Improving coupling reliability

Published on: 
Turbomachinery Magazine, May/June 2020,

Chuck Sakers, Couplings Technology Leader, Kop-Flex, at Regal Beloit discusses torque monitoring, the importance of coupling reliability, and how to gain more value from existing couplings.

Regal Beloit is a manufacturer of power transmission products as well as electric motors, electrical motion controls and power generation equipment. It is headquartered in Beloit, Wisconsin and has engineering, manufacturing, sales and service facilities throughout the world. The company is comprised of three operating segments: Commercial and Industrial Systems, Climate Solutions and Power Transmission Solutions.

The Kop-Flex brand has served the turbomachinery industry for more than 50 years, offering services and solutions like High Performance Disc 2.0, Perceptive Technologies and the Powerlign torque monitoring system. Kop-Flex delivers solutions for oil and gas, power generation, and aerospace and defense in the turbomachinery space. In addition, Kop-Flex offers a full range of coupling products that serve the metals, pulp and paper, and heavy industry markets.

What trends are impacting couplings?

Data demand has exploded for data and information about how couplings are designed and selected, how they are manufactured, how they operate, how they are maintained, and how they are serviced. The coupling industry is catching up with the rest of the world in the data revolution.

Just like you and I track our orders from Amazon and get regular updates during the process, customers are looking for the same easily accessible live data for couplings. The procurement team needs quick access to product information to make purchases. Project managers are looking at Gantt charts to understand more about the process and status while couplings are being designed and manufactured. Installation and maintenance teams always need access to manuals and service experts. Our Kop-Flex team is building a complete digital customer experience (DCX) to support these goals.

How about the hardware side?

We have been gathering data from couplings that allows plant operators to make smarter maintenance decisions by monitoring performance trends with our Powerlign torque monitoring system. In addition, our Perceptive Technologies group uses an array of torque monitoring solutions for online monitoring, predictive maintenance and failure analysis. This includes the use of augmented reality tools.

Also, there is definitely a trend to have spares for all critical equipment. This is a lesson often learned after a field issue. Having that spare coupling on hand without having to transport parts across the country or the globe, ready to use, minimizes downtime. Many customers have purchased a spare to install at the next turnaround. They send the main coupling back to our Kop-Flex team for recertification.

What is your coupling recertification service?

Disc and diaphragm couplings are not a ‘wear item’ like the seals in a turbine or compressor, which can cause a decrease in equipment performance and are typically replaced on a time-based schedule. Most high-performance couplings are designed to be maintenance-free.

If they are operated within their rated capacities, they can outlast the equipment to which they are connected. To maximize production, each asset, critical or not, should have an appropriate maintenance strategy that is followed, audited for effectiveness, and adjusted as necessary to ensure reliability.


However, equipment upgrades, shifting foundations, process changes, environmental factors and handling can push the coupling outside of its design operating envelope. The recertification service allows end users to evaluate couplings and conduct repairs, if necessary, during scheduled downtimes to prevent unplanned outages. Recertification is targeted at the API 671/ISO 10441 market, but is available for most coupling types.

Kop-Flex has been recertifying couplings for over 15 years and services more than 150 couplings per year. The team does a full teardown and inspection of each component. They replace components as needed with new parts made to the original drawings and design standards. Recertification restores couplings to a like-new condition for about half the cost of a replacement.

What other products might our users be interested in?

The Kop-Flex Powerlign torque monitoring system allows users to minimize emissions and fuel costs by tracking performance trends in connected equipment. This system can be purchased new with couplings or retrofitted to existing Kop-Flex or other brand couplings.

We also offer a Max-C resilient coupling that provides damping for applications with shock loading or cyclic torques. The Max-C can be mated to disc or diaphragm couplings to tune the drive train. They are frequently used on synchronous and variable frequency drive motors.

What products do you have in the pipeline?

Our teams are always working to provide optimal solutions for the most challenging applications. We have a great focus on providing lightweight, cost-effective and highly reliable solutions for the industry.

There are some exciting ideas in the pipeline, and a lot of the ideas are spawned from our Perceptive Technologies team. They are working directly with customers to understand new challenges that arise in the field and finding unmet needs. The beauty of this team is that they support our whole Regal Power Transmission Solutions business. So, we get a lot of benefit from cross-pollination of ideas and economy of scale from other industries that we serve, like food and beverage and HVAC.

What is the company doing to cope with the current slowdown?

Regal is committed to supporting its associates, customers and communities through the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a rapidly changing situation, and we are working diligently to maintain focus and support essential business while making the best decisions for safety.