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What is First Article Inspection (FAI)?

FAI involves a comprehensive inspection of parts before mass production begins. It’s crucial for ensuring that the manufacturing process accurately reflects design specifications and is particularly important for new products, providing the necessary documentation to prove compliance with contractual and specification requirements.

Why is FAI Important?

FAI helps identify manufacturing issues early, reducing the cost of corrections and lowering return rates. It also improves customer satisfaction and profitability by ensuring high-quality output from the start.

Challenges of FAI

Performing FAI on new parts is time-consuming, especially when relying on Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs). These machines can become bottlenecks, delaying production as they handle inspections for both critical and less critical features. The problem is exacerbated when numerous new parts are introduced, which then in turn increases the demand on CMMs and human resources.

Avoiding CMM Bottlenecks

While CMMs are highly accurate, their slow operation and the need for specialised programming can create significant delays. To alleviate this, manufacturers can redirect less critical inspections to simpler, more user-friendly metrology instruments, reserving CMMs for high-tolerance features.

FAI in a Global Context

Globalisation complicates FAI, as components manufactured worldwide must fit together perfectly. Instead of physically shipping parts for inspection, digital models can be scanned and sent globally, allowing virtual assemblies and faster correction cycles.

Consider an automotive manufacturer with a global supply chain. By implementing 3D scanning, the manufacturer can perform FAI at various points in the supply chain, ensuring that all components fit perfectly when assembled. This approach minimises the back-and-forth typically required for physical corrections and significantly speeds up the time to market.

Best Alternative to CMMs

To optimise FAI, manufacturers need alternative measuring solutions that offer accuracy, speed, portability, versatility, and simplicity:

Accuracy: High-resolution, repeatable results even in unstable environments.

Speed: Quick setup, real-time scans, and ready-to-use files.

Portability: Operate in various conditions without impacting accuracy.

Versatility: Measure diverse sizes and shapes with complex geometries.

Simplicity: Intuitive use with minimal training required.

3D Scanning Technology for FAI

When considering an alternative solution to the CMM, 3D scanning technology meets all of the requirements.

Here is why:

Accurate Shop-Floor Measurements: FAI can be conducted directly on the production floor, reducing time and costs. 3D scanners enable the Quality Control team to go directly to the production floor and perform FAI at any time, this eliminates wasted time and reduces the costs related to moving a defective part from the workshop to the CMM.

Because they can measure parts in shop-floor environments that are often influenced by temperature variations, vibrations, and oscillations and can be moved around the production floor without impacting their accuracy, metrology-grade 3D scanners, such as the Creaform MetraSCAN 3D are perfect for performing FAI on large and heavy parts and less critical features.

Short Learning Curve: User-friendly and quick to set up.

With their user-friendly interface and ergonomic design, 3D scanning equipment has a short learning curve and is easy to use. With faster setting and acquisition time, metrology-grade scanners, such as the HandySCAN 3D offer detailed analyses accessible to non-specialists in metrology. This accessibility and ease of use can limit delays in detecting and correcting the first parts’ defects.

High Information Density: Detailed analyses for complex shapes without contact, enabling faster problem-solving.

With 3D scanners, the Quality Control team can now digitise complex shapes with a large amount of data, without contact, allowing a more detailed analysis of FAI. Colourmaps can reveal where defects have appeared in the manufacturing process and determine what machine setting has created them. Information density accelerates problem-solving and decision-making in link with the first articles.

Integrating 3D scanning technology into FAI processes offers a comprehensive solution to traditional challenges. It enhances accuracy, speeds up inspection times, and provides the flexibility and ease of use required in modern manufacturing environments. By adopting 3D scanning, manufacturers can ensure higher quality first articles, improve customer satisfaction, and increase overall profitability.

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