Millwright Matt Joinson takes on industrial machinery alignment jobs that would challenge anyone.
From dusty, dirty mining sites in freezing weather to sawmills and pulp mills in hot, humid temperatures, Joinson doesn’t back down. He’s ready with his RotAlign Touch and other Prüftechnik laser alignment tools to handle jobs in the most demanding conditions. It’s all about knowing what to expect, having the right equipment, and being gritty and ready, he says.
Joinson, owner-operator of Jaffray Millwright and Welding of Jaffray, British Columbia, and Payam Assadi, sales manager for Prüftechnik Canada, describe in a Fluke Reliability webinar in February 2021 some of the challenging alignment scenarios they’ve encountered over the years. They also shared their expert advice on using laser shaft alignment tools in demanding conditions.
“Make sure your alignment tool is IP-rated for all-weather conditions,” Joinson says as one of his top tips. “You need the battery to hold up and the screen to function no matter what.”
“I try to put my RotAlign Touch screen in a reasonably safe spot, but things happen,” he adds. “It’s gotten knocked off the motor, and I’ve dropped it a few times and never had to stress about it. With Gorilla Glass, even cracked, you can still use it, and the touch housing works with gloves and greasy hands.”
Both Joinson and Assadi stress that a big part of being ready is taking the time to run pre-alignment checks. “You can have the best tool in hand, and if these checklists are not followed, you can still run into problems,” Assadi notes. Items on their checklist include:
A poll of the webinar audience suggested that soft-foot checks were probably the most commonly neglected pre-alignment step, followed by checking for pipe strain. For machine installations, Joinson and Assadi provide an additional set of recommended guidelines to follow, included in the webinar.
Figure 1. Pre-alignment checklist
Familiarity with couplings is a close second to the pre-alignment checklist on the readiness scale. Of all the coupling types, Joinson says that fluid couplings and spacer shafts with the flexible disk are the most technical couplings he faces because they require more precision. Advice from Joinson on couplings includes:
Figure 2 demonstrates the core elements of more straightforward alignments. “For these,” says Joinson, “I use the IntelliSWEEP measurement mode of the RotAlign Touch. If the access is wide open and you can eyeball the rough alignment and hook up the RotAlign using standard brackets and the sweep function.
“The software wizard makes it step-by-step. You don’t have to start at any particular foot, which is particularly handy with larger motors where it’s awkward getting from one side to the other.”
The Simultaneous Move function between the vertical and horizontal also is handy. “I like that I can leave it anywhere. If it’s going to work better for you to move the heads while doing your measurement, it’s not a problem – you can do simultaneous corrections, and it saves you a lot of headaches. One thing to watch out for, though, is whether anything else is affected by the move when you’re coupled.”
Figure 2. Examples of straightforward alignment scenarios using the RotAlign Touch
In the example Joinson shares in Figure 3, he was working on the chain drive for a pan feeder to a rotary breaker at a mining site. Joinson sees numerous drives in mining, some with chains, some with belts, some with reducers, and many with combination drives.
In this situation, Joinson had to get a hot-work permit because there wasn’t time for a shutdown. And then, the difficulties: “The design of this base was painted, with no blocks to put on for the motor feet, and no jack bolts. So, we had to create some clamps. On top of that, the coupling was so close to the cooling fan of the reducer; we had to use the offset bracket. And, we had very little room to move when aligning with the drive train; it was hard to access.”
Figure 3. Aligning the chain drive for a pan feeder
In the machine train alignment pictured in Figure 4, Joinson used two heads simultaneously, combined with Move Simulator and simultaneous Live Move horizontal and vertical on both couplings.
“I had to use two sets of heads to go through and two different measurement modes because only one side could move. We connected the two sets of heads to the RotAlign tablet, conducted our measurements, and then when we were trying to adjust it, we used the simulator to overcome bolt bind issues. We only had so much room to move due to the large disc brakes.”
“We had to switch our measurement types a couple of times while working with the technicians, as they spliced this large belt and switched the tension levels,” he says. “At this point, it was still free for us to move and turn, so I used the Live Trend brackets. Both of these couplings were in good shape, clean and smooth. And the Live Trend brackets are so versatile; you can put them on a large coupling on a flat wall on a shaft. It doesn’t matter.”
Figure 4. Aligning a large conveyor drive with a machine train
Joinson encourages alignment pros to connect with him and other Prüftechnik tool users on LinkedIn. “I like the community of Pruftechnik users; I reach out, and they always have suggestions,” he says.
View the entire webinar, “Tips for getting precise measurements in demanding conditions,” for Joinson and Assadi’s advice about brackets, reports, and other elements.