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DoctorKnow® Application Paper

Title: Vibration Measurements on Slow Speed Machinery

Source/Author: J.C. Robinson, R.G. Canada
Product: Data Collector/Analyzer
Technology: Vibration


A methodology for vibration analysis from an accelerometer on slow speed machinery (<600 RPM) is described in
this paper. The sensor, cable, and data analysis methodology used to achieve the required dynamic range of 120
dB is presented. Representative results illustrating some of the problems which can be encountered using an
analysis system with inadequate dynamic range are presented. The conclusions are that meaningful vibration
analysis can be carried out on slow speed machinery running as low as 10 RPM with as little as 10 mils p-p
vibration using a low noise accelerometer of 500 mV/g sensitivity, proper cable, and state-of-the-art portable data
collector/analyzer with sufficient dynamic range.


There is no universally-accepted criteria for timing the speeds below which machines are classified as slow speed
machinery; however, we will adopt a break point of 600 RPM as being the speed which separates slow speed from
intermediate speed. The value of 600 RPM is chosen because it is approximately the speed wherein alert levels
relative to vibration in the velocity domain must be reduced with decreasing speed of the machine. A commonly
accepted methodology is to establish alert levels which decrease linearly with decreasing speed (or constant in the
displacement domain). When speeds get below 20 RPM or so, it is not at all clear on how to set alert levels on
overall vibration, but the emphasis becomes more focused on components, such as monitoring bearings.
Accordingly, one may think of machinery running below the 20 RPM range as a separate classification (examples
are very slow or ultra low speed machinery). In this paper, we will consider slow speed machinery as residing in
the 15 to 20 RPM range up to 600 RPM.

The sensitivity required for measurement will be based on displacement. The sensor used will be an
accelerometer whose output (relative to constant displacement) is proportional to the square of frequency, e.g. a
required sensitivity of 5 mils from a machine at 20 RPM would provide an acceleration level of 1/100th of that from
a machine at 200 RPM for the same 5 mil sensitivity level. Obviously, for any particular accelerometer, there
comes a speed at which the signal developed by the vibration cannot reliably be separated from non vibration
excitation such as electrical noise generated within the measurement system.

A measurement system developed for slow speed machinery should (among other requirements) be able to
differentiate between machinery induced vibration signals and extraneous signals (primarily electrical noise,
transients, etc.). If should be minimally responsive to temperature transients and maintain a wide dynamic range.
A system developed by CSI (called SST - Slow Speed Technology) is presented in the next section. The third
section will include some representative results. Conclusions are presented in the final section.

2.0 SST Methodology

2.1 Introduction.
When monitoring vibrations on slow speed machinery using an accelerometer, the signal levels at the turning
speed are generally low. Frequently, the low level signal is buried in a composite signal made up of the low level
signal and significantly larger higher frequency components. The problems for the monitoring system becomes
one of extracting the low lever signal (requires a wide dynamic range) from the composite signal and then
differentiating the vibration signal of interest from the other low level signals generated from electrical noise
sources, temperature transients, etc. The measurement system consists of the sensor, cabling, data collector, and
analysis methodology. Each of these will be discussed briefly.

2.2 Sensor and Cabling.

The fundamental limitations on the measurement system are defined by the sensor and cabling. The signal-to-
noise ratio is established within the sensing element and the conversion of the sensing element output (charge) to
voltage. The sensing element must be as high sensitivity (ceramic preferable to quartz) as practical. The
conversion to voltage must be efficient at very low frequency (in the 0.1 Hz range) which implies a charge
converter versus a voltage follower. The sensor should have minimal response to temperature transients which
leads to a shear mode being preferable to a compression mode. The sensor should be rugged, economical, and
applicable to a wide range of industrial environments. These constraints lead to sensitivities in the 0.5 to 1.0 V/g
range and a sensor resonant frequency greater than 10 Khz.

The cable connecting the sensor to the data collector should a) minimize any electrical noise pickup and b)
minimize any dynamic forces applied to the sensor, e.g., a coiled cable hanging from the sensor can easily get into
a low frequency oscillation mode which is a low frequency dynamic force applied to the sensor. Since the data
collector will generally be close to the sensor, ground loops are not considered to be a problem. Therefore the
choice on the cable is either a coaxial cable or twisted pair shielded with shield attached to signal return at both
ends (shield grounded at both ends reduce the effect of RF contributing to sensor input to the data collector. A
common source of RF is the SCR firing around DC motors, variable speed induction motors, etc.)

2.3 Data Collector

An accelerometer has a dynamic range in the 100 to 120 dB range. The data collector should accommodate this
range. The data collector will ultimately convert the analog signal to a digital signal for processing. To process the
signal with full dynamic range would require a 20 to 22 bit A/D converter which is not practical. For intermediate
speed machinery, the full 100 to 120 dB dynamic range is seldom required and hence a more practical A/D
converter (12 to 16 bit) is acceptable. However, low speed machinery is frequently driving equipment which emits
large amplitude high frequency signals which get intermixed with the low amplitude, low frequency signals of
interest. In these cases, the high frequency signals must be removed or attenuated prior to autoranging. If the high
frequency signals are not attenuated, bit stutter on the A/D converter will be the controlling noise source (random
bit stutter is very similar to a pseudo random noise source). A convenient methodology to attenuate high frequency
components and amplify the low frequency components is to employ an analog integrator. Practical analog
integrators will distort the lower frequency components; however the distortion is deterministic and hence, the
effect can be corrected for analytically.

The desirable properties of the data collector are:

1. Electrical noise floor on the input stage less than that within the sensor so that the data collector
is not limiting the measurement.
2. Dynamic range of 100 to 120 dB. The simplest way to achieve this is to employ analog
integration with gain at the input stage (convert from accelerometer output "g" units to "ips" units)
and employ a 16 bit A/D converter.

3. Correct output for signal distortion introduced by the analog integrator.

2.4 Analysis Methodology
The signal from the accelerometer is converted into the velocity domain via an analog integrator. The lower
frequency components are attenuated (relative to the velocity domain) due to high pass filtering necessary for the
integrator. The electrical noise floor for the sensor along with uncertainties are known from a statistical basis for
the accelerometer. The integration process is a deterministic operation which permits the statistical noise floor in
the "g" domain to be transformed to the "velocity" domain. With the known noise floor and uncertainty, a statistical
threshold (95% confidence level is chosen) is established from which a decision is made regarding a specific
component being vibration-induced (its magnitude exceeds the threshold). Those elements which are judged to be
vibration-induced are corrected for attenuation introduced by the integration process.

The electrical noise floor for an accelerometer is a quantity which can be specified for the accelerometer at a
reference temperature. When a temperature transient is present, the magnitude of the noise floor will increase
(much less for shear mode sensors than for compression mode sensors). Since the surface for many machines
will be at an elevated temperature, the temperature transient effect will be present in many situations when
gathering data with a portable device (the time required to permit the sensor to reach thermal equilibrium may be
substantial). Accordingly the magnitude of the noise floor is set dynamically for each measurement within the SST
methodology. This permits modest temperature transients to be accommodated as well as the accommodation of
a broader range of sensor s(accelerometers) to be utilized.
3.0 Representative Results

3.1 Introduction
Selected results are presented in this section to
1) demonstrate dynamic range problems associated with measurements on slow speed

2) present results from a low speed rotor with displacement in the range of interest,

3) and present results from a small gear box which has a mixture of low level low frequency
vibration with higher level higher frequency vibrations.
The intent within this section is to demonstrate the SST technology.

3.2 Dynamic Range

The dynamic range within a data collector is accomplished by analog amplification of the incoming signal and then
converting into the digital domain by an 12 to 16 bit A/D converter. Prior to digitizing, the signal is passed through
a low pass (anti-aliasing) filter. The anti-aliasing filter is post analog gain stage and pre A/D converter. The signal
from the sensor monitoring low speed machinery will have a wide frequency range and the higher frequency
components will generally be significantly larger (in g level) than the low frequency components. For example,
assume a machine turning at 20 RPM has a 5 mil p-p vibration component (this is 20 g's RMS) at the turning
speed. Assume further this component is embedded in a higher frequency 0.5 g RMS component (could easily be
a factor of 10 to 20 times larger). The dynamic range for this example is 88 dB. The analog gain pre A/D converter
will be controlled by the 0.5g component. The 0.5g component typically will be "out-of-range" to the analysis
bandwidth, e.g. the analysis bandwidth may be 10 Hz (600 RPM) and the 0.5 g component at 100 Hz. The anti-
aliasing filter will attenuate the 100 Hz component, but the dynamic range will be controlled by the initial gain stage
and A/D converter. For the example cited, the full range of the A/D converter may be equivalent to 1g. Assuming a
12 bit A/D converter, the absolute resolution will be 250 g's which is well above the required 20 g's for the 5 mil p-p
signal from the machine turning at 20 RPM.

The A/D converter will have "bit stutter" of one to two bits. Bit stutter acts very much like a pseudo-random binary
noise source which generates an approximately white noise floor. An example is presented in Figure 1a and 1b.
For this example, the input was sinusoidal at 200 Hz and an RMS value of 7 volts. The analysis bandwidth was
10hz. The RMS value of the 10 Hz bandwidth is 0.0128 V RMS. The experiment was repeated with the sinusoid
reduced from 7 volts RMS to 2 mV RMS (still 200 Hz). The RMS value of the 10 Hz bandwidth dropped to 14 V.

The obvious conclusion from the example given is that a) a higher bit resolution A/D is required and/or b) the
analog signal from the accelerometer must be preprocessed to attenuate the higher frequency signal components
relative to the low level low frequency components. The practical limit on the A/D converter is 16 to 18 bits which
provides about 24 to 30 dB improvement in dynamic range relative to the 12 bit A/D converter. The attenuation of
higher frequency components can be accomplished with an analog integrator which applies gain at low frequency
and attenuates high frequency. For the example consider (machine turning at 20 RPM with 5 mils p-p vibration
and large component at 200 Hz), an ideal analog integrator would provide an improvement of about 55 dB (a gain
of 45 dB at 20 RPM and an attenuation of 10 dB at 200 Hz). Practical integrators will not provide the full 55 dB
improvement, but 25-35 dB is realizable. Therefore, a combination of a 16 bit A/D converter with small bit stutter
and an analog integrator
will provide the needed dynamic range (120 dB) for slow speed (> 15 to 20 RPM) industrial machine monitoring.

3.3 Results from Low Speed Rotor

A variable low speed rotor kit with an adjustable cam (used for displacement) was assembled to provide reference
displacement in the 15 to 150 RPM range. A displacement of 9 to 9.5 mils p-p (measured with a dial indicator) was
set to generate the data presented in Figure 2 through 4. The sensor used was a 500 mV/g shear mode low noise
accelerometer. The analysis set up was 4-block, nonoverlapping average, an analysis bandwidth of 10 Hz, and
400-line spectra.

The results presented in Figure 2 employed the SST methodology, i.e., the following three steps were taken which
make up the SST methodology.
1. The raw signal from the accelerometer was integrated and then transferred to the spectral

2. Spectral data was averaged and a threshold was established based on a statistical 95%
confidence level floor.
3. Data judged as vibration induced (exceeded the 95% confidence level floor) was corrected for
signal distortion introduced by the analog integrators.
The results presented are in velocity (ips-peak) units. The 6.7 m ips-peak at 16.5 CPM (0.275 Hz) is 7.8 p-p. The
sensor used has a 3 dB point at 0.2 Hz. Correcting the 7.8 mils p-p for the sensor response leads to 9.6 mils p-p
as the measured response.

Results from straight analog integration are presented in Figure 3. Results using digital integration are presented
in Figure 4. The signal-to-noise is large as evidenced in Figure 3 and one may argue the statistical analysis is not
necessary, but there are many situations where the decision of whether a specific peak is clearly mechanically-
induced versus randomly occuring is not so obvious. Of course the straight digital integration provides results
which are not subject to the analog integrator distortion, but as will be shown below, dynamic range can become
serious limitations to the digital integration procedure.

3.4 Results from a Small Gear Box

A gear box was chosen to demonstrate the limitations of the dynamic range introduced by the A/D converter. The
gear box chosen was a speed-reducing component being driven by a DC motor. The inlet shaft had a 16-tooth
pinion driving an 88-tooth gear mounted on an intermediate shaft. The intermediate shaft had a 17-tooth pinion
driving a 54-tooth gear on the output shaft. The output shaft was turning at about 60 RPM for the representative
results presented below. The sensor used was a 500 mV/g shear mode, low noise accelerometer.

The time trace with 1000 Hz bandwidth and 1024 sample points is presented in Figure 5. The maximum signal
level is seen to be slightly greater than 1g. This suggests the autoranging function of the data collector selected a
2g full-scale range for the A/D converter. The data collector used for this analysis employed a 16-bit delta-sigma
A/D converter which is state-of-the-art technology.

The measurement was set up to detect the vibration in the gearbox introduced at one times (1x) of the slow speed
shaft which is expected to be small. The result for a 4-block, nonoverlapping average, 10 Hz bandwidth, and 400-
line spectra employing the SST methodology is presented in Figure 6. The 1x component from the slow speed
shaft is clearly detectable at 1.1 Hz (this corresponds to a 0.76 mil p-p vibration at 1.1 Hz).

The same measurement as used to acquire data presented in Figure 6 was repeated using digital integration
(instead of the SST methodology) and the results are presented in Figure 7. The 1x component at 1.1. Hz is not
present in this data. This is due to the fact that the dynamic range of the A/D converter was not sufficient to
resolve this small signal level. The data in Figure 5 shows the broad band signal from the accelerometer had a
peak acceleration level slightly above 1g. The probable full scale range of the A/D converter was in the 2 to 3 g
range (assume 2.5 g's). Using 2.5g's as the A/D range, the 1x component at 1.1 Hz in Figure 6 (which is
equivalent to 42 g's-peak) is at -95dB. The 2x component in Figure 6 is at -88dB. The A/D converter used was a
16 bit sigma-delta unit with minimal bit stutter. The expected noise floor due to bit stutter would be in the 90 dB
range which is consistent with the data presented in Figure 7.

3.5 Summary of Results

The results presented in this section were chosen to demonstrate the advantages of employing the SST
methodology to the problem of vibration monitoring of slow speed machinery using an accelerometer as the
sensor. The three steps which make up the SST methodology are:
1. Convert the signal from the accelerometer to velocity employing an analog integrator.

2. Apply statistical analysis to separate out probable vibration-induced spectral components from
noise components.

3. Correct the vibration induced components for the distortion introduced by the analog integrator.
The results presented in Sec 3.2 vividly show that a high amplitude signal components at frequencies above those
analyzed severely affect the noise floor in the frequency range analyzed due to bit stutter (dynamic range
limitations imposed by the A/D converter). In Sec 3.3, results obtained using a slow speed shaker at 16.5 RPM
and ~10 mils p-p were presented employing the SST methodology. The importance of correcting for analog
integration is clearly evident. In Sec 3-4, results from a small gear box (signal made up of low amplitude, low
frequency components and higher amplitude, high frequency components) are presented using (a) the SST
methodology and (b) straight digital integration. The SST methodology made detection of the low speed
component possible whereas employing digital integration missed the low speed component. This was due to the
significantly increase in the overall dynamic range using the SST methodology as compared to straight digital

When carrying out vibration measurements on slow speed machinery (< 600 RPM) using portable data loggers, it
is important that the appropriate sensor and cable be employed. The optimum sensor is a low impedance sensor
which employs shear mode technology, has a mechanical sensitivity of 500 mV/g, has resonance frequency > 10
kHz, and has low electrical noise in the internal electronics. For portable applications, ground loops are not
generally a problem; therefore, the cable should be chosen to provide RF and EMI shielding. This leads to the
conclusion that either a coax cable should be used or a shielded pair where the shield is tied to either ground or
signal common on both ends. In those few cases where RF or EMI is present, a shield connected on one end
(common practice when ground loops may be a threat), can significantly limit the dynamic range of the
measurement system. Coiled cables, if used, should be clamped near the sensor so that they can not apply a
small low frequency force to the sensor due to the cable tending to oscillate when hanging from the sensor.

Many measurement situations on low speed machinery require the measurement system to have a dynamic range
of 100 to 120 dB. The large dynamic range is required because the low frequency components in the signal from
the accelerometer will be very low amplitude relative to the high frequency components. If an A/D converter is
relied on to provide the required dynamic range, it would require a 21 bit A/D converter with low bit stutter. Such
an A/D converter is not readily available; therefore, a combination of analog and digital schemes must be utilized
to acquire the necessary dynamic range. An acceptable scheme to employ is a well designed analog integrator to
convert the signal from the acceleration domain to the velocity domain and a 16-bit A/D converter. The analog
integrator will distort the low frequency vibration. components as well as the electrical noise components. The
vibration components generally can be separated from the electrical components statistically (with a specified
confidence level) and then corrected for the distortion introduced by the analog integration process. Accepting 10
mils p-p as the required sensitivity level, the SST methodology can be utilized on machinery at speeds down to 10

a. Spectrum (Overall = 0.0128 V RMS)

b. Partial time trace
Figure 1.
Analysis of 10 Hz bandwidth for a sinusoidal input of 7 volts RMS at 200 Hz.

Figure 2.
Results in ips-p from a rotor kit with a displacement of ~ 9 mils p-p at 16.5 CPM employing
SST methodology.
Figure 3.
Results in ips-p from a rotor kit with a displacement of ~ 9 mils p-p at ~16 CPM less SST methodology.

Figure 4.
Results in ips-p from a rotor kit with a displacement of ~ 9 mils p-p at 16.5 CPM using digital integration.
Figure 5.
Broadband time trace from accelerometer mounted on the double speed reduction gearbox. The bandwidth was
1000 Hz.

Figure 6.
Results for a 10Hz bandwidth, 4 block nonoverlapping average, and 400 line resolution employing the SST
methodology. The sensor was a 500 mV/g accelerometer mounted on the double speed reduction gear box.
Figure 7.
Results for a 10 Hz bandwidth, 4 block nonoverlapping average, and 400 line resolution employing digital
integration. The sensor was a 500 mV/g accelerometer mounted on the double speed reduction gear box.

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