Accurate shaft alignment vital in ensuring optimised equipment performance

Paul Boughton
Companies should take a second look at the way in which they implement condition monitoring procedures, argues Phil Burge.

Condition monitoring, for predictive and preventative maintenance strategies, is widely used throughout industry, with the long term reliability of manufacturing and process systems depending on devices designed to allow plant operators to react to impending failure within the system being monitored.

In many instances, however, failure is due not to normal wear but by incorrect installation and maintenance of equipment and components. It is, for example, common for shafts to be misaligned, for rotating parts to be incorrectly balanced and for lubrication systems to be under specified for the task in hand; indeed, it is estimated that 16 per cent of all bearing failures are due to incorrect installation.

Accordingly, these problems can easily be overcome by the correct procedures and use of the appropriate equipment, such as alignment tools and automatic lubricators, during plant construction and routine maintenance. As a result, there are a number of key factors that plant engineers need to consider when planning, building and maintaining process and manufacturing plants.[Page Break]

For example, accurate shaft alignment is a vital element in ensuring optimised equipment performance. Indeed, the correct alignment of shafts, in both horizontal and vertical configurations, helps to extend bearing and shaft service life in many applications, including coupled shafts, pumps, motors, mixers, gearboxes and compressors.

Most critically, this provides greater return on investments, while considerably reducing energy consumption, vibration and noise, and reducing the stress placed on couplings and seals.

To help engineers achieve pin point accuracy and cut machinery breakdowns by up to 50 per cent, leading manufacturers, such as SKF, have introduced a new generation of shaft alignment tools that harness the power of lasers. Furthermore, the latest devices allow technicians to align shafts quickly and easily using real time configuration values, allowing the results of alignment corrections to be seen as they are being performed.

Equally important is effective and accurate lubrication to minimise maintenance and operating costs. To meet the ever changing needs of industry, lubrication systems are constantly developing and there is now a wide range of solutions available to meet the requirements of numerous applications. For instance, there are manual grease, circulating oil and centralised grease lubrication systems, as well as automated systems that ensure bearings are correctly lubricated at all times, without the need for manual checking and application procedures. It is also vital to select the correct type of lubricant for each application, taking into account factors that may affect the long term chemical and physical characteristics of the oil or grease, such as operating temperatures, high speeds, heavy bearing loads and the use of cleaning systems.

Back to basics

Going back to the basics and ensuring that these are correct, provides a stable foundation onto which to build an accurate approach to condition monitoring, which, ultimately, allows you to realise a highly effective predictive or preventative maintenance strategy. Most crucially, this holistic approach goes a long way to helping plant and equipment operate efficiently and at optimum performance over long and reliable service lives.

Phil Burge is Communication Manager,SKF (UK) Limited, Luton, Bedfordshire, UK.

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