First Article Inspections: What Engineers Need to Know

Step 2: Conduct first production run
Manufacture the part using the same materials, machines, processes, and tooling that will be used in mass production.

The balloon drawing supports Form 3, appending a uniquely numbered balloon to each design characteristic that corresponds to the characteristics’ numbers on Form 3. These balloons or bubbles identify the characteristics that the inspector needs to check when conducting the FAI.


First Article Inspections: What Engineers Need to Know

All the information you need to create your first FAI report

There are two types of FAI: full and partial. Full FAIs are required for new parts, new suppliers or facilities, or if the part hasn’t been manufactured in at least two years. A partial first article inspection—sometimes called a delta FAI—is required if there are changes to the part’s design or production process, including new materials, tooling, machines, or anything else that would potentially affect its fit, form, or function.

Step 5: Record measured results
Document the measurements obtained during inspection and record the values for each characteristic or design requirement.

It’s important to remember that the goal of FAI is only to confirm that the product meets the specified dimensions and features according to the engineering drawing. In other words, FAI may be the first step in quality control, but it’s far from the last.

Step 7: Review and approval
Have the FAIR reviewed by the relevant stakeholders—such as those responsible for quality control—and get approval from the customer by obtaining their name and signature.

Why FAI matters

Published: Monday, August 7, 2023 – 12:03

In a nutshell: Whenever you’re either about to start production of a new part or you change something in the way an existing part is designed or manufactured, you ought to conduct a first article inspection. Additionally, you’ll need to conduct a (full) FAI if your customer requests one.

First published July 13, 2023, on


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It should also be noted that while FAIs can be required in any discrete manufacturing industry, they are most common in aerospace, automotive, defense, and medical manufacturing. Each of these industries also have their own unique requirements that either operate separately from FAIs or subsume them. For example, a first article inspection is part of AS9145—“Requirements for advanced product quality planning and production part approval process.”

Creating a first article inspection report

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A first article inspection is not tantamount to a comprehensive evaluation of process capability; nor does it guarantee defect-free production. Assessing the overall process quality or the tool selection for each process is beyond the scope of an FAI. However, FAI can fulfill the process validation requirement for a quality management system such as ISO9001 or AS/EN9100.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that you may need additional first article inspections if your initial one reveals something that’s not 100-percent compliant with the drawing. In such cases, you’ll need to take corrective action, do another production run, and conduct another FAI.

When do you need a first article inspection?

A complete list of always required and conditionally required fields is included below:

A first article inspection report (FAIR) consists of three forms plus a balloon or bubble drawing:
• Form 1—Part number accountability: Summarizes the part of the article that is being inspected (the FAI part) and its associated subassemblies or detail parts
• Form 2—Product accountability: Used for all raw materials, specifications, processes, and functional tests that are part of the design requirements
• Form 3—Characteristic accountability: Summarizes specific design characteristics, including dimensions, tolerances, and drawing notes, along with the actual measurement results of the FAI parts for design characteristics on the drawing

First article inspections are essential for ensuring that new and revised products conform to design specifications. By catching deviations and nonconformities early, they minimize the risk of defects and safety hazards in the final product. They aren’t always easy, but the transparency and accountability they provide can be a competitive advantage, fostering better customer relationships and overall satisfaction.

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