How much do you know PCB Assembly First Article inspection?

First Articles Inspections (FAI) are generally less common than other inspection types, like visual inspection, AOI, X-ray and SPI in the mind of people who are involved in Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Assembly Manufacturing industry. And many of PCB assembly or SMT assembly suppliers who are unaware of the customer’ requirements might resist outside inspection.


It’s even more important to outline your PCB assembly requirement for a first article inspection in your fabrication drawing documentation, and check with the circuit board assembly manufacturer whether it has capability to conduct the FAI work and meet your requirement. If the requirement more detailed, the better to understanding. Of course, the fabrication drawing should set the expectation of when and how you’ll evaluate the PCB assemblies’ quality, which preventing pushback from the selected supplier. What’s more, you also can set an acceptable defects rate to imply the importance of the PCBA yield in high-volume PCB assembly project.


What’s First Article Inspection?

First Articles are mass-produced units of a first production run. PCB assembly prototypes or other PCBA pre-production samples are not considered as first article, because they are manufactured using different manufacturing processes not employed from that in high-volume production.


A first article PCBA isn’t necessarily have to be the very first unit that comes off the PCB assembly line. Instead, first article inspection can involve inspecting a random sample (often 5-20 units) of the first assembly production run. Inspection at this early stage should therefore demonstrate whether assembling production technicians have understood and incorporated your requirements into their standard manufacturing processes. If manufacturing processes and electronic components and other materials used meet your requirements, the PCB factory should be able to reliably mass manufacture PCB assemblies in your standard.


Who Conducts First Article Inspection?

FAI is extremely important for the yield of high-volume PCB assembly manufacturing, but who will play the role of conducting the first article inspection? There are 3 options. First preferred is conducted by the you, the customer, in our SMT assembly facility in Shenzhen. Because we can start mass production run in a very short time to get approved in our time if no defects found in the first articles. Then improve our work efficiency under the situation of no stop production. Second preferred is conducted by both sides of you and us online. We show you the HD photos and transfer the inspection and testing results as per inspection and testing procedures and QC standards. This process always takes a little longer time than the first, and requires a longer time of stop PCB assembly production, but the inspection and testing will be more carefully and considerably by both sides. Third preferred is conducted by ourselves according to the inspection and testing procedures in both sides. The disadvantage of the third option is that the PCB assembly manufacturer may ignore something inspection or testing if you forget to specified.


But no matter who conducts the first article inspection, the purpose is to find out whether the PCB assembly processes and conditions can reach high-quality and high yields. If found defects, the supplier can solve it through optimization of machine program, bare printed circuit board convey speed, oven profiling and/or with other necessary actions. If not found, we can start the mass production run as the same as the pre-production.