Pumps are arguably the most used pieces of gear onboard ships. Every day on every class of ship in the U.S. Navy, thousands of motors are coupled to thousands of pumps moving seawater, fuel, potable water, bilge and other fluids and air.
If the shafts on those pumps and motors are misaligned, a common ailment, they begin to vibrate. The vibration can be difficult to detect and cause the pump to run less efficiently. Eventually, misaligned pumps will fail, resulting in major maintenance expenses due to failed bearings, couplings and other expensive machine components.
Because machine downtime is so costly to the Fleet, high-tech tools like laser alignment tools allow Sailors to quickly, easily and accurately keep pumps in the fleet running smoothly, adding years to their service life.
In an average calendar year Southeast Regional Maintenance Center’s (SERMC) Pump Shop repairs more than 60 pumps. Before returning them to the Fleet, all pumps and motors are calibrated using a precision laser alignment tool. The laser ensures the shaft of the motor and pump are properly aligned along horizontal and vertical planes, or “co-linear.”
“Using the laser, we are able to align the motor and pump shafts quickly and accurately,” said Machinists Mate 3rd Class Brittany Alldredge. “We mount the laser and laser sensor on the pump and motor shafts and rotate them as the laser sensor measures hundreds of points, essentially eliminating math errors and other common mistakes.”
All of the data points are collected and transmitted to a handheld computer. The computer visually displays the necessary vertical and horizontal alignment corrections to scale.
“It’s much cheaper in the long run to keep the pumps running efficiently than it is to rebuild or replace a piece of gear,” said Machinist Mate 1st Class Raul Coronado. “The pumps we return to the fleet are highly calibrated and will run at peak efficiency which greatly reduces bearing, seal, shaft and coupling failures.”
Additionally, Sailors assigned to SERMC return to the fleet at the end of their tour with vital skills and Navy Afloat Maintenance Training Strategy (NAMTS) qualifications.
The NAMTS program provides Sailors in the electricians mate (EM), engineman (EN), gas turbine machinist (GSM), hull technician (HT) and machinist mate (MM) ratings with on-the-job, rating-specific training.
NAMTS training is available to Sailors on shore duty at SERMC, leading to the knowledge and proficiency to perform essential fleet maintenance and repairs while underway which often would normally have required the ship to return to port.