The Secret to First Article Inspection (FAI)

By March 9, 2021blog

What Is a First Article Inspection (FAI)?

A first article inspection takes place when an authorized person takes one or multiple parts from the start of the production run. Generally, this authorized person is the supplier or a second-party inspector with specific laboratories and equipment that are in line with the buyer’s product specifications. During FAI, it is important to reference the data that is included in the purchase order during an inspection.

Conversely, to what the name might imply, an FAI does not specifically have to be the first part off of the production line. The person overseeing the FAI will select a part at random from that initial sample.

What Happens if a Component Passes or Fails the FAI?

For the production run to continue the parts must pass inspection and meet all the requirements. If there is a delay in the process this component is inspected according to a  precise checklist. On the condition that this part passes the FAI, production will resume on time in a normal fashion.

Failure to pass inspection will result in manufacturing coming to a halt until the explanation for the failed component is addressed. After this occurrence, another FAI will be held to evaluate whether manufacturing can proceed. This inspection is a very important part of the critical application process of specific industries in defense, aerospace, and medical devices.

When Should a First Article Inspection Occur?

The FAI should occur during the first production run or if any revisions are made to the part’s design. For instance, an FAI will appear when production has restarted because of a relapse of manufacturing of two years or more.

If modifications are made during the materials, process, sourcing, location, or tools process then the first article inspection will proceed. Reveling the checklist process addresses that these changes did not cause negative consequences for the part’s performance.

When a product or part has design modifications this is known as a delta FAI or a partial FAI. The information that is generated from this is the difference between the original FAI and the latest version.

What Should an Inspection Plan Include?

Operating an FAI starts with creating an inspection plan that layouts the sequence of operations available. Someone would add the balloons containing the unique numbers to the design of the part. This tells the person inspecting the part what to analyze. The balloons are added to the design by hand or using the software.

A table of requirements for inspections should be included in the inspection plan. This table is an important aspect of the first article inspection report (FAIR), which summarizes the quality control inspector’s examination of the part whether it passes or fails inspection.

What Happens During an FAI?

During a first article inspection, a checklist or document is provided to uphold thoroughness during the process. A specially designed tool called a Coordinate measuring machine (CMMs) is used to measure the part with particular expectations which were made to see if they differ. If differences are present, the client will examine them based on their preferences.

CMMs are the first pick when it comes to creating accurate measurements for quality control inspections. There are a handful of other products that qualify in this category. For instance, the fixed CMMs score the most popular machine within the quality control managers. These tools excel when working with complex parts and product details. This includes portable CMMs which are designed to handle large components on the production floor.

The designated FAI team uses these measuring tools to monitor for parts that fail to meet expectations. Common issues that take place during the first article inspection contain the incorrect parts being uses, poor quality materials, and equipment processing failure.

When Might a Client Deem a First Article Inspection Unnecessary?

There are several benefits as well as waste reduction and time-efficient saving. Nonetheless, there are occasions where clients decide it is unnecessary to carry out an FAI. This can take place when there is a small production batch and the manufacturer is skilled in making that specific part.

In some cases, a pilot run is requested to handle new products of a larger batch. A supplier must accept responsibility for batches that can range from tens to hundreds of parts. Each batch needs to meet the client’s exact specifications and needs. Suppliers must demonstrate their expertise in an opposing manner other than approving a first article inspection.

A Crucial Part of the Quality Control Process

There are many other ways to test quality control processes other than the first article inspection. However, FAI is essential in providing validation for a client during the production process. Offering trust that a supplier can meet the client’s needs without making costly errors.