Laser vs Dial indicators: A guide to which one is better

Damage due to misalignment
A good example of why you need aligned parts

  Alignment is a critical step of building and repairing rotating equipment, such as motors and pumps. A badly aligned pump will leakvibrate, and destroy itself quickly. Overlooking alignment will end up costing you money in the future in the form of destroyed and damaged equipment. It’s very important to consider the method of alignment, as laser vs dial indicators have different advantages and disadvantages. 

Laser Indicators

A laser indicator can be more useful compared to a dial indicator, especially for beginners. When aligning a shaft, a laser indicator is not only able to calculate faster, but also it is able to take measurements which a dial indicator cannot, such as compensation for thermal growth and shims “A laser measurement system takes away all of the guesswork and adjusts automatically meaning you’ll always be getting a much more accurate and reliable measurement. Laser systems also automatically calculate for shims and adjustment values.2 A laser indicator is also able to measure smaller systems compared to a dial indicator when aligning. They also have less space constraints. Measurements can be taken with  “… just a 40 degree rotation. This makes alignment really easy and quick, especially if machine parts are in the way preventing a full rotation.3

Dial Indicators

    A dial indicator can be used to align a shaft with precision and accuracy, yet “…the process of taking readings, calculating results, making corrections and repeating the process can be very time consuming.1  Dial indicators also rely on at least 180 degrees to create an accurate measurement of the current offset for an alignment (This is known as TIR, total indicator reading). Sometimes, this just isn’t possible or is unfeasible. Another issue with Dial indicators is space constraints. They may “force you to install the indicator at an angle2 which will lead to “…significant error in the readings2 However, dial indicators do have a advantage over laser indicators: they are cheaper.


Laser Indicators are but one of a series of new technologies improving our workflow. Dial Indicators have been used for a long time and are cheaper, but Laser Indicators are simply more precise and much easier to use. They’ll save you more money in the long term and lead to better, longer lasting equipment.

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