Vibration Specialty (VSC) was founded in 1918 by a Russian immigrant who came to the United States with an idea that was important to the Industrial Revolution. At the time, manufacturers were making all types of new industrial equipment like motors, pumps, fans, generators, turbines, rolls and even cars. Initially, these manufacturers were just happy to get the equipment to work correctly and were not worried about how long the machinery lasted. Back then vibration was just accepted as normal as they did not know any better. Just like with any evolution the products were refined and improved.
One critical refinement came when Nicholas Akimoff, Vibration Specialty’s founder, developed a balancing machine. Instantly he became a part of high society in the United States as his new machine allowed Henry Ford to balance his crank shafts and Thomas Edison to balance his motors, generators and turbines. Suddenly machinery vibration was no longer tolerable and every product required balancing if it were to be accepted by industry. In fact, during World War II all VSC employees were exempt from the draft because our balancing machines and services were vital to the defense of the country as we balanced all the Navy’s propellers.
Knowing this history of the evolution of machinery vibration and balancing makes it easy for us to see how the world seems to be forgetting many of the lessons our forefathers spent learning and refining. Every day we see new and repaired parts such as sheaves, couplings, pumps and fans that are not even balanced or have extremely loose balance tolerances to make them seem as if they were not balanced at all.
Unlike today, in three quarters of the last century, machinery was built on stout bases with ample concrete and solid I beams. These extremely solid foundations provided a huge margin of error that even if a machine was improperly balanced it still ran decently. Now everything revolves around the mighty dollar. Every part must be manufactured with the least amount of material so we can remain competitive by keeping the price down. As a result, machinery is made of rinky dink sheet metal with L brackets as the foundation. Then in order to save energy we run this machine on a Variable Frequency Drive motor and wonder why the machine either lasts only a year or is shaking itself to death.
There is nothing wrong with making machinery with less materials but we must remember nothing is for free. If you want to save money using less material then you must spend more time designing the system to tolerate all the forces it will encounter. As we use less and less materials our tolerance for error becomes extremely fine. We need to become more precise with our balance tolerances, clearances, materials and parts if we expect the machinery to operate well and last for years.
From where we sit right now, there is no end to this less is more mentality. As a result, this makes VSC’s technologies and services in vibration analysis, infrared thermography, ultrasound, dynamic balancing, and laser alignment even more critical to making your machinery operate well with a long life expectancy.
One thing we know is if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it and at this moment it looks like we are heading toward inferior maintenance practice that at some point will bite us. Predictive and Precision Maintenance are the only solutions that will allow todays equipment to operate as smoothly and as long as it did in years past.