ASTM vs ASME Standards: Whats the Difference?

I am quite certain that you all have come across terms like ASTM, ASME, ANSI, etc. They all stand for different societies and organizations that came into existence to make the quality of materials and products better than what it used to be many years ago.

With a lot of failed systems in the past, there were certain individuals who got together to do something good for the people by creating such organizations or committees that stand for a common cause.

ASTM and ASME are two such organizations that came about to develop but not dictate guidelines and certain standards to manufacture high-quality industrial products. The former sets the standards for materials used for a product, while the latter ensures the safety and performance of such products by following ASTM standardized materials.

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We will learn more on this subject further on in this article as I explain the meaning and functions of each of these terms.

Introduction of ASTM vs ASME

Let me first explain and give you the textbook definition of both ASTM and ASME before we get into the depth of what exactly each of these does.

What is ASTM?

ASTM stands for American Society for Testing and Materials and was first founded in the year 1898. Initially, they were responsible for addressing and preventing the recurring breakdown in the railway industry by reinforcing standards to guarantee premium quality rail products.

This committee started in Pennsylvania, which is where the headquarters are located. Today, it is known as ASTM International with offices across the globe including one in Washington DC.

The committee has expanded to setting quality standards of materials used in the construction of products, which includes chemical, mechanical, physical, and electrical properties too.

It is a voluntary organization with over 12000 standards that are used globally. It is one of the largest organizations in the world consisting of product users, consumers, producers, academics, and consultants that covers more than 30000 members.

What was initiated by railroad engineers as a committee to ensure better rail products, is now an international organization known for the development and publication of voluntary standards for products, materials, services, and systems.

The best part is that their entire process is very forthright, which allows the common man and government officials to partake directly and equally in making a decision.

What is ASME?

ASME was founded in 1880 and stands for American Society of Mechanical Engineers. They first formed this organization in order to promote the importance of engineering as a discipline by exchanging and collaborating knowledge and skills across several disciplines like art, science, allied science, mechanical, and multi-disciplinary engineering.

This later led to a full-blown organization that focused on improving sectors of engineering, construction, manufacturing, and industries.

There are over 140,000 members across the globe, which includes people from various fields of project managers, industrial engineers, corporate executives, academic leaders, and college students.

Together they develop codes, standards, hold conferences, conduct researches, release publications, educational courses, etc., to help magnify the safety of the people and boost the productivity of engineers to many folds.

From 1880 till date, this organization has managed to improve the industrial safety standards and even issue certificates to companies who are able to fulfill such high industry standards.

When we talk about infrastructures like power plant piping, boilers, bridges, and even other high-quality industrial product manufacturers, it is legally necessary to meet ASME standards to be able to go ahead with manufacturing and building. ASME follows material specifications published by ASTM International.

Functions of ASTM vs ASME

This section gives you a detailed understanding of the functions of ASTM and ASME.

ASTM

The main function of ASTM International is to set, develop, and publish the technical standards for various products, materials, systems, and services to amplify its performance and safety.

Many industries across the globe follow or comply with the ASTM standards voluntarily, while in some industries or companies it is mandatory to comply in order to be able to launch their product.

There are different categories that each standard falls under and they each have a unique number to go with it, which are as follows;

1.) Standard Specification

2.) Standard Test Method

3.) Standard Practice Guide

4.) Standard Classification

5.) Terminology Standard

Apart from developing such standards, ASTM is also involved in providing technical training programs, proficiency testing, symposia, publications, and inter-laboratory crosscheck programs.

These are open to all employees of industries who deal with related products or systems and also to government employees.

Both online and on-site training is available. They have Standards Development Forums online which can be accessed 24/7 worldwide. There are magazines and standardization news covering standards development topics that are published monthly.

All these standards that ASTM sets are used and accepted worldwide for testing and accepting products, quality systems, research and development, and also for certain commercial transactions.

Hence, are quite important in the business world. Areas like metals, plastics, paints, construction, textiles, energy, medical services/devices, environment, electronics, and consumer products all get covered under ASTM International standards.

All things considered, ASTM International does not make it a mandate for industries to adopt the standards set by them. Although industries that deal with the areas mentioned above do adopt these standards. However, in some cases, it is a law to comply.

ASME

The primary focus of ASME is to provide codes and standards that will help magnify the public safety and every engineer’s productivity level.

This standard is achieved by creating technical guides that show how to use a particular product, which is used by designers, manufacturers, and users. They come in paragraphs or sometimes can be spread across several pages depending on the kind of product.  

These set ASME codes act as guidelines that are followed by mechanical engineers as a common system to manufacture products in the US and other countries where ASME standards have been accepted and adopted.

Furthermore, since they are just guidelines they do not need to be followed as compulsion by said manufacturers, inspectors, and installers unless a part of the contract.

One of the best parts of ASME standards is that they are extremely effective as they are accepted universally, which makes it convenient, easy, fast, and effective to communicate among manufacturers and users.

For instance, if you buy a particular product from a certain place, and another person buys the same product from a different place, you both will get the exact same thing without any compromises in quality because it is a standardized product. This is the power of ASME standards.

Wrapping up

At the end of the day quality of a certain item matters more than anything else. You do not want to spend your money on something that will not give you the promised longevity.

Now you understand how anything you purchase be it an item or a service, having either ASTM or ASME standards is a plus point. They are both non-profit organizations that came about to do some good in society to help every individual lead a more safe life at work or otherwise.