A Beginner’s Guide to AS9102 First Article Inspection

By Jason van de Laar, C.E.T. | October 15, 2020
Example Inspection Test Plan (ITP) free Excel template available for download

This is a guest post by Jason van de Laar, C.E.T. from JTL Integrated Machine; an InspectionXpert customer. 

The demand for quality goods just in time and with zero defects is at an all-time high. Many industries rely on manufacturing facilities to prove their manufacturing capabilities with advanced machinery for production. Advanced inspection techniques, like First Article Inspection (FAI), are another important way we can prove out our products and processes. While FAI can be an expensive and labor-intensive process, sometimes it is the only way to achieve success when you are working on a project where the cost of failure is also significant.

Review Your New Part

It is a good idea to start with thoughtful planning. Get familiar with the drawing, tolerances, specifications, and any other information in the title block, as well as any special notes or other instructions that can be found on sheet 1 of the drawing. Many modern drawings contain critical to quality (CTQ) dimensions which often have very tight tolerances and require specialized inspection techniques and equipment to inspect. This information can save backtracking later while performing the first article inspection and generating the FAI report. Drawing notes are typically on the first page of the drawing and often contain critical information that applies to the entire project such as testing procedures, painting requirements, and other information that would be too repetitive to call out from within the depths of the drawing which is why it is spelled out on the cover page so that it will not be overlooked.

Part of performing a successful FAI is tracking everything as you work through the job. Manufacturing and inspection activities must be traceable back to the customers’ requirements in the drawing, specifications, and the purchase order. At my shop all this information is traceable to our internal job number. Record keeping is important because how you track the customer’s information and the care taken throughout the process can have a significant impact on your reputation as a manufacturing facility. For example, if the customer issues a new drawing revision to your shop and the changes are not properly communicated through your organization you could make the wrong part to the old revision, and the part might not be able to be reworked to the new drawing, which would mean a scrapped part. This is a critical aspect of FAI: when all processes are controlled, they are also stable.

Planning for your FAI

An Inspection and Test Plan (ITP) is an efficient way to organize your FAI plan on one page and gives you an overview of everything that needs to take place in the job from start to end. For an FAI this document is a valuable tool because it contains all the information mentioned at the beginning of this article:

  • Drawing Number
  • Revision
  • Purchase Order Number
  • Specification Number
  • FAI report number (job number)
  • Drawing notes
  • Special Instructions
  • CTQ dimensions
Example of an Inspection and Test Plan (ITP).Example of an Inspection and Test Plan (ITP). Download a free template

It can be used to list when inspections will take place between operations, who will perform the inspection, using what tools and at what frequency.

Choosing Inspection Tools

Accurately inspecting the part requires precision measuring tools. 

  • Tools must be calibrated so that there is confidence that the measured result can be traced back to a known good standard of reference
  • Type of tool must be listed in your FAI report
  • Serial number of tool must be listed in your report

The tool must also suit the feature being measured to achieve the most accurate measurement possible. There are some situations where using an outside micrometer to measure a round feature is most appropriate.  If the tolerance is small enough a vernier caliper might show the feature is out of tolerance when it is not because the vernier is not as accurate as the micrometer. Sometimes the micrometer may not be able to access hard to reach areas. Knowing what tool to use in each situation is an important skill that is learned over time with experience and practice.  

Preparing Your FAI Report

The next stage is preparing the FAI dimensional report and performing a 100% dimensional inspection of the part. During this stage, a complete inspection report is prepared which captures all the manufactured features (critical and non-critical) and determines whether the product is acceptable.  We use InspectionXpert to create our inspection report and enter measurement data for our first articles. This gives a clear picture if the part can be accepted or if the manufacturing process needs to be adjusted to produce an acceptable part. 

Because this is a comprehensive inspection, the results will indicate if the manufacturing processes used to produce the part are stable. This helps to pinpoint and correct any inconsistencies in the manufacturing equipment or processes. It is crucial to ensure that we capture all the dimensions, especially the CTQs and ensure that the correct tolerance is being applied. CTQ dimensions should always have their own unique balloon style so that they stand out from the rest and so that the person performing the inspection is able to recognize that these dimensions are special.

Inspecting Your Part

Once all the ballooning is completed and all our dimensions are properly set up in the table manager, we can then begin the inspection process using InspectionXpert’s built in QuickMeasure feature. QuickMeasure is great because it allows you to  perform all the inspection activities in one place.

This screenshot of InspectionXpert shows the measurement results using QuickMeasure in the lower right corner (green) and the highlighting on the drawing to match the pass or fail condition (green for pass and red for fail).


This screenshot of InspectionXpert shows the measurement results using QuickMeasure in the lower right corner (green) and the highlighting on the drawing to match the pass or fail condition (green for pass and red for fail).

This reduces clutter and complexity and is quicker than exporting the inspection report to excel and printing out the balloon drawing. You can click on each balloon and input the measurement value you have for each dimension. InspectionXpert applies the default tolerances you have set so dimensions that are within specification will show up green and those that are out of tolerance are red. This is an invaluable tool during internal review of documents or before exporting and sending to a customer as the color coding greatly reduces the time and effort required to determine if the part has passed the FAI or if there are corrections that need to be addressed in your manufacturing processes. If you do need to export your findings to Excel, you can do so in the publish section of the home tab. 

Once the inspection process is complete the data must be reviewed and analyzed. Any non-conforming dimensions must be reported to manufacturing and corrected. There should also be discussion about the root causes that led to any issues and what is the corrective plan of action to prevent those non-conformances from occurring again in the future.

FAI is a highly effective inspection method that can be utilized in high risk, high cost situations. It becomes more effective the more it is practiced. It can help protect the customer’s assets and bolster the reputation of the manufacturing shop. I would highly recommend giving it a try on your next big manufacturing project.