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What is AS9102 First Article Inspection?

In the AS&D industry, when a new or revised part is produced for the first time, it must be verified to ensure all requirements have been met. Many organizations meet this requirement by complying with the AS9102C First Article Inspection (FAI) standard (sometimes referred to as production process verification). FAI involves selecting one part from the first batch/lot produced and verifying that the following major elements meet customers’ customer requirements:
  • Production processes being (or to be) used
  • Documentation
  • Tooling

The production part verification process has been updated recently to include advances like verification against digital specifications like multi-dimensional computer assisted drawing (CAD) files in the AS9102C update.

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Is AS9102C a Requirement?

FAI (AS9102C) is a unique standard updated by SAE to emphasize the value of the FAI process. Although AS9100 Rev D requires the production process verification required under Clause, AS9102 itself is not a formal requirement – it is a guidance document, not something requiring certification. (In fact, AS9102 is not formally mentioned in the requirements of AS9100, which implies that there may be other ways to satisfy the production verification than directly following AS9102.)

The AS9100 Rev D (Annex C) standard explains that an FAI document “standardizes FAI process requirements to the greatest extent possible and can be used at all levels of the supply chain by organizations around the world to provide a consistent process and documentation requirements for verification of aviation, space, and defense product.”

AS9100D Clause discusses the need to establish, implement and document the verification of production processes (e.g., risk assessments, capability studies, control plans) to ensure the ability to produce products that meet expectations. One of these verified processes in the clause refers to is FAI.

Clause states: “The organization shall implement production process verification activities to ensure the production process is able to produce products that meet requirements.” It goes on to explain that a representative item from a first production run can be chosen to verify that “production processes, production documentation, and tooling are able to produce parts and assemblies that meet requirements.” The clause also notes that this activity can be referred to as “First Article Inspection.”

When to Conduct a First Article Inspection

AS9100 Rev D clarifies FAI as a production process verification activity, so all designs should be finished before an FAI is conducted. Once all the design activities have been completed and production processes have been determined, an FAI can be performed on the first production run. It should be repeated whenever there is a change in design that affects the fit, form or function of the product.

An FAI should be completed not just if a part changes, but also if the production process, used to make the part, changes. For example, the specifications of the part may remain the same, but a production operation might be changed for efficiency. Production process changes must be verified to ensure all requirements are still met. Doing so will mitigate the risk that the part will be rejected by the customer for a nonconformity.

When to Conduct a First Article Inspection (FAI):
  • First Production run of a new product
  • Design change
  • Manufacturing process change
  • Materials or sources change
  • Computer Program update affecting product form/function
  • After a lapse of more than two years’ production

Conducting FAI also applies to assemblies, not only finished goods. If there are changes to a sub-component within a finished good, an FAI should be completed to ensure that it too performs as required and does not affect the finished good’s ability to meet requirements.

Performing a First Article Inspection

During the First Article Inspection, companies will:

  • Perform a production run
  • Select parts or assemblies to test
  • Inspect and test each part
  • Document the results

During the inspection process, the physical and functional characteristics of the product should be verified against drawings, purchase order, specifications, and/or other design documents. The verification must be documented on what is most commonly called a first article inspection report (FAIR). Typically, a FAIR will include the following:

  • Part number
  • Revision level
  • Part description
  • Any applicable drawing numbers and revision levels
  • Customer PO number
  • Name and signature of person completing the FAI
  • Date
  • Customer approval
  • Material or process reviewed
  • Functional test results
  • Certificate of conformance number
  • Actual physical characteristics measured

Each specification dimension is measured on the physical part, compared against the print, and a “non-conformance” list constructed of which dimensions were met and which weren’t. For a simple part, this list is quite small. But for a complex part, the list of dimensions can be extremely long and the inspection quite involved. By definition, any dimension that appears on the print must be measured on the part and listed in the report.

The Importance of First Article Inspection

FAI ensures an entire production process is able to create products and assemblies that meet the company and consumer requirements. In addition:

  • FAI can also be helpful in a corrective action process when a company is trying to isolate the cause of a nonconformity in their production process.
  • FAI documentation offers information about what companies need to know in order to address/change whatever could have caused the issue.
  • Regular implementation of FAI helps companies maintain and improve their production processes over time.

And The List Goes On

If we have piqued your interest, here’s a partial list of standards, all of which can make you and your company more valuable from just about any perspective.

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