Indispensable Mechanical Components: Collars and Couplings

June 25, 2024
A manufacturer of shaft collars and motion control couplings highlights a clamp-style coupling that is an improvement over set screw or pinned types.

Behind every manufacturing company is an origin story. The humble-beginnings behind Ruland Manufacturing Company, a privately owned firm that manufactures shaft collars, rigid couplings and motion control couplings, dates back to 1937, when the founder, Fred F. Ruland, purchased two screw machines at a junkyard at $50 apiece before merging the parts into a working unit.

Many of the company’s proprietary processes and patents have been built on that initial foundation, said Bill Hudson, president of Ruland Manufacturing Company, who spoke to Machine Design at Automate 2024.

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Ruland added to its product development milestones in the mid-1970s, according to Hudson, when the decision was made to devote all expertise to a product line, shaft collars and couplings. By the 1990s, Ruland had developed a complete range of motion control couplings.

The Advantage of Short Lead Times

More recently, Ruland decided to extend its product offering through a selection of distributed products that the company does not manufacture.

“We’re not just taking other manufacturers’ products and reselling them,” explained Hudson. “We are offering value added; we are doing some finished machining operations that specifically add some functionality. More than anything, we’re servicing the industry by producing products with a variety of bore configurations, keyways, set screws or clamps within very short lead times. And this is not typically associated with this industry in many different product types.”

Hudson said that Ruland focuses on short lead times. The company ships 80% of its standard product line the same day, with the overall average shipping lead time being less than two days.

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Ruland can turn around special or custom orders within two to three weeks, he said.

Ruland was able to maintain its service level throughout COVID, as well when many companies were experiencing supply chain issues. “Being a manufacturer, we were in control of what we were producing and that gave us a lot more flexibility to service the market than some other manufacturers who source things from other countries or don't handle their own manufacturing,” said Hudson. “That gave us a big advantage.”

Clamp-style Universal Joints

Ruland’s collars and couplings are used “anywhere that something is mass produced,” said Hudson. “We could be in something making shoes or candy or something as high tech as semiconductor and medical equipment.”

Hudson pointed to a clamp-style universal joint as an example. Ruland is partnering with Belden Universal, based in Hillside, Ill., to supply the base universal joint. Belden Universal specializes in precision-machining, selective heat-treating and using ground components “for tighter tolerances, better performance and longer lifespan,” according to the press release. Ruland, in turn, manufactures the clamp feature, bores and keyways in its Marlborough, Mass. factory.

The arrangement expands the company’s reach into medical, semiconductor and robotics industries.

Clamp-style Universal Joint Specifications

The new clamp-style universal joint is a standard, off-the-shelf solution that is available in single friction-bearing style, with bore sizes from 1/4 in. to 1-1/4 in. steel for high torque or stainless steel.

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Ruland noted in its press release that the clamp-style universal joints come with Ruland’s Nypatch anti-vibration hardware, which prevents screws from loosening or backing out during operation. Using a proprietary process, a 360-deg. coating of Nylon is deposited on several threads of the socket head-cap screws.

The universal joints can also be “combined with a boot to protect the joint from contaminants in the operating environment.” The boot can be packed with grease, which extends the component’s life and reduces maintenance on the universal joint.

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