Identifying misalignment issues in motors, pumps, fans, blowers, and other rotating machinery used to require a highly experienced expert and took a lot of time. Fortunately, with today’s laser shaft alignment tools, all experience levels, including technicians, can use laser shaft alignment to fix misalignments and discover the problem much quicker and easier.

Misalignment happens when two rotating shafts don’t line up, causing an offset or an angular gap at the coupling. Misaligned machines rank as one of the top reasons for machinery failure in rotating machinery.

single-laser shaft alignment is faster than dual-laser alignment
One way to fix machine misalignment is with a single-laser shaft alignment tool

What Causes Rotating Shaft Misalignment?

Shaft misalignment happens for many reasons and can cause bearing wear, seal deterioration, and coupling destruction. So, it’s important to confirm machinery alignment on a regular basis. Here are five of the most common ways it can happen.

5 Causes of Shaft Misalignment:

  • Soft foot triggered by a baseplate settling  
  • Shaft distortion created by torsion during startup
  • Incomplete or poor-quality alignment measurements caused by human error
  • Pipe strain leading to parallel and angular misalignment
  • Thermal expansion that causes a piece of equipment to move proportionally to another

4 Types of Laser Shaft Misalignment

Experts generally agree on these four types of laser shaft machine alignment issues:

  1. Horizontal offset misalignment is comparable to vertical offset misalignment, but it happens in the horizontal plane
  2. Vertical offset misalignment happens when the two shafts slated for alignment have parallel centerlines, but the centerlines become offset vertically.
  3. Horizontal angle misalignment is comparable to vertical angle misalignment but occurs in the horizontal plane.
  4. Vertical angle misalignment is an angular misalignment of two shafts in the vertical plane. This type of laser shaft alignment issue is almost always a combination of both an angular and offset misalignment. It happens in both planes and is considered a compound misalignment.

4 Ways to Detect Shaft Misalignment Issues

Fixing a machine shaft misalignment can be accomplished in a number of ways. Here are four tools used to identify issues.

1. Laser Shaft Alignment System

Laser shaft alignment tools enable users to diagnose and fix misalignments. Checking for shaft alignment problems is often the first action taken when a machine starts having trouble. A laser shaft alignment system determines misalignment at the coupling and calculates the relevant machine movement needed to perform at the base.

Laser shaft alignment systems enable users to diagnose and correct alignment issues. Alignment tools like PRÜFTECHNIK Laser Shaft Alignment Systems provide real-time, accurate, and precise measurements. They let users know when the shaft is aligned correctly.

Two Different Types of Laser Shaft Alignment Tools

Laser systems can be either single-laser alignment tools or dual-laser shaft alignment tools. A dual-laser alignment system isn’t as capable and is more challenging to operate than a single-laser shaft alignment tool.

Single-laser Shaft Alignment System Benefits:

  • Addresses many specific and complex shaft alignment challenges, including vertical flanged machines with right-angle gearboxes
  • Uses two optical detector planes in a single sensor removing the technician’s task of performing a rough alignment to get both lasers on target

Dual-laser systems make it difficult for technicians to find and maintain the detector line. Therefore, as the measurement distance grows so does the difficulty.

As a result, technicians must restart measurements requiring them to stop, loosen the baseplate feet, move the machine and retighten the feet—all without guaranteeing that the detector will be in range. With every repetition, process time rises, and the possibility for error.

2. Vibration Analysis

Because of the speed at which modern data collectors can process triaxial sensor signals, vibration monitoring and analysis have become more common. All machines have normal vibration levels, but sometimes machine vibration increases beyond acceptable thresholds.

Analysis vibration sensors provide more in depth data to analyze and identify the root cause
Analysis vibration monitoring sensors can identify the reason for the machine fault

Reasons why vibration increases include misalignment, looseness, resonance, and unbalance. Vibration is usually measured using an accelerometer, followed by proximity sensors or velocity transducers. A vibration analyst can further diagnose the machine’s faults with this data.

3. Thermography

Thermography can detect alignment issues early by identifying hot spot abnormalities. Misalignment might cause an increase in friction within machinery followed by a rise in temperature. A thermal imager detects and measures an asset’s infrared energy and changes the infrared data into an electronic image showing its apparent surface temperature.

4. Oil Analysis

Oil analysis can identify an abnormal condition or parameter and the root cause before the failure further develops. Because oil analysis can be complicated, many organizations use specialized companies.

Fix Misalignment with Adaptive Laser Shaft Alignment Tools

Because machine misalignment problems vary, maintenance professionals require hardware and software alignment systems to adjust to diverse challenges. Teams also need tools that adapt to different team members’ experience and skill levels, including less-experienced maintenance team members. Choosing the best machine alignment tool can be challenging. Do your homework and look for tips on what to look for in a robust laser shaft alignment system.

With Pruftechnik’s advanced laser shaft alignment tools, you get the flexibility necessary to adapt to the situation, the asset, and the user experience level. These easy-to-use systems maximize production time and increase uptime by eliminating human error while providing new levels of accuracy and speed.

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