more findings and developed methods to improve the quality of fuels, lubricants, paints, and even locomotives. It was then, in 1898, that the American Society for Testing and Materials was founded.

To sum up, ASTM was created for one sole purpose – to ensure a standard of quality. At Kendall Howard our standard is “top quality made from top quality.” We provide you with top notch steel and materials (fabricated with ASTM standards), to give you top notch solutions, made by top notch people. Superior quality is one of the most important elements we focus on with every product we produce. We have all been trained to hone our skills and not cut corners. We are the ones who fulfill those corners other companies choose to avoid.

1 ASTM International

2 National Historic Landmarks Program – Charles B. Dudley

3 Wikipedia – Charles Benjamin Dudley

4 Nature/International Weekly Journal of Science – Dr. Charles B. Dudley


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