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A Closer Look at First Article Inspection

first article inspection

First Article Inspection or FAI for short, is a method of examining and testing products near the beginning of production. It’s used to verify the products produced will meet customer requirements as well as industry and quality guidelines and standards. FAI is heavily used in environments where stringent quality inspection is a must and specific procedures must be followed – such as aerospace, medical and automotive. During FAI, a quality professional such as a CMM machine operator will inspect the product, comparing measurements and dimensions with those specified by the customer and in the design. It’s often needed for PPAP approval also.

Let’s take a closer look at the FAI process…

The first step

First of all, an inspection plan needs to be created – this usually includes unique numbers added to the drawing of the product or component. These numbers tell the person carrying out the inspection everything they need to check. The FAI inspection plan also needs to have a table of requirements – which will form a crucial part of the final report, summarising the results.

The inspection

Following the creation of the inspection plan, the actual inspection of the product can be completed. Coordinate Measuring Machines are often used to carry this out to the most exacting standards. Any CMM equipment must be well maintained and calibrated before the FAI. For tips on CMM maintenance and calibration take a look at the links below…

Depending on the application again, various types of CMM machine can be used – including portable CMMs like Hexagon’s Absolute Arms. However, fixed granite bed CMMs are the most accurate and so are more frequently used. If you’re looking to upgrade your existing CMM or need a new machine that looks and performs as good as new on a budget then check out the links below…

During this inspection process, the operator will check the product for any differences and variations against the checklist or inspection plan to make sure they’re within industry standards and to the client’s specific requirements.

cmm range

When FAI Fails

Unfortunately, the FAI process doesn’t always go smoothly. There are a huge range of reasons that cause it to fail – including but not limited to:

  • The wrong materials used
  • Insufficient quality of the materials
  • Incorrectly set processing equipment
  • Outside of measurements/dimensions specified

If the First Article Inspection fails then the production of the product has to stop until the issues are resolved. Once they are, another FAI needs to be carried out to assess whether or not production can resume. The aerospace sector, in particular, must follow specific requirements according to the AS9102B, or the Aerospace First Article Inspection Requirement — a standard associated with SAE International.

The Benefit of Using Cutting-Edge Software

Utilising cutting-edge metrology software such as PC-DMIS can speed up the FAI process, reducing possible downtime in production. PC-DMIS is the world’s leading CMM software solution – offering exceptional capabilities that enable manufacturing businesses of all sizes to measure parts more efficiently and quickly. This is thanks to its amazing features and regular updates from Hexagon MI. You can learn more about PC-DMIS and book a FREE demo here

pc dmis cmm software

Need FAI Advice?

If you require specialist advice or assistance with First Article Inspection then speak to one of our metrology experts today on 0115 939 2228. Alternatively, send an email to or complete our enquiry form.