Many of the material conveniences taken for granted in today’s society have been made possible by the numerous rotating machinery systems located in every part of the world. Virtually everything we use or consume has somehow been produced or touched in some way by rotating equipment. The multitude of industrial facilities that generate our electricity, extract and deliver our fossil fuels, manufacture our chemicals, produce the food we eat, provide our transportation, furnish the clothing we wear, mine and refine metals, manufacture the paper and printing products used for books, require millions of pieces of rotating machinery to create all the products we use.
It makes good sense to keep the motors, pumps, gears, turbines, fans, diesels, and compressors running for long periods of time to prevent financial losses due to decreased production and overhaul costs. Repair or replacement of this equipment is expensive and the loss of revenue when this machinery is is not in operation can spell the difference between continued prosperity or financial disaster for any company.
Keeping these machines running requires a thorough understanding their design and operating envelope, careful attention during their installation and overhauls, the faculty to prevent or predict imminent failures, and the expertise to modify and enhance existing hardware to extend its operating lifespan. In the past 30 years, easily half of the rotating equipment problems I have experienced had something to do with misaligned shafts. Additionally, operating rotating equipment under misalignment conditions can be dangerous.
I have seen a coupling burst apart on a 500 hp, 3600 rpm process pump that literally sheared a 10 in. pipe in half and coupling pieces landed 400 yards away from its point of origin. Keep in mind that rotor speeds above 100,000 rpm and drivers pushing 60,000þ hp are now commonplace. With all of the rotating machinery in existence, you would think that shaft misalignment is well understood and that everyone who is involved with installing, maintaining, and operating this equipment is well versed in preventing this.
When in fact, just the opposite is true. The information contained in this book is not taught in any high schools or junior colleges, is not a required course for mechanical engineers, is not discussed in business schools, and is typically not taught in trade schools for mechanics, millwrights, pipe fitters, or electricians. Over the past 100 years, hundreds of technical books and articles have been published on rotor balancing, flexible coupling design, vibration analysis, structural dynamics, and industrial productivity.
The first technical article on shaft alignment, on the other hand, was not published until after World War II and not until the late 1960s did anyone begin paying attention to this. I feel very fortunate to have been granted the opportunity to work in a wide array of different industries and the hundreds of different plant sites after studies at the University of Pittsburgh in 1974 as a bright eyed, eager, fledgling mechanical engineer. Back then, I had no idea how many talented, patient people I would have the pleasure working with over the next 32 years.
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