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Machine Vibration Measurement

Unlike most process measurements, the measurement of a rotating machine’s vibration is primarily for the benefit of the process equipment rather than the process itself. Vibration monitoring on an ammonia vapor compressor, for instance, may very well be useful in extending the operating life of the compressor, but it offers little benefit to the control of the ammonia vapor.

Nevertheless, the prevalence of machine vibration measurement technology is so widespread in the process industries that it cannot be overlooked by the instrument technician. Rotating machinery equipped with vibration sensors are often controlled by protection equipment designed to automatically shut down the machine in the event of excessive vibration. The configuration and maintenance of this protection equipment, and the sensors feeding vibration data to it, is often the domain of instrument technicians.


Vibration Physics - One very convenient feature of waves is that their properties are universal. Waves of water in the ocean, sound waves in air, electronic signal waveforms, and even waves of mechanical vibration may all be expressed in mathematical form using the trigonometric sine and cosine functions. This means the same tools (both mathematical and technological) may be applied to the analysis of different kinds of waves. A strong example of this is the Fourier Transform, used to determine the frequency spectrum of a waveform, which may be applied with equal validity to any kind of wave1... Click here to read more about Machine Vibration Measurement - Vibration Physics

Vibration Sensors - Sensors used to measure vibration come in three basic types: displacement, velocity, and acceleration. Displacement sensors measure changes in distance between a machine’s rotating element and its stationary housing (frame). Displacement sensors come in the form of a probe that threads into a hole drilled and tapped in the machine’s frame, just above the surface of a rotating shaft. Velocity and acceleration sensors, by contrast, measure the velocity or acceleration of whatever element the sensor is attached to, which is usually some external part of the machine frame1... Click here to read more about Machine Vibration Measurement - Vibration Sensors

Monitoring Hardware - Five vibration measurement and display cards are installed in this rack, each card capable of processing up to two displacement sensor signals. A six-channel temperature monitor card is also installed in the rack, used to display bearing and other machine component temperatures. Like the vibration cards, the temperature card is capable of generating both “alert” and “trip” signals, monitoring the presence of slightly abnormal conditions and taking automatic shut-down action in the event of excessively abnormal conditions, respectively... Click here to read more about Machine Vibration Measurement - Monitoring Hardware

Mechanical Vibration Switches - A much simpler alternative to continuous vibration sensors (displacement or acceleration) and monitoring equipment suitable for less critical applications is a simple mechanical switch actuated by a machine’s vibration. These switches cannot, of course, quantitatively analyze machine vibrations, but they do serve as qualitative indicators of gross vibration... Click here to read more about Machine Vibration Measurement - Mechanical Vibration Switches



Kaplan, Wilfred, Advanced Mathematics for Engineers, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, MA, 1981.

Smith, Steven W., The Scientist and Engineer’s Guide to Digital Signal Processing, California Technical Publishing, San Diego, CA, 1997.

White, Glenn D., Introduction to Machine Vibration, version 1.76, part number 8569, DLI Engineering Corp., Bainbridge Island, WA, 1995.

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