Categories: Shaft Alignment

Balance Your Couplings

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By on October 16, 2013

Balancing your couplings is not essential to a great precision shaft alignment, though it is an essential part of a job well done. As part of your prealignment steps/checks, the keyways of the driver and driven machine shafts should be set 180 degrees apart from each other. This will help to correct any influence that is being exerted on the shafts by incorrect key lengths or incorrect set screw lengths in the coupling hubs.

The formula for determining the proper key length is; Length of keyway on hub + length of keyway on shaft divided by 2. Then multiply by .95.  (hub key length + shaft key length = X,  X ÷ 2 = Y,  Y x .95 = proper key length)

Example:     Motor shaft keyway is 5” long, the coupling hub keyway is 3” long.

                   5″ + 3″ = 8″8″ ÷ 2 = 4″,   4″ x .95 = 3.8”,  The key should be 3-51/64” long.

In addition to having the proper key lengths, the coupling set screws should completely fill the full depth of the threaded hole on the hubs.

These practices will help you gain the maximum benefit from your precision shaft alignment by minimizing imbalance at the coupling.                                                         


About the Author

Tom comes to us as the result of a positive customer experience with VibrAlign. After 16 years with Wausau Paper in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, he was transferred to a greenfield project in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. One of this tasks was to research alignment tools. As Tom tells it, “I was amazed at the ease of use the VibrAlign tools offered. Then to understand the values of VibrAlign… I wanted to be part of this team.”

Tom is a Journeyman Millwright/Pipefitter with 16 years in the paper industry and customer service training provided by Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

7 responses to “Balance Your Couplings”

  1. Dave Dressner says:

    Am I right in thinking that the key length calculated here is just about balance? Not anything to do with the key shear stress and length needed for that issue; assumes that aspect is not a problem.

  2. Tom Shelton says:

    You are correct.

  3. There was a time when we would cut stepped keys to make sure the keyway was completely and properly filled. I even had a little program that would draw the key to be cut for the machinist (that probably doesn’t surprise some of you).

  4. Jay Dennis says:

    I am curious about the 95% multiplier…why 95%? Is it to account for a shaft keyway that is sloped at the motor? If it isn’t, then how do you account for a sloped keyway?

  5. Tom Shelton says:

    That is actually the reason. Thanks.

  6. John Scott says:

    Do you use the same formula if you have an aluminum couple?

  7. Tom Shelton says:

    The formula calculates the amount of material that is removed for the key way. This formula is based on steel in both the shaft and hub. You would need to calculate the metal removed and determine which metal you are going to use as a key. Therefore, this is not the correct formula.