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28 JUNE 2012 www.pump-zone.

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SPECIAL SECTION
I
n the alignment training classes that we teach, questions
arise about alignment tolerances. We often ask, What are
your companys alignment tolerances? Here are the most
common responses:
We dont have any.
Zero.
As close as we can get it.
When we get a smiley face!
When the coupling turns green.
Whatever the equipment manufacturer tells us to do.
Te purpose of this article is to shed some light on the
topic of alignment tolerances.
Which Alignment Are We
Talking About?
Te alignment in this article is typically referred to as coupling
alignment. In reality, coupling alignment is not about align-
ing couplings at all. It is about aligning shaft centerlines. Te
shaft centerline of a moveable machinetypically a motoris
aligned to the shaft centerline of a machine that generally is not
moved, such as a pump.
What Is Shaft Centerline Alignment?
Shaft centerline alignment is the position-
ing of the rotational centers of two or more
shafts such that they are co-linear when the
machines operate under normal conditions.
Tere are two types of misalignment, oset
and angular (see Figure 2).
When shafts are aligned, the oset
and
the angular must be aligned. Te align-
ment must be on two planesvertical and
horizontal.
Why Align?
Te goal is to align shaft centerlines. Te
main reasons for aligning shaft centerlines
are:
Increased reliability of the equipment
being aligned
Decreased wear on the bearings, seals, gears, couplings and
other components that make up the machines being aligned
Reduced vibration levels
Decreased energy consumption (typically a small amount,
but su cient misalignment can cause increased energy
consumption)
For warranty purposes, because machine manufacturers
specify it
Alignment Tolerances
Te denitions of alignment and misalignment and why we
align are straightforward. However, tolerances are like opin-
ionseverybody has them.
Alignment Tolerances
By Stan Riddle, Brad Case & Patrick Lawrence, VibrAlign
The biggest decision is determining which tolerances to align.
With an offset misalignment, the shafts of the two
machines being aligned may be parallel, but not in
the same plane.
When properly aligned, the shafts are co-linear,
which means that any point on either shaft lies in
a straight line with any other point on either shaft.
With angular misalignment, the two shaft center-
lines being aligned intersect, or form an angle rela-
tive to each other.
The coupling faces will be at the same angle of
misalignment as the shafts, unless they are bored
incorrectly.
Figure 2. Two types of misalignment
Figure 1. Shaft Centerline Alignment
PUMPS & SYSTEMS www.pump-zone.com JUNE 2012 29
Motors & Drives
All laser manufacturers and coupling manufacturers have
determined their alignment tolerances. Most alignment train-
ing organizations and engineering rms have them, as well.
Tey are all dierent.
AGMA has very specic tolerances on gearing. AFBMA
has specic tolerances on bearing sizes. NEMA has specic
designations for motors. ASTM, ISO, APIpick an acronym,
they all have specications on machin-
ery. Why isnt there a governing body for
alignment?
Simply stated, no industry standard
on alignment exists because too many
variables are involved. Some of these
variables are:
CouplingsCouplings are made
by numerous manufacturers. Some
are completely rigid, and must be
aligned to near zero misalignment.
Many modern couplings are ex-
ible. Of those, many use a sliding
motionsuch as a lubricated steel
gridto tolerate misalignment.
Some use rubber; neoprene; nylon
bushings; or thin, laminated steel
discs, because these have the ability
to ex for millions of cycles before
failing. Some use a combination of
both sliding and bending action.
Some may tolerate a great amount of
angular misalignment but little oset.
Some tolerate substantial oset, but
cannot handle any angular misalign-
ment. Modern coupling designs all
tolerate a certain amount of misalign-
ment based on their design, but their
limits can all be exceeded, if enough
misalignment is present.
Material stifness, hardness, tough-
ness, diameter, length and geom-
etryTere are as many congura-
tions of shafting metallurgy as there
are of couplings. Whether it is called
cold rolled; tool steel; stainless, or
turned, ground and polishedshaft-
ing is designed to tolerate a number
of factors. However, machining can
change its stiness, bending moment
and torque handling capabilities.
Components are mounted to it,
such as impellers and fans. Ten it
is supported by bearings, and uid
is held in place by seals or packing.
Why does that matter? Because the
ability of all these materials to bend
or deect is based not only on size, geometry and metal-
lurgy, but also on static and dynamic radial and axial loads.
Bearings and seals can fail prematurely if they are exposed to
excessive radial or axial loads, some of which can be caused
by misalignment.
SpeedTis does not aect a machines ability to tolerate
misalignment. It is the number of cycles of bending before
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30 JUNE 2012 www.pump-zone.com PUMPS & SYSTEMS
SPECIAL SECTION
fatigue occurs. A misaligned shaft turning at 3,600 rpm will
bend twice as many times per minute as the same shaft turn-
ing at 1,800 rpm. Te couplings themselves are also designed
not to exceed certain speeds.
Load and Torque Te same type pump might move
water or gypsum slurry, but the uids have dierent specic
gravities and start-up torque loads. Even the same pump,
pumping the same liquid, would have a
dierent torque load based on pushing
against a 2-foot column of water, as
opposed to a 20-foot column of water.
Given the variables, understanding
why no universal industry standard on
alignment exists is easy. However, many
companies oer alignment tolerances.
Coupling Manufacturers
Some mechanics measure alignment
quality using the coupling manufac-
turers recommendations. Most coupling
manufacturers alignment tolerances are
based on the amount of misalignment
the coupling will tolerate before failing.
Te coupling may tolerate a great deal
of misalignment, but the bearings, seals,
shafts, gears, etc., may not.
Tink of a simple, wide rubber band
(see Figure 3). If it is stretched between
the ngers until just straightened out,
it takes little force to keep it in that
position. But if it is stretched until just
before the point of breaking, it requires
a great deal of force to hold it in place. It
is still a rubber band, just doing its job.
However, the knuckles and ngers of the
person pulling the rubber band apart are
working much harder.
While the coupling manufacturer
may design a good coupling that toler-
ates a large degree of misalignment, the
other machine components may not tol-
erate that much misalignment. Because
of this, basing alignment quality on the
coupling manufacturers misalignment
tolerance is not a good idea.
Design Engineers
A design engineer considers many of
the variables when making a determina-
tion about a machines design. A typical
pump is used as an example.
PumpTe engineer would size the
pump based on how much liquid
Figure 3. Using a rubber band to demonstrate the forces gener-
ated by a exible coupling element
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Motors & Drives
would need to be moved per minute, the pressure required,
etc. Normally, this information comes from the pump
manufacturer, who has specied its pumps based on design
and testing.
MotorTe engineer would size the motor based on the
amount of horsepower required to do the work that the
pump is called to do. Again, this information would be
drawn from the motor manufacturer,
who has done extensive testing to
determine motor performance.
CouplingTe coupling manufac-
turers have also done extensive testing
on their couplings to determine the
best geometry and materials to allow
the coupling to transmit power.
Many times, the coupling is also
designed to be the weakest link. In
other words, the coupling is designed
to fail if horsepower, torque or load
limits are exceeded. Te coupling
should fail before the shafts do.
Te engineer draws upon all
this information (and more, such as
piping, controls, etc.) to determine the
machines design.
However, who determined the
alignment quality?
Te coupling manufacturers toler-
ancesTis could be a mistake.
Many coupling manufacturers
alignment tolerance are based on
how much the coupling will tolerate
not how much other equipment will
tolerate.
Te motor or pump manufacturers
tolerancesTese tend to be tighter
than the coupling manufacturers,
but where do they get their numbers?
Engineering studiesA few of these
are available. Notably, the University
of Tennessee and the U.S. Navy have
conducted studies on how alignment
aects energy consumption (very
little) and bearing failure (much more
substantial). Computational Systems,
Inc., (CSI) has also published good
materials on how misalignment
aects vibration levels on machinery.
Technical publicationsGood
reference materials have been
published on machinery alignment.
John Piotrowskis Shaft Alignment
Handbook and Audels Millwrights
and Mechanics Guide are both great references. Victor
Wowk, and others, have also published useful books.
Laser alignment tool manufacturersTey have align-
ment tolerance recommendations, as well. While they may
all tout the benets of their particular machines ease of
achieving the specied alignment quality, all their alignment
tolerances are close to one another.
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32 JUNE 2012 www.pump-zone.com PUMPS & SYSTEMS
SPECIAL SECTION
Machinery ownersMany large corporations
have adopted alignment quality guidelines. Some of
the guidelines are based on the same sources listed
above. A few might have participated in engineer-
ing studies to determine what works best for them.
Some may have just been written by some guy who
was tasked with developing an alignment tolerance
for the company he worked for, and he borrowed it
from someone else.

Tolerance Comparisons
All this shows that a lot of material is available on
what alignment tolerances are, what alignment quality
should be and how alignment aects bearing life, seal
life, vibration levels and coupling wear.
Figure 4 shows a comparison of alignment toler-
ances on a 1,785 rpm pump, using the alignment toler-
ance recommendations from four pump manufactur-
ers and three laser alignment tool manufacturers.
So far, this article discussed the opinions and
research of many intelligent people who work for
reputable companies, who spent great amounts of
time, money and resources to specify alignment tol-
erances. No disrespect intended, but most of these
intelligent, well-meaning people are not out installing,
aligning and maintaining machinery every day. Tat is left to
the mechanics, millwrights and mainte-
nance techniciansthe ones who pull
the wrenches. Tey are the nal arbiters
of alignment quality.
Whose alignment specication
do we use? Taking the tightest angu-
lar alignment value listed in Figure 4
(Pruftechniks 0.5 mils per inch) and the
tightest oset (Goulds 2 mils), can an
end user align to this? Absolutely.
We conduct alignment training
throughout the U.S. Te students in our
classes routinely align to 0.3 mils per
inch angularity and 1 mil oset, whether
they are using alignment demonstrators
or working on real machines.
Whose alignment tolerances should
end users follow?
Te coupling manufacturer? All day
long.
Te equipment manufacturer? Easy.
Te laser tool manufacturer? Can do.
You companys alignment specs?
Sure.
Yours? Yours should be at least as
precise as any of those mentioned.
Alignment quality is ultimately
based on two thingsthe expertise and
Figure 4. Alignment tolerances for different pump and alignment companies
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34 JUNE 2012 www.pump-zone.com PUMPS & SYSTEMS
SPECIAL SECTION
desire of the maintenance person to perform quality work and
the ability of the alignment tool to measure to the accuracy
desired.
If these two factors are used, alignment can be performed
to within any realistically-specied tolerance.
References:
1. Zdrojewski, D. VibrAlign. Precision Shaft Alignment is Possible.
Reliable Plant, 9/2007.
2. Hines, J.W., Jesse, S., Te University of Tennessee Maintenance and
Reliability Center Motor Shaft Misalignment Research Project (Paper
#982083), Society of Automotive Engineers, copyright 1997.
3. U.S. Department of the Navy.
4. Laser Alignment, CSI Training Manual, Computational Systems, Inc.,
1998.
5. Piotrowski, J., Shaft Alignment Handbook, 3rd Edition, 2007.
6. Davis, T. B., Nelson, C., Audels Millwrights and Mechanics Guide, 5th
Edition, 2004.
7. Wowk, V., Machinery Vibration: Alignment, 2000.
8. Goulds Pump Industrial Products, Field Alignment.
9. A-C Pump division of ITT Industries.
10. Paco Pumps, Grundfos CBS Inc.
11. Aurora Pump.
12. VibrAlign.
13. Pruftechnik.
14. Damalini.
P&S
Stan Riddle is a technical trainer for
VibrAlign. He has more than 30 years
experience as a machinist and millwright.
He can be reached at stan.riddle@mail.
vibralign.com.
Brad Case has been associated with
VibrAlign since 1990, rst as a manu-
facturers representative, then joining the
company as a direct employee in 2005.
He has 25 years of experience in aligning
industrial machinery.
Patrick Lawrence joined VibrAlign in
2009 and brought with him more than
15 years experience in the maintenance
and reliability eld. He earned his profes-
sional engineers license in 2002 and
CMRP certication in 2007. He is also
certied in infrared thermography, vibra-
tion analysis and ultrasound.
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