First Article Inspection Procedure 101: What, When, & How

What is First Article Inspection?

first article inspection serviceFirst article Inspection (FAI) is also called ”initial quality control.” It examines and contrasts a requirement (product design) with the final product (production result). The first item made using the new method, or a sample from the first batch of parts is wholly tested as part of the First article Inspection Procedure. In this process, a supplier often carries out the FAI, and the client (you) evaluates the report.

The term ‘first article‘ stands for the first product produced by any facility or supplier under contract. The suppliers must do a first article inspection process due to industry standards before the mass-manufacturing process starts, typically when the supplier has produced 1% to 10% of your order, to prevent large-scale errors. As a result, this process will save you much time, effort, and money without needing to conduct mass-inspection and then reproduce them.

The purpose of this inspection is to guarantee that the production procedures are established correctly from the beginning. Before producing a sizable quantity of goods, manufacturing engineers have a last-ditch opportunity to optimize the processes. You may request an authorized subcontractor to examine the initial article if you think it is essential.

There are two types of first article inspection:

  1. Standard / Full First Article Inspection
  2. Partial / Delta First Article Inspection

A partial FAI or delta FAI is undertaken when isolated changes are performed, which we will cover below.

Why Are First Article Inspections Necessary?

Before an item is placed into mass production, an engineering evaluation is conducted. You and the manufacturer will value a first-article inspection procedure. These points below indicate that you need the first article inspection procedure:

  • To verify and examine documented requirements
  • To document the first article production
  • To constantly produce high-quality parts

When to Conduct the First Article Inspection Procedure?

What's First Article Inspection ProcedureTypically, an FAI will assess one component using a crucial unwritten assumption. The production procedure will be followed precisely for every next item, ensuring that high-quality parts are produced.

Any modification to the part’s design or manufacturing procedure goes against this assumption. Thus, you will need to have a first-article inspection procedure. Here are some lists of conditions that you will need to perform the first article inspection:

1.   After Having A New Contract Manufacturer or Outsource

These manufacturers might have used different raw materials. Besides, the contract manufacturer may have other product manufacturing flows. Hence, the product’s outcome may also differ from the original one. In this case, you must ensure that all the products meet your needs.

2.   After Initial Production Run

You must conduct the first article inspection procedure before manufacturing a new product. It is awful to discover that your product is unsellable after most of your products are produced. So, inspect after the first production run to avoid the waste of defective products and costs.

3.   After A Design Modification

A change in design often results in different product outcomes. You should perform the first article inspection procedure to ensure the new-designed products have zero design errors. A partial FAI is needed if only a small design is modified on the product. It is essential as the design change could impact fit, form, or function.

4.   After A Change In Materials Or Source

If the products have changes in materials or source, the parts’ specifications will differ from the original ones. You must carry out the partial or complete first article inspection procedure to confirm that the materials used meet your criteria.

5.   After A Procedure, Instrument, Or Location Change

You must undertake the first article inspection procedure if your company has recently moved to a new place or you have changed the product’s process flow or instrument. All these changes will also affect the product’s fit, form, and function. Without the first article inspection, you may face the consequences of producing faulty mass products.

6.   After The Last Run Had Ended For A Few Years

You may continue to manufacture the products after you have stopped manufacturing them for certain years. In this situation, you may have some changes in your manufacturing process or even use a new manufacturing instrument. Thus, you must conduct a first-article inspection to continue delivering a good product that satisfies customers.

How to Creat a First Article Inspection Report (FAIR)?

The first article inspection report consists of 3 forms, including

  • Form 1: Part Number Accountability
  • Form 2: Product Accountability
  • Form 3: Characteristic Accountability and Balloon Drawing.

Here are the processes of creating a first article inspection report:

Step 1: Prepare In Advance For Your FAI

First Article Inspection Report and what is first article inspection procedure
First Article Inspection Report Format

Before taking your products for the first article inspection, you must prepare the needed documents. It avoids misunderstandings on the third-party inspection team and allows a smooth inspection process. Some documents that you need to prepare are:

  • Engineers’ drawings: It is also called balloon drawings, where your product’s 2D or 3D design is shown along with all the dimensions
  • Defining data sets for digital goods: You will need to provide these data sets to ensure the products are aligned with the correct data sets.
  • Bill of materials or a list: You must include the materials and their quantity in your documents before starting the first article inspection procedure.
  • Process Specifications: These involve describing the product, reference standard, performance, and other related product details.
  • Manufacturing planning, routing, passenger flow, and work order: These are all production planning and control information. It is needed in the documents so inspectors can control the manufacturing process.
  • Information on the source or supplier: The inspector must verify if the supplier or the source is from the right channel.

Step 2: Create An Inspection Plan

You will need to create the forms that describe your inspection plan. The process is as follows:

  1. Indicate the need that the inspector will examine with a balloon number.
  2. Fill out the AS9102 forms, the first of which is for numerical accountability and the second of which is for product accountability. You will find the details for the form on the Bill of Materials and Specifications list.
  3. Make a list of the reference positions for the balloon.
  4. Make a list of the requirements, which should contain the measuring units and any additional specifications that differ based on tolerances.
  5. Make a list of the classes, including crucial, significant, and key criteria, before you finish the inspection plan.

Step 3: Manufacture Products

You may need to verify the factory’s quality management system before the inspection to be more confident in the results. Also, you may employ a third-party inspection company to watch over their procedure. In this step, you may start your production run.

While the product is manufactured,  the entire procedure and inspection findings are documented and recorded. You must remember that the first article is not the first thing produced but rather a randomly chosen item from the first production run.

Step 4: Obtain Data

The fourth stage is where all procedure data is collected. The parts are inspected based on the inspection plan developed in Step 2. In this step, you need to keep track of calibrated, certified inspection tools so they can be traced back to the person who has been given the necessary training.

Step 5: Create The Report

You should enter your measurement results into AS9102 Form 3. In this part, you will need to fill in the following:

  • Measured results
  • Serial numbers of the measuring equipment used to measure the part.
  • Non-conformance information
  • Certificate of Conformance (C of C)
  • Functional Test Report

Finally, the first article inspection report will consist of the following:

  1. A part drawing checking report
  2. Verified measurements of characteristics
  3. Regular test report remarks

What if a Product Failed the First Article Inspection?

The first article inspection procedure verifies that everything is as expected before the manufacturing run starts. Suppose the product fails during the first article inspection. In that case, the production will stop, and corrective measures will be developed and implemented.

Failure of the first article inspection will happen when the inspectors find non-conformities, such as flaws, color difficulties, or even functional issues on the product. A pilot run or small initial production batch is carefully manufactured and checked with an FAI once more when production transitions back to the test condition.

How to Find a First-Article Inspection Company?

Hiring an inspector to inspect your first article is vital as it helps avoid costly mistakes. The FAI also assists in confirming that a supplier can satisfy your needs. Products that succeeded in the first article inspection procedure are all high-quality products that functioned well.

Looking for a comprehensive first-article inspection service? AQI Service is the name you can trust. We have years of experience handling all types of inspections for companies worldwide. Consult us today for a one-stop inspection service!

Author: AQI Service as a professional quality control service company in China specialized in providing a complete range of quality inspection and testing and certification services in China & Asia for global importers, buyers, retailers, and sellers.