The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) represents the interests of mechanical engineers in the U.S and, to an extent, those of many other countries. Founded in 1880, the ASME was formed because of the urgent need for engineering standards for the design, fabrication and operation of boilers to reduce the frequency of catastrophic boiler accidents that frequently resulted in the loss of life.
As a professional engineering society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers is one of a number of societies that represent various engineering disciplines. Many of these societies are involved in the preparation and publishing of engineering standards related to their spheres of interest.
In part, it was due to the proliferation of engineering societies producing standards that led several organizations to form an independent and impartial body for the purpose of coordinating standards and to approve national standards. These societies include the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering and the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) along with ASME and the US Departments of War, Navy and Commerce.
In time this body became known as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) with a remit to coordinate and approve voluntary American National Standards (ANS). Today, ANSI continues with this work and has accredited over 200 organizations that are tasked with developing specific ANS standards. Altogether more than 10,000 American National Standards have been issued.
It is largely due to the work performed by ANSI that the ANS voluntary standards in existence do not overlap to any major extent. Although the ANS standards are voluntary standards, many of them are given force of law within states by legislation passed by the legislatures of these states. The Federal government has also taken steps to enforce the use of the American National Standards though the 1996 National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act, which obliges federal agencies to adopt and play a part in using ANS standards.
The ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code remains the key standard for the design and fabrication of pressure vessel and boilers throughout the U.S., as well as many other countries.