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American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standards

  • 21 October, 2022

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an international standards organization focused on developing technical standards for a variety of industrial applications. The organization was founded in 1898 by Charles Dudley, who was a Chemist with the Pennsylvania Railroad. While investigating rail breakage fractures, he noted there were different variations in steel quality and published his research on the subject. This subsequently led to the drafting of initial standards that have grown over the years. ASTM was renamed as ASTM International in 2001 and today has its headquarters located in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. ASTM International does not formally enforce its standards, but these practices can be enforced by federal, state, and municipal regulations.

Standardization News is published on the ASTM website and Standard Specifications can be purchased through their website too. Standards are published each year for technical quality subjects such as metals, plastics, petroleum, textiles, paints, construction, energy, environmental, medical, electronics, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). There are over 30,000 volunteer members in over 140 countries. I have worked with different ASTM standards for both steel and plastic pipeline in the oil and gas industry. There are generally six (6) types of features that you will see with an ASTM document, including Test Method, Specification, Classification, Practice, Guide, and Terminology. You may also see other sections such as Scope, Reference Documents, Terminology, Significance and Use, Procedure, Report, and Keywords. The Documents are like school lab reports since they can include tabulated data, graphs, preliminary site studies, safety, regulations, equations, units, and material properties as well.

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standards

1. Class A: Iron and Steel Materials

Class A items for ASTM include iron and steel materials. This includes different ferrous attributes such as structure, grades, castings, alloys, and testing for steel products. Steel is a staple of the world economy so the name "ASTM International" certainly fits for worldwide applications. Manufacturers must produce components with quality specifications for ductility, ultimate tensile strength, and percent elongation to ensure they are meeting both regulation and safety requirements. As mentioned earlier, ASTM does not directly enforce their standards, but they naturally must be followed so metallic structures maintain their integrity. ASTM A370 specifically covers mechanical testing for steel products.

2. Class B: Nonferrous Metal Materials

The next ASTM designation is for Class B, nonferrous metal materials. This includes many metals that you would see in the periodic table, such as copper, aluminium, gold, and silver. Steel is widely used, which is probably why ASTM A is exclusively reserved for iron and steel. Remember, steel in its basic form is an alloy of carbon (C) and iron (Fe). There are so many applications and procedures that other metallic materials are separate from steel. Brass (66% Copper, 34% Zinc) is also under the ASTM B umbrella. ASTM B16 is for free-cutting brass rod, bar, and wire, including the chemical composition and Rockwell hardness. Other industry tests such as Rockwell hardness and Charpy impact test help to shape ASTM documents, so you can again see how their standards are naturally enforced in the conception of certain designs and practices.

3. Class C: Ceramic, Concrete, and Masonry Materials

Class C is for ceramic, concrete, and masonry materials. Glass is also included with the ASTM C designation. ASTM C1036 contains information about flat glass for architectural products such as mirrors and laminated glass, so you can see aesthetics also play a role in the development of standards. ASTM C67 and C126 involve testing structural brick and clay tile, including compressive strength. I took a ceramics class in high school; while the focus was mainly on it being an art class, there was science involved with the firing process, bringing clay and glazes to a desired final form. Cracking and explosion can occur if not handled properly. One of my trays was flawed, so I learned that first-hand with fissures occurring in my so-called work of art.

ASTM C387 is a specification for concrete mixtures. Concrete has high compressive strength, but weak ultimate tensile strength. When walking on a concrete sidewalk, you will notice that the concrete blocks do not sink due to their high hardness. Concrete is a composite material of water mixed with cement. There are different variations of concrete with portland cement being the most common cementitious material used worldwide. Ceramics generally have high hardness and low toughness (less resistance to fracturing compared to metals). ASTM C144 has masonry information about gradation for joint sand.

4. Class D: Miscellaneous Materials

ASTM Class D refers to miscellaneous materials, including plastics. ASTM does not seem to have a true classification that is exclusive for plastics, so it falls under the miscellaneous category. As I said before, steel is a staple of the world economy, so that would have precedence. Specification ASTM D3350 is the standard for polyethylene plastics; the cell classification of materials is tested according to primary properties such as density, tensile strength, and slow crack growth resistance. Different compounds are used for the manufacturing of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and they must undergo testing as the ASTM name implies! There are different forms of connecting plastic pipe and fittings with ASTM D3261 as one example, utilizing butt heat fusion. Other topics in the Miscellaneous Materials category include pH of Water (D1293), Elements in Water (D1976), and Electrical Conductivity and Resistivity of Water (D1125).

5. Class E: Miscellaneous Subjects

ASTM Class E involves miscellaneous subjects. This class seems to include the subject of fire, with topics such as Fire Tests for Building Materials (ASTM E119), Surface Flammability of Materials (ASTM E162), and Optical Density of Smoke (ASTM E662). Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials (ASTM E84) are included too, as well as Air Permeance of Building Materials (ASTM E2178). Water also appears to be one of the miscellaneous subjects, with Water Vapor Transmission (ASTM E96) and Water Penetration of Exterior Windows and Doors (ASTM E1105) being classified with the ASTM E designation. In addition to fire and water, ASTM E23 involves the Charpy impact test and antimicrobial screening tests are part of the ASTM E2149 specification.

6. Class F: Materials for Specific Applications

ASTM Class F refers to materials for specific applications. Type F can certainly be specific, as I once came across a Standard for Structural Design of Thermoplastic Chambers (ASTM F2787)! Most companies and manufacturers will have general system and design guidelines, but you do need a specific standard for each application; there is no true universal standard that can fit all applications. I have seen this from different soil lab testing and geotechnical studies. Every application and geographic location can be different, but that is the fun of research. In the oil and gas industry, I have seen Class F standards for Solid Wall HDPE Conduit (ASTM F2160) and Joining HDPE Conduit with Mechanical Couplings (ASTM F2176). ASTM F1668 is about construction procedures for buried plastic pipe, but you can see from earlier that ASTM A would be better suited for steel pipe.

7. Class G: Corrosion, Deterioration, and Degradation of Materials

ASTM Class G refers to corrosion, deterioration, and degradation of materials. Deterioration and degradation are important facets in the field of materials science since you are studying failure theory and predicting material performance in certain conditions. It is imperative for manufacturers and vendors to test their products and identify different tolerance ranges so they can make appropriate recommendations for their product selection. And as an engineer, you must be able to choose the correct equipment for a particular design. If the wrong equipment is ordered, this can lead to lost expenditures as well as lost time and other ramifications if equipment is utilized with the incorrect components.

ASTM G154 evaluates changes in material properties when operating fluorescent UV lamps for non-metallic materials. For ASTM G154, environmental conditions are controlled when testable items are exposed to fluorescent UV light, since you are trying to simulate actual conditions that may occur in a live scenario. Corrosion can occur in metallic materials, but since corrosion is its own entity as electrochemistry, it is separate from ASTM A and ASTM B specifications. For example, ASTM B covers general aluminium specifications, but ASTM G69 is for the corrosion potential of aluminium alloys.


Engineering is an exciting profession: there are always new things to learn and always new standards that can be developed to better both our industry and society. As the engineering profession is always growing, we will continue to need professionals educating themselves. You should always be studious; not just for passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exams or even for your continuing education hours, but also for personal growth. You can browse different industry magazines and websites for more information, and be sure to check back with School of PE for more blog posts too!
About the Author: Gregory Nicosia

Gregory Nicosia, PE is an engineer who has been practicing in the industry for eight years. His background includes natural gas, utilities, mechanical, and civil engineering. He earned his chemical engineering undergraduate degree at Drexel University (2014) and master's in business administration (MBA) from Penn State Harrisburg (2018). He received his EIT designation in 2014 and PE license in 2018. Mr. Nicosia firmly believes in continuing to grow his skillset to become a more well-rounded engineer and adapt to an ever-changing world.

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