Configurable coupling systems save time and money
Many machine builders are well aware of the advantages of using configurable components in the design stages. As projects progress, specifications often change and builders must adapt components to fit new constraints. Drive and electrical components must be flexible to adapt to new operating parameters or machine chassis dimensions. Electrical designers often make use of DIN rail mounted devices which can be interchanged quickly on the production floor or in the field. Circuit breakers, fuses, and power supplies can be easily changed out in the event that a different motor or sensor is installed. From the mechanical perspective it is usually coupling elements which need to be changed to adapt to new dimensions. This is why QD or similar bushings are typically used with V-Belt sheaves. If drive speeds change, a fairly quick sheave swap is all that is required. If a new gearbox or actuator needs to be installed, drive couplings in various lengths and bore diameters are often required in order to help get everything tied together. Finding direct drive couplings with compact dimensions and creative mounting configurations is normally fairly easy. But in some cases layout changes involve longer distances between mechanically connected equipment, requiring something a little more specialized.
Belt drive or direct drive
With longer distances between rotating components, designers are often in a position to choose between belt or chain driving, and using a direct drive line shaft system. A direct drive line shaft coupling typically provides for stiffer power transmission than belts, which can be especially advantageous in applications that require precision timing and positioning or frequent changes in rotational direction. Line shaft couplings are also low maintenance compared with belts which need to be changed at regular intervals, just like car tires for optimal performance. But in the past there were occasionally major drawbacks to using direct drive line shafts over belts in some applications. Assembly with steel shafting and standard couplings generally requires intermediate support bearings and is not very well suited to higher drive speeds over long distances. Most preassembled torque tube styles of line shaft couplings are also built to order rather than being stocked by many large industrial supply companies. In the past a typical prefabricated torque tube style line shaft would need to be rebuilt if length or shaft sizes changed.
New configurable line shaft couplings
In more recent years, prefabricated, variable length, telescoping line shaft couplings have been brought to the industrial market in order to address the growing trend toward designing with direct drives. A variable length line shaft with removable hubs solves the issue of shaft sizes and lengths changing (within adjustment range) as a machine is built or upgraded. With a variable length line shaft, the overall length can be changed in minutes by simply loosening and tightening a couple of machine screws. Jaw style hubs or flange mounted bellows coupling hubs can be swapped out with stock parts in less time than it takes to change a v-belt sheave and re-tension belts. Additionally, common size adjustable line shaft couplings are stocked by many distributors and ready to ship with hubs just like sheaves and belts.
This new take on configurable coupling component technology ultimately saves cost in labor and/or materials over time. While newer components produced in smaller quantity can have higher pricing up front, they can actually lower the cost of maintenance and overhaul down the road. Making use of a more precision product can also help to increase the rate at which a product is manufactured. As we all know, increased productivity and lower service costs ultimately decrease the time over which a return on initial investment is seen. This makes money for our employers, which is something I’ve found they enjoy universally.