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First Article Inspections - Everything You Need To Know

By AMREP | Posted on May 10, 2022

Updated on December 12, 2023

This Image Depicts First Article Inspections

First Article Inspections (FAI) is an advanced quality inspection method that allows you to verify production results thoroughly against product designs before manufacturing begins. It involves taking the first product or subassembly sample (the first article) from the production line and a comprehensive study of whether it meets your engineering, design, and technical specifications.

People involved in manufacturing or quality control roles always ensure that products meet the manufacturing requirements. The one way is to do it through FIA. Here we provide quick introduction and answer common questions related to First Article Inspections.

What Is First Article Inspection?

First Article Inspection (FAI) verifies that any component of the product produced by a new process or sample from the first batch either meets the manufacturing requirements or not. It involves detailed technical analysis performed by the supplier.

FAI is basically the purchase order requirement of your purchaser. If the manufacturer does not have the in-house testing capability or inspections, third-party supplier management companies providing Quality Inspection Solutions can also perform this task.

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Why Is First Article Inspection Important

First Article Inspections (FAI) are essential due to following reasons:

  • It inspects and validates the documentation as well as tooling used in the production of products
  • FAI establishes the POR for the production line or manufacturing plan.
  • FAI ensures that manufacturers meet the documented requirements of products specified by clients.
  • It is important for both buyer and manufacturer.
  • For the buyer, FAI confirms that the design and other specifications are understood and implemented successfully.
  • For suppliers or manufacturers, it is an excellent chance to evaluate the manufacturing processes, completeness of design, and any design changes. It establishes the effective manufacturing processes and supply chain for the parts.

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What Is The Purpose Of A First Piece Or First Article Inspection?

First Article Inspections aim to ensure safety and quality to avoid expensive mistakes. Conducting an in-depth FAI is imperative to your company. You can detect errors early in the manufacturing process to save time, money, and resources.

FAI's objective is to assess the quality of items selected for testing, confirm engineering design and specifications are correctly implemented, and ensure the production process is reliable, consistent, and repeatable.

When Is First Article Inspections Needed?

FAI is an essential requirement for industries or products with complex manufacturing processes and strict quality assurance standards.

It is most commonly used by companies in the aerospace, automotive, and medical industries. It is also helpful for customers who have products that have high production costs and advanced manufacturing processes. Here is the list of conditions that trigger the FAI:

  • New production line
  • Change in design
  • Change in manufacturing process
  • Resume production after long gap
  • Manufacturer changed the location
  • Request by customer

Who Performs First Article Inspections

An authorized person performs FAI - a supplier or manufacturer test one or several parts from the production line. It may be a second-party inspector equipped with laboratory and specialized measuring tools.

What Happens If Prodcut Fails To Pass The FAI?

If a part fails the FAI, it will go back to the production line, and corrective actions are performed. After the changes, another FAI will be performed. However, if the component passes successfully, mass production runs.

What Is The Difference Between PPAP And FAI?

There is the significant difference between PPAP and FAI (subset of PPAP).

PPAP (Production Part Approval Process ) FAI (First Article inspection)

It requires tens to hundreds of parts for the test.

It only requires one part for inspection or, in some cases, three to five components.

It is used to access the manufacturability of the supplier to fulfill customer quality requirements.

FAI is used for initial quality control

PPAP needs formal documentation for production processes, including:

  • Quality Control Plans
  • PFMEAs
  • Process Flow Diagrams
  • Gage R&R

FAI only focuses on dimensional records and a subset of documentation:

  • raw materials
  • special processing
  • functional testing

Does ISO 9001 Require First Article Inspection?

You must provide First Article Inspection if your company has ISO certification and manufactures Aviation or Aerospace components. Companies that require FAI include Aviation, Aerospace, and the Manufacture of parts or supplies for Aviation or Aerospace.

What Is AS9102 First Article Inspection?

AS9102 First Articles is the type of inspection used by the aerospace and defense industries includes 3 forms:

  • Part Number Accountability
  • Product Accountability
  • Characteristic Accountability.

How Many Parts Are Needed For First Article Inspection?

Unlike PPAP, FAI does not require tens or hundred parts for inspection. Typically one or two components are needed for FAI. In some cases, there may be three to five parts required.

What We Do In First Article Inspections

We perform inspections in accordance with AS 9102, ISO, IE, and other industry or regulatory standards. Inspection objectives are determined in line with your engineering needs however here are some of the key areas we focus on:

  • Characteristic evaluation and verification
  • Inspect the sample for conformance to technical drawings and specifications.
  • Verify supplier conformance to design requirements.
  • Inspect and verify the use of customer-approved/alternative components and safety standards.
  • Verify changes to BOM and conformance to ECN ( Engineering Changes Notification).
  • Activate a customer/supplier technical feedback loop.
  • Establish quality inspection parameters and criteria.
  • Set up final and process inspection procedures.
  • Evaluate functional testing and test equipment for production use.
  • Develop design and production process improvements

We also perform the testings in order to establish the baseline for future quality inspections and to ensure that the supplier has correctly understood your production specifications.

First Article Inspections Performed By Our Level 4 Quality Inspectors

Our First Article Inspectors are Level 4 Quality Inspectors with strong inspection, product, production, and advanced engineering backgrounds. We match our personnel based on a detailed assessment of your requirements.

First Article Inspections are part of your Quality Management processes to ensure your supplier’s continuing conformance with your specifications.

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