First article inspection
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A first article inspection (FAI) is a design verification and design history file and a formal method of providing a reported measurement for a given manufacturing process. Both the supplier and purchaser perform the First Article on the ordered product. The evaluation method consists of comparing supplier and purchasers results from measuring the properties and geometry of an initial sample item against given specifications, for example a drawing. Items to be checked by the supplier and purchaser FAI are wide and varied and may include distances between edges, positions of holes, diameters and shapes of holes, weight, density, stiffness, color or surface finish. Despite the name, the inspected article may not necessarily be the 'first' produced, but a random sample of 3 parts from the first lot provided to the purchaser. First article inspection is typically called for in a purchase order contract between the producer and buyer of some manufactured article, both perform the First Article inspection to ensure that the production process reliably produces what is intended, design verification of the print, and is part of the purchasing, and design control requirements.
Depending on the inspection capability, the type of product and the governing specification, a first article inspection may be conducted by an approved 2nd party supplier that is a dimensional metrology laboratory using a variety of calibrated tools such as coordinate-measuring machines (CMM), cmm/vision systems and programmable 3-axis measurement systems.
First article inspections are commonplace for military subcontractors. The protocol is, however, required for design verification, purchasing controls, from the supplier and the purchasers receiving inspection in many non-military industries, particularly aerospace, automotive and medical manufacturing.
Manufacturers delivering products to government bodies or in regulated industries such as medical device must typically meet more stringent requirements than international requirements. If there are special test requirements outside of the suppliers capability then test maybe subcontracted to a 3rd party accredited testing lab. Medical Device 21 CFR 820
Some general standards which apply to first article inspection are produced by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), the IAF (International Accreditation Forum) the ILAC (International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation) however more stringent regulations may apply in the U.S. in regulated industries.
First article inspection forms part of a more comprehensive quality management system which is able to assure continuing conformance with applicable specifications. It is required to be performed by the supplier prior to delivery and the purchaser at receiving as part of the supplier approval process, design verification, and purchasing controls in 21 CFR 820.
- To verify the accuracy of drawings and ensure that they reflect any changes made to parts design during the prototype design.
- To verify the production process in every parameter, rather than just concentrating on “critical” dimensions.
- To verify all tooling used to produce a part, to ensure that it is capable of producing parts to specifications.
- To verify the ability of the manufacturer to meet the needs of production.
Enhanced first article inspections
With the use of modern computers in the manufacturing environment, first article inspections are no longer being used with the traditional three form layout on paper but instead recorded digitally and stored on servers for easy access and organization. Recording the first article digitally eliminates errors with the help of software that keeps track of the FAIs and generates reports immediately after successful completion of an FAI.
Aviation and aerospace
AS9102 is the North American aerospace standard for First Article Inspection Requirements (like SJAC9102 for Japanese Aerospace Standards and EN9102 for European Aerospace Standards). First article inspection can be documented on Forms 1 (Part Number Accountability), 2 (Product Accountability), and 3 (Characteristic Accountability, Verification and Compatibility Evaluation).
Form 3 may often be referred to 3D data models or 2D technical data sheets (also called ballooned drawings), where the characterics are uniquely identified.
Some software solutions insert a grid on the 2D data sheets, so that the measured characteristics may be uniquely identified by the part number and the related revision number of the 2D data sheet, and the relative position of the characteristics on it (e.g.: in quarter A2, C10).
First Article Inspection is part of AS9145, Requirements for Advanced Product Quality Planning and Production Part Approval Process (APQP/PPAP), Phase 4 and is a required document for APQP/PPAP approval. See Production Part Approval Process.
Many large aerospace companies including Bombardier Aerospace, and Spirit AeroSystems have recently switched to enhanced first article inspections in order to keep track of the numerous first articles received by different companies within the company's supply chain. Suppliers to these companies, including Machine Shops, are also turning to enhanced first article inspections to improve manufacturing productivity and throughput by eliminating the manual process of creating FAIs. Customers who perform such inspections are recommended to identify this in the contract, and to use specific forms to document the results.
- First Article and Production Lot Testing Defense Contract Management Agency
- Cappels, Thomas M. (1999). Financially focused quality. CRC Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-57444-248-9. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
- Bowman, Daniel R.; Daniel R. Bowman (1996). Procurement specification guidelines for mass transit vehicle window glazing. Transportation Research Board. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-309-05720-2. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
- Pennella, C. Robert (2006). Managing Contract Quality Requirements. American Society for Quality. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-0-87389-694-8. Retrieved 15 March 2010.
- Modern Machine Shop - Software Speeds Inspection Documentation
- Quality Magazine - Enhanced First Article Inspection
- Quality Magazine - Case Study: Take the Heat Out of the Problem
- CADALYST - InspectionXpert First Article 2010
- Quality Digest - DISCUS Annotating first article inspection requirements
- AMREP - When do you need First Article Inspections