Introduction to First Article Inspection
Written bySpencer Kuehn
First Article Inspection (FAI) is the verification process used in manufacturing to check the first part, or a sample from the first batch of parts, against its design specification. The aim of FAI is to validate that the manufacturing process is capable of delivering parts as they were designed and that any variance between the intended and actual dimensions falls within the range of the manufacturing tolerances.
FAI is important because it helps identify potential issues with the product’s design or manufacture early on and prevents costly delays. For a customer considering ordering a large number of components from a manufacturer or supplier, FAI can give peace of mind and provide proof that the product can be made within acceptable accuracy parameters.
The result of an FAI process is an official document called the FAI Report (FAIR), which consists of various forms and technical balloon drawings. It gives a summary of whether a part has passed or failed an examination from a quality control inspector.
Manufacturers in many industries conduct FAIs, but they’re absolutely crucial in sectors that require parts for critical applications, such as defense and aerospace. Some sectors have specific FAI requirements to follow and these can fulfil the process validation requirement of a quality management system such as ISO9001, EN9100, and AS9100.
In addition to validating new products, other changes in manufacturing may require a new FAI to be issued. For example, a change in the part's design or in the process, a factory move, or resuming production after a long gap. This validation is usually carried out before beginning full production, either by the manufacturer or an external metrology specialist.
What happens during an FAI?
For FAI to be carried out correctly, a metrology specialist has to first create an inspection plan which includes a technical drawing, with balloons containing unique numbers that define what needs to be checked, a table of the requirements for inspection, balloon numbers, associated specifications and relevant tolerances.
When it comes to the procedure, the person performing FAI needs specialized tools to gather data about the dimensions of the first article and to compare the produced parts with their specifications.
The tool traditionally used for FAI is a coordinate measuring machine (CMM), but 3D scanners are rapidly gaining ground thanks to their superior accuracy and higher speed of measurement. The majority of CMMs use a touch probe to acquire points and they take one measurement, or point, every few seconds. A 3D scanner gives a more detailed model of an object than machines that collect cloud point data, and it collects millions of data points, giving a full picture of the shape and volume, in just a fraction of the time.
The purpose of a 3D measuring tool is to screen for issues that make the components fall short of the specifications. To determine this, the data collected is analysed by special software that can take that cloud point data or mesh files from the 3D measuring tool and compare it to the CAD file of the original design to pinpoint deviations.
How can Control X support your FAI?
Interpreting 3D measurement data can be a breeze or a bane depending on the software. On the market, we can find solutions that are made for highly trained professionals or require a steep learning curve. Our 3D metrology software Control X allows anyone to get results with little or no training. It’s easy to master and empowers everyone to measure, understand, and make decisions about their parts faster, more often, and more completely.
While it is easy to use, Control X provides reliably accurate analyses that meet the stringent standards required for an FAIR. It works on a range of professional 3D measuring instruments, including portable CMMs and 3D scanners, and is being used on fragile and expensive parts.
When it comes to saving time and effort, Control X reigns supreme with unprecedented workflow automation. It allows users to create custom routines for scan processing and to reduce the need for interaction by automatically importing and processing scan data. Recently, we’ve added Visual Scripting, a tool that offers an array of automation possibilities, allowing you to avoid manually setting up processes to analyze and change scan data.
Find out how Control X can help you conduct an inspection and request a free trial.