Smart manufacturing refers to multiple ‘new normals’ in the context of manufacturing – that is, how industry will leverage the application of new disruptive technologies such as ‘Artificial intelligence’, ‘Edge computing’, ‘Robotics’, ‘Additive manufacturing’ (3D printing), ‘Gene editing’ and the ‘Internet of Things’, to change the face of traditional manufacturing. Smart manufacturing has been described as a “fusion of the digital, biological and physical world”[1] and represents a change that is so significant that it is sometimes referred to as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.[2] Smart manufacturing could represent an important opportunity to boost sustainable manufacturing and, as its implementation expands, it will be essential to develop a better understanding of how it can contribute to sustainable development while improving system efficiency.[3] Below, we explore one industry that will hopefully benefit from smart manufacturing to increase sustainability (the plastics industry), and one key enabler of smart manufacturing that is undergoing rapid development and expansion (additive manufacturing).

Technology trends

New generation plastics

Today’s plastics, with a predominantly linear material flow, unquestionably face challenges, both regarding CO2-emissions due to their fossil-basis, and to plastic pollution (unintended leakage and subsequent accumulation of plastics in the environment or even the human body). The question is, how will we ensure we have the materials for the future without compounding these problems?

Many companies are developing alternatives based on renewable, biomass materials, including e.g. flax, mushrooms, and shrimp shells.[4,5] The formulation of existing plastics can also be changed to make them more degradable[5] and, finally, innovations in recycling technologies will make manufacturing the materials of the future more sustainable.

As one of the largest sectors in the manufacturing industry, innovations in plastic production systems themselves are also a key driver of change. The data collected by more efficient sensors and smart machinery (see ‘Internet of Things’) can improve the consistency of products, limiting defects (and ultimately reducing plastic pollution), reducing energy consumption and costs, and improving competitiveness.[6,7]

News stories

Plastic pollution is a key environmental challenge today, calling for a new global agreement and sustainable solutions. Standards for plastics enjoy a privileged status in making this happen. 
Plastic is an important material in our economy and daily lives. It has multiple functions that can help tackle a number of the challenges facing our society, be it packaging that ensures food safety and …
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 61/SC 14
Environmental aspects
  • Published 41 Standards | Developing 12 Projects
  • ISO 5148:2022
    Plastics — Determination of specific aerobic biodegradation rate of solid plastic materials and disappearance time (DT50) under mesophilic laboratory test conditions
  • ISO 5412:2022
    Plastics — Industrial compostable plastic shopping bags
  • ISO 5424:2022
    Plastics — Industrial compostable plastic drinking straws
  • ISO 5430:2023
    Plastics — Ecotoxicity testing scheme for soluble decomposition intermediates from biodegradable plastic materials and products used in the marine environment — Test methods and requirements
  • ISO 16620-1:2015
    Plastics — Biobased content
    Part 1: General principles
  • ISO/CD 16620-2 [Under development]
    Plastics — Biobased content
    Part 2: Determination of biobased carbon content
  • ISO 16620-3:2015
    Plastics — Biobased content
    Part 3: Determination of biobased synthetic polymer content
  • ISO 16620-4:2024
    Plastics — Biobased content
    Part 4: Determination of biobased mass content
  • ISO/AWI 16620-5 [Under development]
    Plastics — Biobased content
    Part 5: Declaration of biobased carbon content, biobased synthetic polymer content and biobased mass content
  • ISO/DIS 16623 [Under development]
    Plastics — Marine biodegradation testing — Preparation of optimized intertidal seawater and sediment
  • ISO 17088:2021
    Plastics — Organic recycling — Specifications for compostable plastics
  • ISO/CD 18957 [Under development]
    Plastics — Determination of the aerobic biodegradation of plastic materials exposed to seawater using accelerated conditions in laboratory
  • ISO 20200:2023
    Plastics — Determination of the degree of disintegration of plastic materials under composting conditions in a laboratory-scale test
  • ISO 22526-1:2020
    Plastics — Carbon and environmental footprint of biobased plastics
    Part 1: General principles
  • ISO 22526-2:2020
    Plastics — Carbon and environmental footprint of biobased plastics
    Part 2: Material carbon footprint, amount (mass) of CO2 removed from the air and incorporated into polymer molecule
  • ISO 22526-3:2020
    Plastics — Carbon and environmental footprint of biobased plastics
    Part 3: Process carbon footprint, requirements and guidelines for quantification
  • ISO 22526-4:2023
    Plastics — Carbon and environmental footprint of biobased plastics
    Part 4: Environmental (total) footprint (Life cycle assessment)

Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing produces objects through a process of layering together raw materials. This is different to traditional (subtractive) manufacturing, which creates parts out of raw materials.[8] Additive manufacturing is widely known as ‘3D printing’, but this style of manufacturing also Includes ‘4D printing’, an emerging approach that allows the manufacture of products that respond to things like heat, light, and the passing of time.[9]

The use of additive manufacturing is expected to increase, with many new applications for both commercial and personal use. The ability to print products for personal use will open markets for blueprints and designs, while increasing the customization options available to consumers (see ‘Customized products’). A potentially endless range of products could be manufactured using additive methods, including machinery parts, consumer goods such as shoes and furniture and healthcare products like hearing aids and prosthetics.[8,10]

If additive manufacturing grows, we can expect an increased impact on trade – perhaps a reduction in the transport of goods, along with an increase in the transport of raw materials. Overall, this would be expected to reduce global freight volume.[8]

Of course, additive manufacturing has some challenges, such as ensuring cybersecurity and management of intellectual property. Companies and governments will need to be attentive to emerging issues to ensure the benefits of additive manufacturing are enjoyed by all.

News stories

We can no longer envision a world without computers or the Internet, but in 2017 this is old news. Much more exciting developments are in the pipeline. From virtual reality to artificial intelligence, if …
ISO and ASTM International have jointly crafted the Additive Manufacturing Standards Development Structure, a framework which will help meet the needs for new technical standards in this fast-growing field. …
Don’t be afraid to see big. Additive manufacturing – known in popular culture as 3D printing – is a concept that has captured the attention of many with its science fiction connotations. Yet the technology …
This white paper is aimed at people who are curious about smart manufacturing, searching for generic information about the concept, and/or trying to get an understanding of what is being done in the arena of international standardization and the implications it might have to industry.
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 261
Additive manufacturing
  • Published 43 Standards | Developing 23 Projects
  • ISO 17295:2023
    Additive manufacturing — General principles
    Part positioning, coordinates and orientation
  • ISO/ASTM 52900:2021
    Additive manufacturing — General principles — Fundamentals and vocabulary
  • ISO/ASTM 52901:2017
    Additive manufacturing — General principles — Requirements for purchased AM parts
  • ISO/ASTM TR 52916:2022
    Additive manufacturing for medical — Data — Optimized medical image data
  • ISO/ASTM CD TR 52918 [Under development]
    Additive manufacturing — Data formats — File format support, ecosystem and evolutions
  • ISO/ASTM 52920:2023
    Additive manufacturing — Qualification principles — Requirements for industrial additive manufacturing processes and production sites
  • ISO/ASTM 52933:2024
    Additive manufacturing — Environment, health and safety — Test method for the hazardous substances emitted from material extrusion type 3D printers in the non-industrial places
  • ISO/ASTM 52939:2023
    Additive manufacturing for construction — Qualification principles — Structural and infrastructure elements
  • ISO/ASTM 52943-2:2024
    Additive manufacturing for aerospace — Process characteristics and performance
    Part 2: Directed energy deposition using wire and arc
  • ISO/ASTM 52945:2023
    Additive manufacturing for automotive — Qualification principles — Generic machine evaluation and specification of key performance indicators for PBF-LB/M processes
  • ISO/ASTM 52950:2021
    Additive manufacturing — General principles — Overview of data processing
  • ISO/ASTM FDIS 52967 [Under development]
    Additive manufacturing for aerospace — General principles
    Part classifications for additive manufactured parts used in aviation
Technical Committee
Information technology
  • Published 3499 Standards | Developing 524 Projects
  • ISO/IEC 3532-1:2023
    Information technology — Medical image-based modelling for 3D printing
    Part 1: General requirements
  • ISO/IEC 3532-2:2024
    Information technology — Medical image-based modelling for 3D printing
    Part 2: Segmentation
  • ISO/IEC DIS 8801 [Under development]
    Information Technology — 3D Printing and Scanning — Data Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
  • ISO/IEC CD 8803 [Under development]
    Information Technology — 3D Printing and Scanning — accuracy and precision evaluation process for modeling from 3D scanned data
  • ISO/IEC DIS 16466 [Under development]
    Information Technology — 3D Printing and scanning — Assessment methods of 3D scanned data for 3D printing model
  • ISO/IEC 23510:2021
    Information technology — 3D printing and scanning — Framework for an Additive Manufacturing Service Platform (AMSP)
Technical Committee
  • Published 327 Standards | Developing 52 Projects
  • ISO/WD 21763 [Under development]
    Guideline for Smart Manufacturing in Iron and Steel Industry
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 61/SC 14
Environmental aspects
  • Published 41 Standards | Developing 12 Projects
  • ISO 5425:2023
    Specifications for use of poly(lactic acid) based filament in additive manufacturing applications
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 150
Implants for surgery
  • Published 175 Standards | Developing 47 Projects
  • ISO/DIS 5092 [Under development]
    Additive manufacturing for medical — General principles — Additive manufacturing of non-active implants
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 184
Automation systems and integration
  • Published 900 Standards | Developing 103 Projects
  • ISO 23704-1:2022
    General requirements for cyber-physically controlled smart machine tool systems (CPSMT)
    Part 1: Overview and fundamental principles
  • ISO 23704-2:2022
    General requirements for cyber-physically controlled smart machine tool systems (CPSMT)
    Part 2: Reference architecture of CPSMT for subtractive manufacturing
  • ISO 23704-3:2023
    General requirements for cyber-physically controlled smart machine tool systems (CPSMT)
    Part 3: Reference architecture of CPSMT for additive manufacturing
  • ISO/AWI 23704-4 [Under development]
    Reference Model for Cyber-Physically Controlled Smart Machine Tool Systems (CPSMT)
    Part 4: Part 4: Requirements and guidelines for implementing reference architecture of CPSMT for subtractive manufacturing
  • ISO/IEC TR 63306-1:2020
    Smart manufacturing standards map (SM2)
    Part 1: Framework
  • ISO/IEC TR 63306-2:2021
    Smart manufacturing standards map (SM2)
    Part 2: Catalogue
  • IEC/CD TR 63319 [Under development]
    A meta-modelling analysis approach to smart manufacturing reference models
  • IEC/FDIS 63339 [Under development]
    Unified reference model for smart manufacturing
Technical Committee
Technical Management Board - groups
  • Published 67 Standards | Developing 8 Projects
  • ISO/TMBG/SMCC Coordination Committee on Smart Manufacturing
  • White paper on Smart Manufacturing
    This white paper is aimed at people who are curious about smart manufacturing, searching for generic information about the concept, and/or trying to get …


  1. Foresight Africa. Top priorities for the continent 2020-2030 (Brookings Institution, 2020)
  2. White paper on smart manufacturing (ISO Smart Manufacturing Coordinating Committee, 2021)
  3. Sustainable and smart manufacturing: an integrated approach (Sustainability, 2020)
  4. Ten trends that will shape science in the 2020s. Medicine gets trippy, solar takes over, and humanity—finally, maybe—goes back to the moon (Smithsonian Magazine, 2020)
  5. Global trends to 2030. Challenges and choices for Europe (European Strategy and Policy Analysis System, 2019)
  6. Smart Manufacturing in Plastic Injection Molding (Manufacturing Tomorrow, 2017)
  7. Eight ways smart manufacturing is moving into the mainstream in 2021 (Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, 2021)
  8. Global connectivity outlook to 2030 (World Bank, 2019)
  9. 2021 Tech trends report. Strategic trends that will influence business, government, education, media and society in the coming year (Future Today Institute, 2021)
  10. Global strategic trends. The future starts today (UK Ministry of Defence, 2018)