What’s on the Horizon for AWS Standards

December 2023

New technology and improved processes are enhancing these publications.

Standards are the invisible building blocks of society. They guide the design, procedures, and safety protocols behind many significant aspects of civilization, from the bridges and roads we traverse to the cars we drive to the buildings we inhabit and far more.

According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), “a standard is a document, established by a consensus of subject matter experts and approved by a recognized body, that provides guidance on the design, use, or performance of materials, products, processes, services, systems, or persons” (Ref. 1).

AWS standards are codes and specifications that can be applied to different welding processes and procedures. AWS currently has more than 200 active standards spanning seven different focuses: fundamentals, qualification and inspection, processes, industrial applications, safety and health, materials, and welding equipment. AWS standards bring uniformity across all platforms, providing engineers, fabricators, welders, and others with the specifications needed to develop welding procedures, qualify welders, and inspect the welds produced. Upholding these publications are committees and their volunteer members, who work under American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rules to develop and revise standards.

“AWS Standards are consensus-based documents following an open process to ensure all individuals who participate have their and their company’s voices heard. Our standards are widely used and are foundational to both AWS Certification and AWS Educational offerings,” said Peter Portela, director, standards product development, AWS.

Because standards are so tightly woven into society, when society evolves, so must standards. Technological advances and artificial intelligence (AI) have become zeitgeists of the times, and the future of standards reflects this. Here’s what you can expect to see in the near and distant future.

Then and Now

The first incarnations of AWS standards were Bulletin No. 1, Standards for Testing Welds, and Bulletin No. 2, Welding Wire Specifications and Folios, both noted in the January 1922 issue of the Proceedings of the American Welding Society — the first issue of what would eventually become the Welding Journal. In 1928, the Code for Fusion Welding and Gas Cutting in Building Construction was published. It was the predecessor to AWS D1.1, Structural Welding Code — Steel. Since then, AWS has produced more than 400 standards, with one the most recent being D20.1, Specification for Fabrication of Metal Components using Additive Manufacturing.

A significant change to AWS standards development occurred in 2010, when the organization switched to a five-year revision cycle. This was meant to sync with American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) steel building specifications and International Building Code publications as well as give committees more time to perform revisions.

WD Dec 23 - What’s on the Horizon for AWS Standards
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The Code for Fusion Welding and Gas Cutting in Building Construction (left), published in 1928, was the predecessor to AWS D1.1, Structural Welding Code — Steel. The former was originally only eight pages, while the latter is now more than 600 pages.


ANSI dictates that AWS standards must be revised, reaffirmed, or withdrawn every ten years. During the revision process, committee members can submit their suggestions via ballots, which are official committee reviews of a standard. The comments are then reviewed by the committee, and a decision is made to incorporate the change or not. In 2020, Standards development evolved again when AWS launched SpecBuilder, the committee balloting software and a file sharing system, as part of a digital transformation. This software replaced the Online Committee System and the previous manual balloting process and helped streamline the process.

The Future for AWS Standards


Because committees are the backbone of standards, AWS is focusing on enhancing the volunteer experience through process improvement. Implementing new technology has been a critical factor in increasing engagement. For example, committee meetings are now hybrid, which improves attendance and outreach. Meetings have always been open to the public, but now they are easier to find with the online AWS calendar at aws.org/Community-and-Events/Calendar (aws.org/Community-and-Events/Calendar).

When it comes to standards development, AWS recently launched an enterprise content management system to internally manage documents and give them a unified location where they can be accessed from anywhere. For committee members, the adoption of Fonto XML, a web-based content authoring software, is in the works. It will facilitate the collaborative creation, editing, and review of structured content.


Standards are heading toward being better written. Structurally, they will be clearer and more concise. Fonto XML offers a content quality module that can assist with editing drafts. Further down the line, there is the prospect of producing standards that are machine readable. Instead of an engineer interpreting data, the machine would extract information from the standard and use that to make welds. But getting to this point would require changing the way standards are written.

“It’s not just a process improvement. It’s not just a software improvement. It’s revolutionizing how we write standards,” Portela said. “So that’s a very long-term process, but there’s hopes now that people are using AI to do some of the legwork.”

AI has the potential to generate standards and convert information to be machine interpretable. However, AI is constantly evolving and not completely understood by most people. Finding an expert in both welding and AI is a tall order.

Another concern is copyright infringement. During ANSI’s Legal Issues Forum, part of the organization’s World Standards Week, the following questions were addressed: Does ingestion for training AI constitute infringement? Does AI output infringe copyright? Is AI output itself copyrightable? Many countries have determined that ingestion for AI training does not infringe on copyright, while output infringement depends on the similarity to the protected expression. AI output is not protectable, as only works reflecting human originality can receive copyright protection in the United States (Ref. 2).

Due to these factors, Portela predicts that AWS standards will tread lightly in this arena for the time being.

“We are trying to do so much already that it can very easily become trying to drink from a fire hose, where it’s just way too much information and you can’t do it so quickly,” he explained.

Focusing on the Foundations

For now, AWS is focusing on the foundational pieces for progress, like consolidating content access and making processes more efficient.

“We’ve got to make sure the time people are spending on our standards is best utilized because if you have two hours to put into standards work and you spend an hour dealing with software issues, that’s not good,” Portela said. “[Ideally,] if people put two hours into standards, they’re spending 95% of it on the standards themselves.” The most foundational piece of all is the standards themselves. New publications being worked on include AWS D20.2, Specification for Additive Manufacturing of Metal Components Using Wire Directed Energy Deposition, and AWS D18.4, Specification for Welding of Orthopedic Surgical Instruments. Many others are also in revision.

How You Can Shape the World

Participating in a standards committee can be a fulfilling pursuit because your knowledge and contributions can help make the world a better place. And with the aforementioned improvements, joining and working on an AWS committee has never been easier. Network, learn how to manage risk for your employer, discover new business opportunities, strengthen your technical knowledge, and develop an understanding of international relationships (Ref. 3).

To learn more about AWS standards and committees, visit aws.org/Standards-and-Publications/Codes-and-Standards.


1. ISO, Consumers and Standards: Partnership for a Better World. Retrieved October 30, 2023, from iso.org/sites/ConsumersStandards/1_standards.html.

2. Band, J. 2023. The Intersection of Copyright and Generative Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved October 26, 2023, from share.ansi.org/Shared%20Documents/Meetings%20and%20Events/2023-WSW/Legal%20Issues%20Forum/2.%20Band_Jonathan_Panel_2_Slides.pdf

3. AWS, AWS Standards: Cracking The Codes That Protect Our Community. Retrieved October 25, 2023, from youtu.be/qwmXpAuaE3A?si=TsQZuRvqvbQLERaX.


This article was written by Alexandra Quinones (associate editor of the Welding Journal) for the American Welding Society.