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The Consequences of Misalignment on Rotating Equipment: Understanding Its Impact on Machinery Vibrations

Rotating equipment such as pumps, motors, turbines, compressors, propeller shafts, and bearings need to be properly aligned to maintain efficiency, safety, and longevity. Misalignment in rotating equipment can lead to a cascade of detrimental consequences, primarily through the escalation of machinery vibrations. This blog post explains the impact of misalignment on rotating machinery and the subsequent vibration resulting from it.

The Nature of Misalignment

Misalignment occurs when the shaft centerlines of two components are not collinear. It typically manifests in a combination of the two forms below:

-          Parallel (Offset) Misalignment: Where the shaft centerlines are parallel but offset.

-          Angular Misalignment: Where the shafts intersect at an angle.

Both types of misalignment are damaging to rotating equipment, leading to various mechanical issues. One of those being...

Increased Machinery Vibrations

Misalignment introduces irregular forces into the machinery, causing increased vibrations. These vibrations are problematic for several reasons:

1.      Accelerated Wear and Tear:

Alignment is critical for bearings, particularly when it comes to the lubrication barrier. When components are misaligned, rolling elements within bearings (or shafts within journal bearings) are forced through their respective lubrication barrier (oil/grease/water), thereby causing the respective components to come in contact with each other. This begins the bearing failure process, and over time, accelerates fatigue/failure, resulting in frequent maintenance and replacements.

2.      Energy Inefficiency:

Machinery that is misaligned requires more force to overcome the misalignment condition, requiring additional energy to maintain the operational speed of the machinery. This inefficiency results in higher operational costs and reduced overall system performance.

3.      Reduced Lifespan:

Continuous exposure to excessive vibrations, resulting from a misalignment, shortens the life expectancy of machinery internals. The constant stress on these mechanical components leads to more frequent breakdowns, reducing the machinery's reliability and increasing downtime.

4.      Safety Hazards:

High levels of vibration pose significant safety risks. Aside from poor habitability conditions stemming from excessive vibration, components exposed to continuous stress have the potential to fail catastrophically. Needless to say, this endangers personnel and could cause damage to surrounding infrastructure or the vessel itself.

5.      Quality Control Issues:

In industries which require high levels of precision, such as manufacturing and processing, shipping/transportation, and yacht charters on the open sea, misaligned equipment may produce inconsistent results, leading to substandard deliverables.

Diagnosing and Addressing Misalignment

To properly diagnose misalignment, precision tools and practices such as vibration analysis and laser alignment systems are required. Regular maintenance schedules should incorporate regular vibration analysis surveys and alignment checks to ensure longevity and efficient operation of rotating equipment.

Steps to Mitigate Misalignment:

1.      Regular Inspections:

Schedule routine inspections, vibration analysis surveys, and laser alignment evaluations to detect early signs of misalignment and address them expeditiously. If you notice excess vibration, noise, or component wear, it may already be too late.

2.      Use of Precision Alignment Tools:

Invest in high-quality laser alignment tools to achieve precise, repeatable alignment and minimize poor measurement data. Single laser technology has been proven to be the most accurate.

3.      Training and Awareness:

Ensure that maintenance personnel are well-trained in alignment best practices, equipment use, and understand the importance of maintaining proper alignment.

The consequences of misalignment on rotating equipment impact operational efficiency, safety, and financial budgets. By understanding the role alignment plays in machinery performance, industries can take proactive measures to prevent misalignment, ensuring efficient operation of their critical equipment. Regular maintenance, precision tools, and informed personnel are vital in mitigating the problems misalignment can cause, protecting both the machinery and the bottom line.

Increase Your Machinery's Reliability