What is Vibration Measurement?

Vibration measurement is a key tool in today’s fast-advancing Industrial Internet of Things-driven maintenance and reliability world. To ensure you select the best tool for your organization, it’s important to know if a given vibration sensor or industrial vibration measurement device will interface with your present and future systems, including hardware and asset management software.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) powers the interface between people, systems, and machinery. The connectivity it provides offers maintenance teams new opportunities to extend machine lifespans and increase overall efficiency.

For instance, with remote condition monitoring tools, reliability professionals can predict asset failures and receive critical machine health data instantly from anywhere. And soon, vibration analysis combined with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will drive repair recommendations. But unlocking that future will mean maintenance teams must be prepared with the right vibration measurement tool.

vibration measurement data helps analyze and determine the cause of the machine fault
3563 Analysis Vibration Sensor Software Data

Which Vibration Measurement Tool Should I Use and Why?

Vibration measurement tools all have the same purpose: to identify and solve machine vibration problems. Before deciding how to measure vibration, take a hard look at where your organization stands in its reliability journey. Are you happy with your current maintenance practices and operations status? Do you have the connectivity and infrastructure to implement predictive maintenance (PdM) strategies or a vibration monitoring program?

A lack of resources, technical know-how, in-depth knowledge, and weak organizational backing often halt progress and lead to improper vibration measurement tool selections. Fluke Reliability offers comprehensive remote condition monitoring services, hardware, and software to get you started, keep you on track, and ensure you continue to expand.

Vibration Measurement Data is Information Rich

Vibration measurements contain a lot of useful information for maintenance teams that can help determine the health of a machine. Vibration measurement can detect if a machine’s condition has changed, or simply classify the condition of a machine. And vibration measurement can also be used to diagnose the cause of that change. Crucially, vibration measurements can also offer information for safe machine operation.

Vibration measurement is normally a non-intrusive measurement procedure, and it can be carried out with the machine running in its normal operating condition.

Basic Vibration Measurement Parameters

Vibration is an effect caused by machine condition. Vibration is simply the oscillation about a reference point (i.e. a shaft vibrates relative to the casing of a piece of machinery and a bearing vibrates relative to a bearing housing.) Vibration exists when a system responds to some internal or external excitation and can be broken down into three basic types.

The amplitude of vibration depends on the magnitude of the excitation force, the mass and stiffness of the system, and its damping. Vibration occurs because we either can’t build a perfect piece of machinery or install it perfectly. If we could build a perfect piece of machinery, the center of mass of the rotating element would be located exactly at its center of gravity. When the center of mass and center of gravity do not coincide, the rotor has a heavy spot and some degree of unbalance. This unbalance produces a vibration proportional to the amount of weight of the heavy spot. We catch this via vibration measurements.

Additional sources of vibration are machine tolerances, machine structure, bearing design, loading and lubrication, machine mounting, and rolling and rubbing between moving parts.

6 Types of Vibration Measurement Tools

The following vibration measurement tools often help reliability professionals start a predictive maintenance (PdM) or remote condition monitoring program.

1. Handheld Vibration Meter Tools

Fluke 805 FC Vibration Meter

Best Usage:
A handheld vibration measurement tool like the Fluke 805 FC Vibration Meter is best when you need a highly reliable screening device that can provide repeatable, overall vibration readings. Unlike a pen, the Fluke 805 also measures specific variables, including bearing condition and temperature.

The severity scale is easy to understand and displays simple texts (Good, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, Unacceptable) to indicate bearing condition and overall vibration. The vibration measurement device reads a wide range of low and high frequencies, and the data is accessible from anywhere via a smart device such as a laptop or mobile phone.

2. Portable Vibration Tester Tools

A portable vibration tester is vital for vibration measurement so your team can analyze and diagnose machine faults.
Fluke 810 Vibration Tester

Best Usage:
A portable vibration tester is the best tool for maintenance organizations with enough resources to collect route-based data. These handheld vibration tools are a strong option when critical machines can be safely and easily reached by a technician. And while both handheld vibration testers and vibration analyzers can capture vibration data and diagnose machine faults, they do have different capabilities.

For example, the Fluke 810 Vibration Tester uses an analytics engine to diagnose machine issues and provides onsite vibration analysis on one screen. It captures a narrow data window.

3. Handheld Vibration Analyzer Tools

The VibXpert II is a vibration analyzer that also lets your team conduct vibration measurement.

Like vibration testers, a portable vibration analyzer can provide users with immediate vibration measurement information about machinery health, including motors, fans, and blowers. Both can identify the four most common faults: imbalance, misalignment, looseness, bearing damage. They can also often tell you the fault location and severity.

However, unlike vibration testers, a handheld vibration analyzer tool such as the VIBXpert II by Prüftechnik can collect almost any type of vibration measurement data. These vibration measurement tools also can help teams correct machine imbalance and connect to multiple types of sensors. However, because of their sophistication, vibration analyzers often need an expert to interpret the detailed data.

4. Wireless Screening Vibration Sensor

Best Usage:
A wireless vibration screening sensor such as the Fluke 3562 works best if you have many semi-critical machines. Rather than tell you what’s wrong, a screening vibration sensor simply measures vibration and indicates if your machinery is operating correctly or poorly. If the sensor detects an issue, a reliability professional can decide whether to investigate further or not, depending on the machine’s history.

A screening vibration monitoring sensor works best for vibration measurement of hundreds of semi-critical machines.
Fluke 3562 Screening Vibration Monitoring Sensor

What Does a Wireless Screening Vibration Sensor Do?

Screening vibration sensors collect real-time vibration data continuously and send an alarm notification when vibration measurements exceed a certain threshold. They’re extremely helpful for vibration monitoring of machinery in hard-to-reach areas that can’t easily be checked with handheld vibration measurement tools. Because the Fluke 3562 Screening Vibration Sensor is batteryless, there’s no need to constantly worry about changing it.

5. Wireless Vibration Analysis Sensor

Best Usage:
A wireless vibration analysis sensor is best if your organization has dozens of critical machines. When a critical asset fails, it can shut down production and even harm other machines. These wireless vibration sensors alert you of a machine fault quickly (imbalance, misalignment, bearing damage, looseness) and show the severity of the problem so maintenance teams can act to prevent failure.

a wireless vibration sensor performs condition monitoring
Fluke 3563 Analysis Vibration Sensor

What Does a Wireless Vibration Analysis Sensor Do?

Wireless vibration sensors like the Fluke 3563 Analysis Vibration Sensor track machine performance and have a powerful piezo sensor that allows deep analysis of vibration measurements. The data provides reliability professionals with immediate insight into production-critical machinery problems. Quick results give maintenance teams enough time to make informed decisions before machines fail.

6. Wired Vibration Monitoring System

Best Usage:
A wired vibration monitoring system is best for condition monitoring of production-critical machines. For example, the VIBGUARD IIoT from Prüftechnik can monitor turbine generators, paper machines, high-speed spindles, and multiple drive machines. These advanced vibration measurement tools provide complete vibration analysis for complex machines.

A vibration monitoring system provides detailed vibration analysis on complex machinery such as turbines

What Does a Wired Vibration Monitoring System Do?

A wired vibration monitoring system captures large amounts of high-resolution vibration measurement data. It allows vibration analysis for a vast range of machinery faults, resonances, processes, and structures and enables predictive maintenance.

Helpful Tips for Choosing a Vibration Measurement Tool

  • Think about the machinery problems you want to solve first and why. Carefully review your most costly maintenance problems. Which of your machines fail constantly, what caused the problem, and how did it impact production?
  • Take advantage of a manufacturer’s pilot program if they offer one. A trial lets your organization test drive a vibration measurement tool before buying it. Depending on the vendor, the organization also receives expert support to ensure proper pilot setup and success better. For example, Fluke Reliability offers extensive training and remote condition monitoring services.
  • Perform an asset criticality analysis (ACA) to ensure your vibration measurements are focused on the right machinery. An asset criticality assessment uses data to accurately identify the actual business value of your most essential assets and remove biases. Organization stakeholders use agreed-upon criteria to assess, classify, and rank assets and group them as production critical, semi-critical, and less critical.

Vibration measurement is essential to any maintenance program. Vibration is the “pulse” of your machines, giving you invaluable insight into asset health and performance. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in vibration measurement to understand and begin to take advantage of the benefits of vibration monitoring and analysis for your equipment. Here, we explain how vibration measurement works, why it’s important, and how it can be leveraged to maintain health and increase the lifespan of your assets.


Why Vibration Measurement is Important

When industrial equipment runs, some level of vibration is inevitable even during normal operation. However, vibration can also reveal existing or potential faults. Excessive, erratic, or otherwise abnormal vibrations are often the first sign of a problem with your machines. Left unchecked, the underlying problems causing the change in vibration will likely escalate to the point where the machine will eventually fail. In addition, uncontrolled vibration can lead to further damage to your equipment.

With advances in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, the industry has moved from preventive maintenance to predictive and condition-based maintenance strategies that leverage data from the machine itself to optimize maintenance schedules and prevent unplanned downtime.

Vibration measurement tools are one of the most common methods used to gather condition data from machines, and for good reason. They are often the first to identify signs of wear in machines and are a powerful indicator of machine health and performance. Data from these devices can be used to quickly diagnose issues like worn bearings, misalignment, and more so they can be resolved before they lead to failure and downtime.

Vibration Measurement Instruments

There are a variety of instruments that can be used to capture machine vibration, most of which do so by measuring changes in acceleration. The component that performs this measurement is called an accelerometer, one of the most effective technologies for monitoring and analyzing machine vibrations, both long-term and in real-time. Vibrations can be measured both by handheld devices operated by maintenance personnel and by sensors affixed to machine components.

Handheld Vibration Meters and Testers

Handheld vibration meters and portable testers can be used to manually collect this data at a point in time, for example, during a routine check. These devices capture accurate and precise readings that can be used to diagnose problems and inform your maintenance program.

While handheld vibration detectors are still widely used and remain an effective diagnostic tool, they do have their limitations. For one, they capture vibration levels at a single point in time. In addition, measurement depends on human action: a technician must manually go up to the machine, take a reading, record that reading, etc. This process is prone to error and can be missed entirely, even with the most effective maintenance management program.

Vibration Sensors

Another instrument that has quickly gained popularity is wireless vibration sensors. These smart devices can be easily installed at critical points throughout the machine to continuously monitor vibration patterns in real-time. This offers many advantages. For example, continuous monitoring means you have more data about how your machine is performing and its health over time.

With machine learning software, this data can then be used to drive incredibly precise predictions about maintenance requirements, allowing you to optimize maintenance schedules and costs. Real-time monitoring also means you can be alerted to a problem right away, when there’s still time to protect the machine from further damage.

Types of Vibration Sensors

Today, the vast majority of vibration sensors are accelerometers, which means that the sensors measure acceleration. MEMS and piezoelectric sensors are two of the most common types of accelerometers used to measure machine vibration. Vibration sensors can also be either wired or wireless.

MEMS Vibration Sensors are best suited for frequency ranges of 0 to 1000 Hz. This frequency range is typically where imbalance, misalignment and looseness can be identified. MEMS sensors are cost-effective and provide long battery life ideal for large-scale vibration monitoring programs

Piezoelectric Vibration Sensors are best suited for frequency range over 1000 Hz, including for monitoring bearings, compressors, and gearboxes. These sensors can be used to identify issues with gear mesh and motor bars, for example.

For more information, see our Guide to Vibration Sensors for Motors

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