Help! I Bought A Cheap Laser Alignment System!
The first rule to remember if you’re buying a laser alignment system is that they’re not all the same.
As the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, expect monkeys – and that’s why we get regular calls from annoyed users who have found that their ‘cheap’ systems are not up to the job.
The most common reasons for their frustration are that they find reports difficult to generate, repeatability is an issue and their systems don’t have the appropriate functionality to handle the range of jobs they require. In short, their systems have been a waste of time and money and as any technical equipment expert knows, that equates to bottom-line blues.
The sensors themselves on the systems have varying degrees of accuracy, but it’s how these sensors are used and what application they are used for that affects the level of accuracy the most. The challenge really starts when the basic alignment system needs to be used on specialised applications.
Many people who bought entry level systems find that these simply don’t have the required functionality and so they end up paying significant amounts of money on accessories to try and ‘upgrade’ their basic system so that it meets their requirements. Even then, many of the systems are still inadequate for their specialised applications.
Ideally, you should consult an experienced supplier to help you navigate the options and identify the right laser alignment system for your needs. In that way, you won’t be making a decision based on budget, but will be guided by professionals to choose a solution that ticks all the boxes.
For example, some of the calls we receive are from users who have found that the chain bracket fixtures which came with their system are too thick for their application. They need a thin magnetic bracket, special thin chains or even a sliding bracket, but didn’t realise this when they bought the system. Other times, calls come in from people who need to do alignments where fluid couplings are present or where the distance between the transmitter and the receiver is longer than five metres, but their systems can’t actually cope with those challenges.
Another drawback of entry level shaft alignment systems is that they generally don’t have the ability to do vibration tests. Vibration caused by misalignment greatly reduces the life of bearings, seals, shafts and couplings in rotating equipment whereas machines that have been precision-aligned run for longer, use less energy and cost less to operate. The correct alignment reduces vibration, resulting in less noise, increased energy efficiency, less component wear and fewer process-related issues.
When choosing an alignment system, you need to know what level of vibration analysis you need – and whether you have to get a separate piece of equipment or whether the alignment incorporates a vibration probe. The same applies to straightness and flatness measurements which are becoming increasingly common – does your system already provide for those or do you need to add on?
A lack of digital capability is another bug-bear about cheaper systems. Nowadays, products like the Easy-Laser® enable even more accurate and efficient alignment of sheaves/pulleys because they offer enhanced capabilities like digital readings and a live display of adjustment values (which are calculated automatically).
Frustration also comes from a lack of training on the laser alignment system. Choose a supplier that offers helpful backup and support and if they recommend formal training, do it! The documentation may be comprehensive and the self-help video tutorials easy to access, it’s worth learning how to use these systems properly from the outset so that you get the most out of your investment.
And a ‘better’ laser alignment system is an investment. Unlike the traditional methods like dial gauges or straight edge methods, they’re not cheap but they’re also far superior and will deliver value back to your operation. They’re faster and they enable pin-point accuracy, and your investment will rapidly pay for itself through lower costs for replacement parts, less downtime and reduced electricity bills – plus you’ll get a better working environment too.
Contact our experts for a professional discussion about finding the right technical equipment solution to suit your business.