May 25, 2017

AS9100 Certification Shows That Aerospace Suppliers Are Fit to Fly

By Protolabs
the hobby holder tool
AS9100 quality standards are maintained by the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG).

The aerospace industry is a high-risk sector that covers a diverse range of commercial, industrial, and military/defense applications.

Accordingly, as pointed out in a past blog post, because of that high-risk element, “regulatory control is needed to capture the requirements and the importance of safety, reliability, and maintainability at a global level.”

For more than 20 years, those regulatory controls and safety and quality standards have been maintained through AS9100 certification, the international management standard for the aircraft, space, and defense industries, which is administered by the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) and, in the U.S., by the Americas Aerospace Quality Group (AAQG). The standard provides suppliers with a comprehensive quality system for providing safe and reliable products to aerospace companies and civil and military entities.

Indeed, NASA, the Department of Defense, and most aerospace OEMs such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon, require suppliers to be AS9100 certified.

As a result, partnering with suppliers that are AS9100 certified makes sense, because the certification provides independent validation and assures companies and other organizations that suppliers are meeting verifiable standards. Those standards include all business processes covered by ISO 9001 certification set by the International Organization for Standardization, plus additional standards that are specific to the aerospace industry.

“AS9100 certification includes ISO standards but has extra requirements on top of ISO,” said Jonathan Bissmeyer, quality control manager for Protolabs’ industrial-grade 3D printing (additive manufacturing) facility near Raleigh, North Carolina. “To be certified AS9100, suppliers need to meet ISO 9001 standards plus extra requirements that are specific to aerospace.”

As reported, the four main requirements reviewed for AS9100 certification, are:

  • Planning for product realization
  • Design and development
  • Purchasing and purchased product (focusing on supplier control)
  • Product monitoring and measurements

Essentially, Bissmeyer said, the requirements cover “Operational risk…which is evaluating the actual manufacturing processes and identifying and mitigating that risk, and control over and evaluation of our suppliers.”

For the past four years, Protolabs has been registered as AS9100 certified for its metal 3D printing process—direct metal laser sintering. The latest certification version, issued to Protolabs in January, is AS9100 D, which is the most up-to-date set of standards.

Much like ISO standards, audits of all of these processes are conducted by independent, third-party validation registrars. Protolabs contracts with Advantage International Registrar, which is accredited by ANAB, the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board, a management systems certification body. It is the same auditor Protolabs uses for its ISO 9001 certification.

Ultimately, why do aerospace customers care and, in many cases, require AS9100 certification? “When you are certified, it shows that you have greater control over your processes, control over items such as process and part verification,” Bissmeyer said. “By hitting those AS9100 requirements, you are proving that you have greater control over your processes than even the ISO standards require.”

As Bissmeyer added, “Metal printing is very attractive to the aerospace industry because of its capabilities for cost reduction, total-part reduction, weight reduction, and end-use part production, among other things. So we knew it was important to have an aerospace certified quality system.”