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Why Laser Tools Are Better For Belt Alignment

Shaft misalignment accounts for up to 50% of all the costs related to breakdowns of rotating machinery including unplanned downtime, production losses and higher maintenance expenses.   In addition, poorly aligned shafts can result in higher vibration levels and friction which results in premature bearing failure and higher energy consumption.

Aligning belts is as important as aligning sheaves and pulleys and if you still use traditional low-tech methods for belt alignment, you could putting your operation at greater risk of incurring those unwanted – and unnecessary – costs.

Traditional belt alignment methods like straight edge, string and even dial indicators, although commonplace, aren’t always the best choice.  We reveal why.

String and straight-edge methods require a high degree of visual judgement with the naked eye in combination with the equipment.  In some instances, the results are solely dependent on the operator’s judgement.   The major disadvantage here is accuracy and the reliance on human intervention can leave a large margin for error.

Some belt manufacturers stipulate their recommended maximum misalignments (usually 0.50 but it can be as small as 0.250) which simply cannot be discerned by visual judgement.

Dial indicators, another traditional method, deliver a higher degree of accuracy but still require a specialist operator.

Benefit of a laser tool

When compared to laser alignment tools, traditional straight edge and string methods are cumbersome and inaccurate.

A laser device doesn’t rely on the human factor and there’s no time-consuming trial and error process.  These tools are lightweight and easy to operate and most importantly, they enable measurements that are far more accurate and reliable than those from any traditional method.

Moreover, these digital tools enable belts to be aligned according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and results can be documented for analysis and future reference.

Another advantage of laser tools is that any misalignment in both the horizontal and vertical pulleys can be picked up at the same time.  Checking the vertical parallelism of two pulleys using a ruler is very time-consuming and awkward, but a laser tool does it with ease.

Laser devices are broadly categorised into two groups – one group which aligns the face of the pulleys and one which aligns the grooves of the pulleys.

The majority of laser devices on the market align pulleys and belts by only using the face or the side of the pulley as a reference.  These are useful when measuring alignment on belt types other than V-belts.

However, in many industrial applications, the pulleys are of different thicknesses, brands and types and may not have well-finished faces – and these factors have a detrimental effect on the accuracy of measurements.   What’s more, in an industrial environment where V-belts are commonplace, these types of devices will have limited use.

A laser tool such as the Easy Laser D525 can align all kinds of rotating machines and can indicate misalignment in three planes, vertical angular offset, horizontal angular offset and parallel offset.  Using a laser tool means the accuracy of measurements is improved irrespective of the thickness, the brand of the kind of pulleys on the machine.

Be sure to discuss your operation’s specific needs with regards to non-destructive testing (NDT) with your technical equipment supplier before making any investment because you need to get the right solution from the outset.

For example, your operation may need a laser tool that aligns the grooves of the pulleys in which the belt runs.  You may want the advanced ROTALIGN® Ultra IS system or you may simply want a compact entry-level device like the Easy Laser E420.  You may even just want to hire a laser alignment tool to ensure trouble-free plant operation  – although there’s every reason to believe that these devices quickly pay for themselves by enabling reductions in energy consumption, keeping downtime to a minimum, improving operating efficiencies and lowering equipment maintenance costs.

Contact Nexxis for expert advice on the latest specialised laser alignment tools which will consistently and reliably deliver maximum precision and precise shaft alignment, even in the harshest environments or browse our website to see our extensive range of laser alignment solutions.

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