It doesn't matter how large, small, complex or simple your machinery is, ensuring it runs in alignment is essential.
The word alignment sounds as if it only perhaps refers to components such as shafts. To some extent this is of course the case, but there are many other component parts of a machine that need to be aligned with other such as belts, bearings and shims.
Before looking at some of the other items that need alignment the most obvious area relates to the horizontal and vertical planes that any machine needs to operate in. Machine manufacturers build their machines to operate within certain tolerances. They may be made to operate vertically, horizontally, or in other more obtuse angles. These factors are taken into account by the machine manufacturers to ensure equal wear on components parts.
For example, the parts exposed to increased wear are very different for a machine designed to operate in the vertical plane to one designed to operate horizontally. Just one consideration is the natural gravitational effect on the machine. If a shaft goes out of alignment and isn't rectified quickly, then other component parts will wear excessively. Alignment tools can pinpoint where the misalignment has occurred so that remedial action can take place. Monitoring alignment regularly enables machine operators to know when something is going wrong, before there are any noticeable signs, such as vibration, which is a sure sign misalignment has occurred.
Belts are used in machinery to link one moving part to another. Worn belts or misaligned gearing between the belt drives means excessive wear occurs. The first noticeable sign is usually increased noise followed by increased vibration. At this stage, bearings and seals are likely to be under increased stress. The torque of the belt may be unequal across its width and the belt will ultimately fail, resulting in machine shutdown. This increases costs, due to replacement parts, extra maintenance costs and of course the actual downtime. Using machine alignment tools to regularly monitor belt alignment will ensure you can replace belts at a convenient time, but more importantly, the belts will last longer and so will the components parts which help to keep costs down to a minimum.
Not all alignment processes involve the mechanical moving parts of the machine. Equally important to any machines longevity is ensuring the machine is accurately geometrically positioned. This is where shims are essential. Shims relate to thin metal plates, usually made from steel or brass and are made to exacting tolerances. The metal shims are placed under the machines feet, or other similar place, to ensure with absolute accuracy that the machines central shaft rotates along a precise centerline. This ensures wear to other machine parts are kept to a minimum. The drive shafts in any machine are a central component and must operate in the correct plane. It only needs a machine to be a degree or so out of alignment for the shaft to start putting extra pressure on bearing and seals.