ASTM International or ASTM was previously known as the American Society for Testing and Materials. It is an international standards organization that creates and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a large variety of materials, products, systems, and services. The organization’s headquarters is in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. ASTM was established before other similar standards organizations such as BSI (1901), DIN (1917) and AFNOR (1926), but it is slightly different from these because it is not a national standards body; the ANSI is its equivalent national body in the United States. Despite this, ASTM has played an important part in the development of standards in the USA, and alleges to be the world’s greatest developer of standards. ASTM provides support to thousands of volunteer technical committees using a consensus process. Essentially they draw their members from all over the the world and cumulatively develop and maintain more than 12,000 individual standards. ASTM International publishes the Annual Book of ASTM Standards each year in different formats inclusive of print, CD and online versions. The online version was once available by subscription and the cost was dependent upon usage. As of 2008, the entire collection of books or CDs cost almost $9000 USD and included 81 volumes.
Anyone who is interested in the activities of the organization can apply for and be granted membership. Standards are formulated within committees, and new committees are formed as the need arises when members see fit. Membership in most committees is actually voluntary and is started by the member’s own desire to join hence it does not require an appointment or invitation from another member. Members are categorized into different groups including: users, producers, consumers, and “general interest”. The “general interest” group includes academics and consultants. Users is specific to industry users, who may be considered producers in the context of other technical committees, and end-users who are typically consumers. To uphold the requirements of antitrust laws, producers cannot make up as much as 50% of every committee or subcommittee. Additionally votes are restricted to one for each producer company. Because of these limitations, there is often a large waiting-list of producers desiring organizational memberships on the more prominent committees. However members are still allowed to participate without a formal vote and their recommendations or arguments will still have significant value.
The organization as of 2007, has more than 30,000 members, including over 1100 organizational members, from more than 120 countries worldwide, including 120 members in China since 2005.
ASTM International has gained recognition by the US Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
ASTM International produces standards but does not have the power to enforce compliance of these standards. Yet, these standards may become mandatory if or when they are referenced by an external contract, corporation, or government. In the United States, ASTM standards have been acknowledged, by either incorporation or reference, in many federal, state, and municipal government regulations. The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act, which was passed in 1995, requires the federal government to use privately developed consensus standards whenever it is applicable. Other governments worldwide have also have referenced ASTM formulated standards. Some corporations doing international business may choose whether or not to reference any ASTM standard.