By Lawrence Reaves
Many machines operate together. Examples include interlinking gearboxes, coupled shafts and pulley belts. Whenever more than one rotating mechanism is connected to another rotating device, they need to be aligned. In other words the center lines must correspond to each to allow for smooth transition of power.
Any slight misalignment between the two rotating devices puts strain on various parts of the components. Initial there is increased vibration, a sure sign something is misaligned. However, the extra stress causes unnecessary wear, particularly on shaft bearings. As the bearings wear, so vibration increases which ultimately results in a mechanical breakdown. Additionally one shaft out of alignment will gradually misalign the other shaft so its possible to end up with twice the problems and even greater cost.
The types of multiple couplings that require accurate alignment include solid couplings, flexible couplings and those that have a third component between the shafts. A solid coupling is one where the two shafts are bolted together effectively forming a solid shaft. Flexible couplings are those found on universal joints where its necessary for one drive shaft to operate at a different angle to the other; these types of coupling can easily get misaligned. The third type of multiple coupling is where a third component part is fitted between the two drive shafts. It creates an extra stress point, so alignment is crucial.
The most accurate and precise method of aligning multiple shafts such as solid and flexible shafts is using laser alignment technology. Not only is it precise, but also identifies misalignments quickly. In fact it can pin point the exact position, so remedial action can take place at exactly the correct place.
Multiple laser alignment equipment takes measurements at several places along the shafts center line and also at points where the two shafts join together. The equipments screen can have 3D capabilities and accurately displays any areas along and between the shafts that are misaligned. The data is stored and can be sent wirelessly to a central processing unit. It depicts exactly where alignment corrections need to be made and provides the tolerances needed to ensure accurate alignment can be achieved.
Misaligned multiple coupling ultimately result in machinery breakdown. During the initial stages of misalignment, power consumption increases to try and compensate for the misalignment. Various parts start to wear which can lead to failures in other parts of the machine. Machine downtime is expensive. Not only is the machine out of use, but there is also the cost of replacement parts and the associated labor.
Downtime can be avoided by making sure your machinery is accurately aligned at all times. The machines work more efficiently, repairs can be scheduled to take place during regular maintenance resulting in cost savings. Proper alignment training may help speed up the alignment process, thereby saving even more time and money.
Laser alignment lets you know the moment there is a slight problem, enabling you to rectify it at the early stages rather than when the misalignment gets to a critical point.
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