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Engineering - Subject Guide

What is a standard?

A standard can be defined as a set of technical definitions and guidelines, “how to” instructions for designers, manufacturers, and users. Standards promote safety, reliability, productivity, and efficiency in almost every industry that relies on engineering components or equipment.  Standards can run from a few paragraphs to hundreds of pages, and are written by experts with knowledge and expertise in a particular field who sit on many committees.

ASME, Standards and Certification FAQ

Following standards is voluntary, as compared to codes, which are mandatory and carry force of law. The same organizations that develop standards also have procedures to accredit manufacturers that follow their standards.

Standards are a major source of information for designers, providing a look at best practices and successful design processes. Reviewing standards allows designers to benefit from the wisdom and experience of others, rather than reinvent the wheel each time.

Bonny Osif, "Make It Safe and Legal" from Integrating Information into the Engineering Design Process. 

For more information on standards, take a look at ASTM's The Handbook of Standardization.

Finding standards

Standards are produced by several organizations. These three sites can help you locate standards applicable to your project:

Start here: IHS Standards Store

  • IHS has a catalog of over one million specifications, standards, manuals, and other technical publications from over 400 standard-developing organizations and publishers.

or here: NSF International: The Public Health and Safety Organization

  • NSF is an independent, accredited organization, that tests, audits, and certifies products and systems as well as provides education and risk management. Use the Search Certified Products and Systems page. There you can either find standards by product category or search for products by manufacturer.

The resources above help you identify appropriate standards. Note the publication information (title, date, reference number, organization, etc.). Then, contact your professor or faculty advisor. They should be able to provide access to the standard.

Citing Standards

Other SDO catalogs

American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 

  • ANSI is a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States.

Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM)

  • AHAM develops and maintains technical standards for various appliances to provide uniform, repeatable procedures for measuring specific product characteristics and performance features. Standards relate primarily to the measurement of specific product performance characteristics for major and portable appliances.

Cookware Manufacturers Association (CMA) 

  • Voluntary standards for cookware and bakeware designed for use by engineers, cookware and bakeware designers and production personnel. The standard is a comprehensive 95-page manual covering all aspects of materials, material testing, minimum gauges, standard sizes and capacities. You can see the brands it covers by searching this PDF. Note: this manual is NOT currently available via ILL. If you need it for your research, please contact me.

Why are standards important?

Standards are a major source of information for designers, providing a look at best practices and successful design processes. Reviewing standards allows designers to benefit from the wisdom and experience of others, rather than reinvent the wheel each time.

Bonny Osif, "Make It Safe and Legal" from Integrating Information into the Engineering Design Process. 

This short video from NIST explains why standards, specifically for measurement, are important to technology and innovation. Similar principles guide all standards.