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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. 

Finding standards

If you cannot find an applicable standard through the ASTM Digital Library, you may look into other standards organizations. These sites can help you locate standards applicable to your project:

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.

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. 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