By Renaud Anjoran
When inspecting general consumer goods (except food), most companies classify defects and checkpoints in these 4 categories:
- Aesthetics & smell
- Conformance to specs (including measurements)
- Function, usability, endurance
- Safety & regulatory
What about precision mechanical parts, be they in metal, plastic, resin, or another polymers?
When it comes to classifying defects for mechanical parts, we generally use the same 4 categories but of course with a few adjustments.
What are the most common appearance issues (counted as defects) to keep an eye out for?
- Surface defects – porosity, scratches, dents or holes, orange peel, paint runs, blisters, debris contamination
- Color inconsistency – color match between two parts, shades, spotting, uneven surface, surface finish thickness, color match against master sample or reference data (RAL or Pantone)
- Burns – black specs and marks on the surface of the part due to overheating during production process
- Flow marks – wavy or streaked appearance on the product surface (molded and cast parts)
- Haze – cloudiness on clear transparent parts
- Sink marks – depression on the surface of the product (molded and cast parts)
- Knit or weld lines – this is a visible line created at the intersection of the melt fronts meeting and trying to merge together (molded and cast parts)
- Flash – excess material at the parting line of a molding or cast part
- Texture – variation across the same part and between different parts of the same batch
2. Conformance to Specifications
- Critical parameters – check all critical parameters comply with specification (these can be dimensions or other specific attributes of the product, and are usually indicated clearly in drawings and other documents)
- Check defect rates recorded in production (if possible) – higher defect rates indicate that sample products approved may include defective parts
- Weight – for certain products (castings for example) the weight is an important and easy point to check
- Tensile strength (if needed) – to test the elongation and fracture point of the part (stretched by moving the grips apart at a constant rate while measuring the load)
- Impact strength (if needed) – it is measured by allowing a pendulum to strike a grooved machined test piece and measuring the energy absorbed in the break
- Material hardness (if needed) – the metal often needs to be heat treated in order to increase the hardness, therefore testing should be carried out on finished parts
- Chemical composition (by example the manufacturer has to show a test report corresponding to the batch of material that was used for the order being inspected) – it is usually one of the critical parameters
- Corrosion resistance (if needed) – environmental testing including salt spray testing will verify if the part is susceptible to corrosion or not
- Environmental tests (if needed) – including wet, dry, hot, cold, vibration, acceleration, IP rating, UV light, etc.
- Packaging & labelling – if the parts have to be shipped out, they should be packaged (i.e. protected) and labeled the right way
3. Form, Fit, & Function
- Form – Form is the physical characteristics of the product. It includes things like shape, weight, color, material, etc. For example, you might describe a screw that will be used in your product as ‘SCREW, PAN HEAD, M3 x 0.5, 2mm Long, 316 SS.’
- Fit – refers to the ability for the part to interconnect, mate with, join, or link to another part or an assembly. If a part requires “fit”, it usually refers to having tight tolerances in order to match up to other parts or assembly.
- Function – refers to the action or actions that a part is designed to perform. In our example, the screw is intended to hold other parts of the product together.
4. Safety & Regulatory
Different industries will require different safety features to be met and these will be part of the product specification. Some of these would include the general attributes listed below:
- Sharp edges – Ensure there are no sharp edges, unless they are required
- Pinch point – A pinch point is a place where it’s possible for a body part to caught between:
- Moving machine parts
- Moving and stationary parts
- Moving parts and materials being processed
- Getting clothing caught or tangled in moving parts
- Weight – too heavy to lift safely by a single person
- X-Ray requirements – Integrity of some parts must be checked without destruction (e.g. a die cast fan blade used for air movement in traffic tunnels)
This way of categorizing requirements is not perfect. There is some overlap — for example, many Conformance attributes might be subjected to safety and regulatory requirements.
However, we have found this approach useful for writing a list of checkpoints and thinking of potential defects. It is logically organized. It is at the basis of the “magic triangle” of specifications, sample reviews, and inspections.
Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on qualityinspection.org.