Midlands Technical College benefits from shaft and pulley alignment equipment donation

December 16, 2014

LUDECA’s donation of its laser alignment system to Midlands Technical College prepares students for the real world.

Shaft Alignment

  Pulley Alignment

Matthew Lester, an industrial training instructor for Midlands Technical College, was mindful of the good that would come from the donation of equipment from LUDECA, When Midlands Tech finally received the laser alignment systems and equipment, his dream of helping students prepare for their future jobs came true. Read the rest of the blog by Plant Services Magazine.

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Shaft Alignment: Setup Basics

December 9, 2014

You’ve always heard the adage, “Laser on the Stationary and Receiver (or Prism) on the Movable.”  In this day and age, however, this “truism” has become obsolete. You see, the concept of the “stationary” machine, per se, is obsolete. ALL machines CAN be moved if they really need to be (no machine grew out of the ground, like a tree!), so instead we emphasize that the laser should be mounted on the machine that is “more difficult” to move (usually the pump because of the connected piping.)

The flexibility that all ROTALIGN (and OPTALIGN SMART products) offer through their static feet function, as well as the ability to freely flip or rotate the view of the machines to suit your needs, means that you no longer need to concern yourself with “stationary” machines. Your real goal is to find the easiest and most expedient way of aligning your machines. In some cases this may mean moving one pair of feet on the pump just a little to keep from having to move the motor feet a lot.

So, let’s just amend our setup statement a bit: I always say “LLLaser on the LLLeft and RRReceiver on the RRRight!” (or RRReflector, as the case may be.) This will help you to remember and keep your setups consistent. But what if your pump and motor are mounted close beside a wall, and you can only access the machines from one side? As luck would have it, that side is always “the wrong side” as dictated by Murphy’s law, with your pump on the right and the motor on the left, instead of the way you are used to seeing them. No matter! Still mount your laser on the left machine. Now, since the Rotalign and Optalign want to move the right machine by default, you can now employ the “Flip Machines” feature, which will automatically swap the view of your machines left and right, so you can see them the way they really are in the field, and easily move the left machine now, even if you have mounted your laser on it.

Traditional Alignment Setup

If you have two equally hard-to-move machines, each of which you would ordinarily like to consider stationary (such as a heavily piped little steam turbine driving a heavily piped compressor), then it really just boils down to which machine (or combination of feet on both machines) is the most expedient to move. Again, mount the laser on the on the left. You can always use the static feet function to declare the machine on the right stationary and make the machine on the left movable, or ask the tool to make any combination of feet movable so as to find your smallest possible moves or optimal combination of moves to solve bolt-bound or base-bound situations in the field. The ROTALIGN ULTRA products are especially versatile for this, since they let you explore fully optimized centerlines (move ALL the feet in the train), as well as under-constrained and over-constrained centerlines, to cope with the exigencies of the situations you encounter in the field.

Lastly, if you ever need to compare your alignment or your target specs to a drawing or to someone else’s report that shows the machines the other way around from the way you set up, you can always use the Rotate View functionality to look at your results from the other side. You use this feature “after the fact”—in other words, after your setup is already complete, with readings taken and results obtained, you can always rotate the view and see your results as if you had walked around to the other side of the machines.

Original Alignment Results

To summarize, the concept of “stationary” and “movable” is history. Use the Flip View feature right at the beginning, when you set up, to make your setup conform to the actual situation in the field. Use the Static Feet Function to make any machine movable or stationary, and to explore “best possible” correction alternatives. Lastly, use the Rotate View feature to look at your alignment differently, after it’s already done.

Watch Tutorials: ‘Flip Machines’ and ‘Rotate View’ Features
Learn how these features work in the ROTALIGN ULTRA, OPTALIGN SMART and SHAFTALIGN laser shaft alignment systems.

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Making Sense of Oil Viscosity

December 2, 2014

Guest post by Dave Tiffany, Reliability Specialist for Pioneer Engineering

If you have a gearbox with a manufacturer’s nameplate instructing you to use the American Gear Manufacturer’s Association (AGMA) #4 viscosity oil at a given operating temperature, or if it specified a 750 SSU viscosity oil, would you know exactly what viscosity oil you need? If your grease application specified a base oil viscosity of 220 cSt for a given operating temperature would you know which of your greases might fit that specification, if any?

Does it really matter? Oil is oil, grease is grease, and more is better, right?


The importance of proper oil viscosity in your large array of equipment and the varying lubrication regimes they present is one of the most important maintenance practices one can focus on in their facilities. Viscosity is the most important physical property of a lubricant, and viscosity is the most important specification for a lubricant. Along with this, viscosity is the easiest thing to mess up!

A simple definition of viscosity is the thickness of an oil. While this is the most common understanding of viscosity, a more technical definition of viscosity is a measurement of the oil’s internal resistance or its resistance to flow by gravity. Viscosity is what carries the load, separating surfaces in relative motion from touching, thus reducing friction and wear, extending equipment life.

Viscosity should always be measured at a given temperature. Normally viscosity is inversely proportional to temperature, meaning as the temperature of an oil increases, its viscosity generally will decrease.

Stating an oil’s viscosity is found in many different formats depending on the application. The International Standards Organization (ISO) is the universally accepted method for stating oil viscosity (ISO VG) through-out industry (ISO 3448). This ranges from an ISO VG 2 to an ISO VG 3200. ISO VG is stated at 40°C.

AGMA specify grades an oil’s viscosity for industrial gear applications, also at 40°C. The AGMA uses a #1 through #8A designation.

SUS – or – SSU is not in use much anymore, but you may still find it referenced on an older gearbox nameplate or an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) manual. This stands for Saybolt Universal Seconds – or – Saybolt Seconds Universal, you’ll see it stated either way.

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Crankcase and SAE Gear classifications are different yet. 0W, 5W, 10W, etc., and straight weights 30, 40, and 50 are designations for crankcase oils, while 70W to 85W and 80 to 250 are designations for automotive gear oils.

If all of this is making sense, I commend you. You are likely on top of your game and know exactly which oils and viscosities belongs in each application throughout your facility. But if this sounds like a foreign language that you do not understand, it’s okay, as long as you now realize that your equipment may be in jeopardy of shorter life cycles and there is potential for cost saving improvements that will greatly enhance your equipment’s reliability.


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Vibration Kills! Eliminating it could save the life of your equipment

November 25, 2014

Equipment vibration levels and bearing life are directly correlated. Many studies have established this link. Increased vibration levels due to misalignment, unbalance, looseness and other factors will greatly reduce the life span of bearings and other critical components within your equipment. It is not the amount of vibration that affects bearing life, but the forces that cause this vibration. These dynamic forces are propagated into components like bearings, reducing their life span. Reducing vibration levels means that the forcing functions are reduced/eliminated and bearing life is improved as a result.

Reducing vibration levels in your equipment will decrease the maintenance efforts required to keep it running, improve uptime and save your company money. These savings can be used to help justify your condition monitoring and reliability efforts as well.

Eliminate vibration before it kills your equipment, production and profits.


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Multi-point measure mode on large machines

November 18, 2014

At Enterprise Products an 8000 HP Siemens Electric Motor is short-coupled to an Ariel KBV six throw compressor. Unit was suffering from very large amounts of vibration causing excessive wear and tear on various components of the machine.

Motor to Ariel Compressor

This alignment is performed using the compact magnetic brackets attached to a huge Thomas shim disk-type coupling. The shafts are turned using their 15-ton overhead bridge crane with a suitable nylon strap. The alignment was performed using the OPTALIGN SMART alignment system and the Multi-point Measure Mode. To take readings, the unit must be turned with a 15-ton overhead crane. Since the rotation is not even and start stop positions cannot be exactly controlled, measurements are taken at various locations along the rotation. The Multi-point Mode is ideal for this situation.

I have been using OPTALIGN SMART Laser Equipment for years. The OPTALIGN SMART makes it simple and easy to align very small equipment as well as very large equipment. We use the OPTALIGN SMART to align all rotating equipment in our facilities. The two pieces of equipment grow together within .001” to .002”. This was confirmed when a hot alignment was performed. We check alignment both hot and cold every 4000 hours of run time. The OPTALIGN SMART takes the guess work out and definitely saves valuable time.” —D. Thomas, Enterprise Products

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Can you answer a simple question: Is your equipment basically sound?

November 12, 2014

Can you answer a simple question? Is your equipment basically sound? It’s not a trick question. There are some things that the more studious maintenance practitioners among us have discovered through dedicated equipment failure data logging followed by mining that data. In his article “Examining the Processes of RCM and TPM” Ross Kennedy of the Center for TPM points out that studies have been undertaken to determine the main causes of premature equipment failure, as they relate to statistical lifetime rates. Mr. Kennedy states “Studies conducted by the Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance and companies like DuPont and Tennessee Eastman Chemical Company have shown that three major physical conditions make up some 80% of the variation.”

In other words, 80% the equipment tracked in these studies that didn’t achieve its projected lifetime were all affected (or perhaps we should say “afflicted”) by one or more of three physical conditions causing the accelerated failure rate:

  1. Lubrication problems
  2. Looseness problems
  3. Contamination problems

Based on these findings, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) strives to maintain equipment in what it has termed “Basic Equipment Condition”, or Clean, Tight, and Lubed. Many companies promote their activities as giving their equipment a little TLC (Tight, Lubed, and Cleaned). However you put it, if your equipment isn’t clean, tight, and lubed properly, expecting reliability is illogical because your equipment is not “basically sound”.

You’ll notice that the companies Mr. Kennedy cites as participants in such studies are well known for their reliability programs. Most would see them as well ahead of the pack so to speak, but they too found some low hanging fruit through this study. Now that the studies have been done, we can all benefit from them. It doesn’t take a lot of hi-tech equipment to work on these areas, but many still overlook them because they seem too simple. Don’t get caught in the trap of looking for exotic means of reliability improvement before you’ve gotten good at the basics.

As a part of a corporate reliability group for a Fortune 500 Company (in my distant past), we added a 4th element to what should constitute “Basic” equipment condition for assets, and that element was shaft alignment.

Only when your equipment is:

  1. Precision aligned
  2. Properly lubricated
  3. Properly fastened and mounted
  4. Free from excessive foreign material contamination

Should you feel comfortable in answering a “yes” to the simple question: “Is your equipment basically sound?”

It is important to always remember one additional best practice activity that is critical to equipment reliability.  Keep your equipment balanced where applicable as well.  Unbalance is another common problem resulting in costly reliability issues within a facility.

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