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Mechanical Engineering: Standards, Patents, Reports

Useful definitions

Code - A standard that has been adopted by one or more governmental bodies and has the force of law (ASME definition).  One example is the Boiler and Pressure Vessel code. 

Patent - An intellectual property right granted by the government to an inventor for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted (USPTO definition).

Specification - describes a product or system in terms of what it is capable of doing.  These are often refined during the design process.

Standard -

ASME definition: "'how to' instructions for designers, manufacturers and users" 

ISO definition:  "a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context"

NIST (US National Institute of Standards and Technology) definition: "developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, through the use of a voluntary consensus standards development process"

Standards are voluntary guidelines but using them is highly recommended because they promote safety and are widely used across industry.

Technical Report - a document that describes the process, progress, or results of technical or scientific research or the state of a technical or scientific research problem

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About U.S. standards

Developing standards for products began in the 1900s in the United States, driven by private industry. Safety and conformance were the focus of product standards. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the body that coordinates the voluntary standards development among the many specific industries. ANSI was founded in 1918 by the U.S. government and standards developing organizations.

ANSI represents the U.S. in the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is focused on trade barriers stemming from standards. NIST and ANSI work to bridge the private sector voluntary standardization and the government interests in a global economy. In the U.S. there are 600+ organizations that develop voluntary standards.

The U.S. Department of Defense has separate standards for products used in military practices. More information can be found at ASSIST-QuickSearch. Provides direct access to Defense and Federal specifications and standards available in the official DoD repository.

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