The terms “level” and “flat” are used interchangeably and, in some cases, assumed to mean the same thing. In fact, they are different, but both can be measured using laser alignment tools.
Flat or flatness refers to the topography, curvature or smoothness of a surface or machine. Sometimes engineers use the term “planer” when talking about flatness of a machine bed, ways, ground surfaces and other mechanical structures. Level, on the other hand, defines how a surface, machine or assembly sits relative to the earth’s gravity.
Why Are Laser Alignment Tools Important in This Area?
A machine bed or sub-assembly can be very flat, but over time the machine may have moved on its mounts or the floor or slab under the machine may have settled. Pinpoint engineers observe this in paper mills and facilities with large punch press equipment where the machine has settled over time due to its extreme weight and is no longer level to gravity, but is in fact very straight or flat.
Before laser alignment tools, precise bubble levels were used to check the flatness of machinery and equipment. Simply noting where the bubble rests in the sealed vial and then noting how this bubble moves as the level is moved around a machine bed or assembly. In this case, gravity is being used as a relative reference but the machine may not actually be level to gravity.
Measuring Level and Flat in the Modern Day
About 20 years ago, laser alignment tools were introduced allowing for precise measurements of flatness and planer surfaces, independent of level and gravity. These laser alignment tools generate an ultra flat plane of laser light, that can be placed in any orientation, and then used as a reference to check machinery and equipment. This was a key turning point for machinery alignment and the measurement of flatness and planer surfaces.
So, the next time you step up to your machine to check its alignment, you can now tell if the machine is flat and also if your machine also happens to be level.
Contact our Pinpoint engineering team for an assessment of your laser alignment tool needs, and we can set up a video demonstration of the products that will be most useful to you.