Laser Alignment Tools Need to be a Staple in Calibration Tasks
A simple laser alignment tool is a powerful resource in machine calibration. Depending on the context, you might use it for high-precision leveling or slotting alignments, for example. But the broad availability and general reliance on these systems has made our interaction with them routine. We use them effectively for procedures we’re familiar with, but don’t always consider the numerous other applications that laser alignment may be ideal to address. It’s a prime example of a multifaceted technology that could be serving most manufacturers better.
A look at lasers and their place in factory maintenance
Most factories that employ laser alignment tools deal with rotary equipment. According to a machine study by Texas A&M University, between 50-70% of vibration issues in rotating machinery have roots in misalignment, making precision alignment using lasers invaluable in preventing premature wear. Pump and motor couplings rely on precision shaft alignments, which facilitates laser alignment.
Laser alignment tools are, simply put, the easiest way to prevent angular and offset alignments. Setting up an alignment is as simple as pointing a laser through the bolt hole or to fixed points between the coupling. If the laser shines from Point A to Point B, there’s alignment. If not, there’s not, and adjustments can be made to make the alignments colinear. This is, of course, an oversimplification, but nonetheless a simple representation of how most laser alignment systems are deployed.
Beyond rotary equipment
Beyond rotary alignment, it’s important to understand the benefits of laser alignment for any precision alignment occurring in three dimensions. Any time there’s the potential for offset or angular alignment, lasers can help bring context to three dimensions of calibration. Laser equipment is widely recognized for its ability to bring precision to a variety of applications.
- Bearings, reducing metal fatigue.
- Couplings, reducing friction and tension.
- Shafts, reducing vibration and noise.
- Seals, preventing premature failure.
Laser alignment can effectively maintain these vital systems to tolerances as tight as 1mm, which translates to everything from better performance, to improved longevity, to heightened efficiency, and the many other benefits associated with precision maintenance.
From corrective to predictive maintenance
Used accordingly within the scope of maintenance, laser alignment tools can serve in both corrective and predictive capacities. Most manufacturers are familiar with their corrective abilities, but laser systems have the potential to prevent these misalignments from becoming severe.
According to Manufacturing Tomorrow, laser alignment systems offer significant preventive opportunities — namely in their ability to reduce premature wear. “Some of the problems resulting from misalignment include excessive vibration and premature wear of bearings, seals, and couplings, which, in turn, lead to unplanned and costly equipment breakdowns.” Maintaining OEM (original equipment manufacturer) tolerances as part of routine maintenance is simpler when using laser tools, as opposed to waiting for symptoms to manifest and relying on laser systems to correct them.
Most factories have laser alignment systems and are deeply familiar with how to use them. But are they using them to their fullest measure? Unless that usage includes preventive maintenance, there’s significant potential for improving machine upkeep at tolerances only laser systems can deliver.