Shaft Alignment Training with Dial Indicators

This past week I had the pleasure of teaching a couple hybrid shaft alignment training classes–part of each class was using the rim and face dial indicator method and the other part was using a laser alignment tool. I love these classes because I learn a lot so what nuggets of wisdom was I able to leave behind? Well, I keep it pretty simple:

  • The dial indicator stem goes in, the number gets more positive.
  • The dial indicator stem goes out, the number gets more negative.
  • Work the dials back to zero.

Dial Indicator SetupNow for the dial indicator veterans out there, that might seem like an oversimplification but dial indicator alignments was’t in my upbringing as much as laser tool alignments. I had to keep it simple when I was first learning. The more I’ve been exposed to dial indicators over the years, the more I’ve grown in my ability to teach the principles of measuring and correcting shaft misalignment. The two statements above are really at the heart of how dial indicators work.

From there we know basically how one shaft is positioned relative to the other and collecting the necessary data to graph or calculate actual alignment conditions becomes easier. We can graph where we are, we can look at where we want to be, look at different scenarios in how the brackets and dial indicators are situated, etc. Jumping into the equations we know what to roughly expect since we see on the dials where we are starting and what direction we are heading. Calculating an exact answer then makes more sense.

So how did you learn dial indicator alignments? I’d love to hear about it. Want to learn more about graphing and the equations involved? Let us know!

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  1. Hamidreza on August 7, 2012 at 11:45 am

    To be honest, I learned dial indicator method by experience.Today,I do know the calculation and I am always teaching our staff to do calculation but nonetheless they are using their method whose base is experience.They hate calculating and graphing and I don’t know what to do.

  2. Patrick Lawrence on August 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Hamid,

    They need to convince themselves that trial and error while adjusting the shims take much, much longer than doing the calculations. The horizontal adjustment can be made much easier just looking at the dials and walking the equipment back so the dials read zeros.

    What equations are you using?


  3. upen on December 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I want to know perfect & easy method calculation of Rim & Face alignment including sag calculation.
    Also, I want easy method for Laser Alignment.

  4. kris varghese on December 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

    i want to knw more about pump maintence

  5. Sigit Nur Wahyudi on December 15, 2012 at 2:45 am

    As Hamid said,,novice technicians use trial and error method than calculate with equations.
    They said it’s more easily and not time-consuming.
    And most of them regardless another factors influencing final result of desired values.

  6. precision surface equipment on February 8, 2013 at 6:28 am

    This is what i was looking for!! Shaft alignment is a tough skill to master. A person should be trained in dial indicator methods in order to be successful with laser alignment.

  7. Mahesha on February 9, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Dear sir ,

    I know dial indicator alignment method but , I dont know how to calculate those shim correction mathamatically , Please help me


  8. Patrick Lawrence on February 10, 2013 at 10:51 am

    The math for a rim & face setup is here.

    It’s an aritcle written by VibrAlign over at

  9. Patrick Lawrence on February 10, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I wouldn’t say that you have to know dial indicator methods to be successful with a laser system. Laser systems are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly (well, most of them) so the process of measuring is very straightforward. I know lots of folks using laser alignment systems very successfully without ever touching dial indicators.

    The methodology of dials (what’s being measured and how) certainly can help with the not-so-typical alignments. Graphing out alignments is a big help in visualizing where the equipment is positioned. Really understanding the effects of angularity and offset can help give you a ‘feel’ for how the alignment will shape up. Some of these concepts may be missed if you’re diving right into using a laser system without any training on what alignment really is.

  10. Chuck on February 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I was lucky enough to learn from a gentleman by the name of Don Cutler who wrote a paper over fifty years ago called “Coupling Alignment Made Easy”. After working with Don for 5 years, I learned Rim and Face, Cross Dial, graphing and the math to be able to teach my students shaft alignment in our customer training classes. Now we haved added the XA Ultimate Laser System to our arsenal, we are able to add another method of alignment to our students.

  11. Hamid on December 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Hi Patrick,
    These days I am good at using graph than math.However,this rim and face alignment method math is fully understood for my coworkers.
    This explains math in full details.

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