A look at alignment tools

Sheila Kennedy says reduce mechanical-equipment stress, breakdowns, and maintenance.

By Sheila Kennedy

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Proper alignment reduces stress on mechanical components, which reduces breakdowns and maintenance costs. It also saves energy. A variety of tools are available to simplify the alignment process and increase speed, accuracy, and mobility.

3D measurements

Coordinate measuring machines (CMM) use a measuring probe to determine point coordinates. The portable FARO Vantage Laser Tracker is designed to provide quick and accurate measurements of 3D coordinates using a spherically mounted retroreflector. It is suitable for machine tool alignment, roller and press alignment, jig and fixture alignment, and other CMM tasks. For smaller-scale tasks, such as on-machine alignment, the Laser Tracker and FaroArm can work together.

“Misalignments can cause machine downtime and significantly decrease machine performance; however, portable CMMs such as laser trackers and measuring arms can help to mitigate these issues. This method reduces downtime, improves quality, and generates a proper trend analysis of distortion and other changes in a machine’s operation,” says Ken Steffey, director of Laser Tracker product management at FARO.

Flange alignment

Flange alignment tools simplify bolting by lining up the flanges. The ATM series of flange alignment tools from Enerpac helps to perform mechanical or hydraulic, fixed flange or rotational alignment. The tools can be used effectively in any position, horizontally or vertically.

“Earlier methods of flange manipulation could be hazardous and time-consuming because they required a lot of manual lifting, and could also damage the flange bolt holes,” says Scott Blair, bolting specialist at Enerpac. “The ATM series tools are designed for use by a single operator, and without the need for an external power source, chains, sling, or lifting gear.”

Shaft alignment

Laser shaft alignment tools are quicker and easier to use than straight-edge and dial indicator methods. The TKSA series of laser shaft alignment tools from SKF Maintenance Products shows real-time coupling and feet values on the display unit, which allows the technician to monitor alignment corrections as they are performed, and without additional calculations. TKSA tools also enable pre-alignments for grossly misaligned machines and soft foot checks to detect and correct uneven machine feet conditions.

“Shaft alignment technology helps the user improve maintenance practices and overall productivity in real time, thus reducing premature failure by aligning equipment correctly,” says Paul Michalicka, area maintenance products manager for SKF. “It is also a major source of energy savings.”

The portable, all-digital Fixturlaser EVO shaft alignment tool from VibrAlign features a durable handheld display unit with an adaptive user interface that tells the user what to do based on measurement results. Its Screen Flip capability allows users to see the machine setup from the same angle as their own points of view with the tap of an icon on the screen.

Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics.Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at sheila@addcomm.com.

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"The challenge is to make laser shaft alignment tools that are powerful and easy to use, but also compact enough to fit tight alignment situations. The new Fixturlaser EVO offers the slimmest laser/detector heads on the market, paired with a display unit that looks like a tablet but is ruggedized for heavy industrial use,” says David Zdrojewski, CEO of VibrAlign.

The tab@lign solution for laser shaft alignment from Ludeca runs on Apple and Android devices, and a rugged tablet option is available. The system consists of a mobile app, measurement devices and a Bluetooth wireless communications module, and it uses Pruftechnik laser measurement technology. The app is a free download from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

“With tab@lign, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a precision alignment device for your motor-pump alignments. The app follows three steps: enter machine dimensions, rotate shafts, and display alignment results. Plus, you can perform soft foot checks and generate a color graphical report,” says Tyler Wulterkens, applications engineer at Ludeca.

The ALiSensor ShaftLaser from Alignment Supplies is designed specifically for use on Apple iOS devices like the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The measurement program apps can be downloaded for free on the user’s own Apple device. Because of the R&D and production savings, the system is priced at less than $5,000.

“The iPad offers functionality not seen on more expensive systems, such as including pictures taken with the iPad in the report, and emailing the report directly from the iPad,” says Brian Walsh, vice president at Alignment Supplies.

Read Sheila Kennedy's monthly column, Technology Toolbox.

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