Tug Boat Z-Drive Alignment with ROTALIGN ULTRA

August 21, 2014

Recently, while visiting the West Coast, I had an opportunity to get involved in an alignment with Mr. Roy Loop from The Rueck Company on a tug boat being built on the Columbia River near Portland, OR. This tug will be put into service halfway around the world where it will be towing and docking ships into and out of ports. A failure in this remote location would make repairs extremely expensive for the owner, not only due to its service location, but because of lost revenue from the vessel being out of service.

Tug Boat

Knowing this, the tug boat’s owner wanted to verify the alignment of the drive lines (both port & starboard) to ensure they were within the required alignment tolerances before putting the vessel into service.

Dimensions Setup

Interesting about this application is that the drive shaft goes through a bulkhead so there is no line-of-sight between the Z-drive and the diesel engine. In the image below you can see the bulkhead. The diesel engine is on the other side of this bulkhead. In this picture, we are setting up the receiver on a 17-foot jack shaft.

Jackshaft alignment

Rotalign Ultra

Fortunately, we had a ROTALIGN ULTRA iS Laser System (with Expert level firmware). This firmware gave us the capability to set up multiple laser heads on all of the drive train components and thereby measure the entire machine train with just one rotation. Despite the fact that two sets of lasers and receivers were on the other side of the bulkhead, we could still establish communication via the powerful Bluetooth module built in to the laser equipment. The ROTALIGN ULTRA iS is the only system on the market that is capable of performing this alignment measurement across multiple couplings simultaneously with just one rotation of the drive line. In order to rotate the shafts, the drive train typically needs to be cranked by hand using a ratchet on the diesel’s flywheel. This is extremely tiring, time consuming and difficult to do. If you had to “crank” the diesel for each of the four couplings one at a time, the job might take several hours just to take the readings. With this alignment set-up, we were able to use the ROTALIGN’s unique Continuous Sweep measurement mode, so there was no need to stop and start at any specific measurement location.

Three sets of readings were taken to verify repeatability using the ROTALIGN’s unique measurement table. This measurement table allowed us to view each of the coupling’s three readings in a table to verify repeatability and (if desired) average these readings together. Each set of readings was accomplished with just a single turn of the shafts with less than 100 degrees rotation. The entire alignment data collection process (all three sets of readings) was accomplished in just a few minutes.

Laser Receiver alignment setup

When making live moves/corrections, the ROTALIGN ULTRA iS Expert allowed us to see the alignment condition at each coupling simultaneously in real time for both the Vertical and Horizontal directions. This is another unique capability which is extremely important, since, when one component of the drive train is moved, it affects the alignment condition at the other couplings. Having this capability is a huge time saver, reducing the job sometimes from days to just hours.

AS FOUND results:


As LEFT results:


The alignment tolerances from the coupling manufacturer were given in degrees of angularity rather than as gap differences at the coupling. To verify that the alignment was within the coupling manufacturer’s tolerances, the Rotalign Ultra allowed us to instantly convert the measured alignment condition to display the angle in degrees rather than as a gap. Below is the final reading in degrees:


The alignment was accomplished within alignment specifications, as shown by the smiley faces. The ship’s owner was confident that alignment would not be an issue and gave the green light to put the tug into service.


Is the window of enthusiasm closing on your Condition Monitoring Program?

August 19, 2014

Education and responsibility go hand in hand. Leaders of reliability programs should expect their employees to return from a training course with a better idea of how Condition Monitoring can effectively increase equipment reliability and be willing to provide the support to take full advantage of the education gained.

Indeed, there is a narrow window of opportunity to maximize this enthusiasm. Even the most passionate reliability professional eventually will fall captive to the stagnant grind of doing the same tasks over and over, especially when he or she has realized that the status quo is not changing.

Leaders must continuously provide their team with the necessary tools and support to improve their program, while those who are performing the tasks must use what they have learned to effectively increase equipment reliability.

Is the window of enthusiasm closing on your Condition Monitoring program? Have you maximized your staff’s education and opportunities? Reliability Excellence can be achieved when your team collectively contributes and applies the knowledge that has been obtained.

Learn about The Reliability Leader Certification


Aligning a Gearbox Shaft to Compressor Bores During Assembly with ROTALIGN ULTRA

August 14, 2014

Some weeks ago, a compressor manufacturer contracted us to perform ROTALIGN ULTRA laser alignment training at their testing facility. During the training, the millwrights mentioned that they had a need to align the gearbox shaft to the compressor bores during the assembly process, before the compressor shaft was installed. Since my ROTALIGN ULTRA also features the CENTRALIGN ULTRA bore alignment option, I offered to train them on this interesting application.
The objective was to perform the alignment so when the compressor shaft is put in, it is already within tolerance and the compressor is immediately ready to be tested. This means that the millwrights need to align the static centerline of the bores of the compressor to the rotating centerline of the gearbox shaft. This is a challenging application that the ROTALIGN ULTRA with CENTRALIGN ULTRA can handle with ease (see Figure 1.)

 Laser on Gearbox

Fig. 1: Laser mounted on Rotating Gearbox Shaft

We first covered the key concepts of what it means to do a bore alignment. Hands-on exercises illustrated the differences between aligning with a static laser beam through the bores and a rotating laser setup on the gearbox shaft. Once on the shop floor we were able to measure a compressor’s bores with respect to the gearbox shaft within 45 minutes, start to finish including setup time for both stages of the measurement (see Figure 2.)

Receiver on Compressor Bore

Fig. 2: Receiver with Bluetooth module in compressor bore

The millwrights seemed thrilled with the simplicity of the process, compared to their current approach, which involved using a complicated bracket system to support dial indicators, sometimes taking up to a day to obtain accurate measurements.

The customer purchased the ROTALIGN ULTRA with CENTRALIGN ULTRA option and now obtains accurate and repeatable measurements within an hour, without depending on the skill level of the operator. This has freed up manpower, saved time and a great deal of money during the compressor assembly process.


Lessons learned. Three steps to add to your daily equipment maintenance efforts

August 12, 2014

Recently I visited a customer’s facility to provide onsite training for the VibXpert vibration data analyzer they had recently purchased. Before we could get started collecting data, we needed to build the equipment hierarchy and measurement templates required. Once the database was created, we loaded routes into the VibXpert and proceeded to collect vibration data.

The first room we entered had two large belt driven overhung fans. At first glance it was obvious that one of the fans was running extremely rough. We collected vibration data on both fans and paused to review the results. We noticed that the 1× amplitude on the rough fan was over 1.0 inches per second peek. The local CM technician immediately commented that the fan should be balanced and his observation was correct when simply looking at the vibration data.

The room was full of clues which explained the cause of the fan unbalance. This facility processed and manufactured wood products. Large amounts of wood dust are produced and these fans were designed to ventilate a high dust area. Everything in the room was covered with wood particles and dust. The only question was how much had accumulated on the inside of these fans.

I asked if the fan could be stopped for a short period and the inspection door opened. My request was honored and the fan was shut down and locked out. Our examination revealed the fan blades had amassed substantial amounts of wood particles. The fan blades were cleaned and resulting in a pile of wood chips weighing about 5 lbs. The fan was placed back into operation and allowed to run for several minutes. Vibration data was recollected on the fan and the 1× amplitude had reduced to 0.1 inches per second.

Fans require corrective action to eliminate unbalance conditions from time to time. However, the cause of unbalance may simply be buildup of foreign matter on the blades. This fan was being allowed to beat itself to death due to product buildup. This facility learned a few lessons from the experience. First, inspections utilizing the human senses (touch, hearing, etc) could have been used to determine that this fan was in need of attention. Second, periodic vibration monitoring would have identified a need for maintenance on this fan. Third, if a fan is properly balanced, simply cleaning foreign matter buildup may reduce the vibration, prevent equipment damage and maintain the reliability of the equipment. Make sure that you utilize these three steps during your daily maintenance efforts on equipment.


Thermal Growth and Machinery Movement Crash Course Video

August 7, 2014

“Thermal growth” often refers to the change in machinery positions as a machine runs from startup to operating conditions (or vice versa). Machinery positional change can also be caused by dynamic forces, pipe stress and other factors. Compensating for thermal growth is necessary because the machine will be misaligned during operating conditions if it is not. —Daus Studenberg, Applications Engineer – LUDECA, Inc.

Machinery Thermal GrowthThermal Growth and Machinery Movement Crash Course Video

Machinery movement and thermal growth are two of the main issues that affect operation and life of machinery. Watch our crash course video and see how continuous monitoring of positional change can eliminate checks and calculations and provide an exact solution.



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Whether you live in LA, TX or CA, join us as we showcase our shaft alignment, vibration analysis & balancing products at these events

August 6, 2014

We will have all our shaft alignment, pulley alignment and vibration analysis and balancing maintenance-related products on display at the following trade shows:

Booth# 1523
September 23 – 25
Houston, TX
Download FREE Pass

Booth# 333
September 24 – 25
Santa Clara, CA
Attend our session: Field Balancing – Tips and Tricks by Greg Lee, Sept 24 – 9:35 am
Download FREE Pass

Booth# 2251
Sept. 29 – Oct 1
New Orleans, LA
Register Now!

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