Aliasing, Orders and Wagon Wheels

These days most people collecting engineering and scientific data digitally have heard of and know of the implications of the sample rate and the highest observable frequency in order to avoid aliasing. For those people who are perhaps unfamiliar with the phenomenon of aliasing then an Appendix is included below which illustrates the phenomenon.

In saying that most people are aware of the relationship concerning sample rate and aliasing this generally means they are aware of it when dealing with constant time step sampling where digital values are measured at equal increments of time. There is far less familiarity with the relevant relationship when dealing with orders, where an order is a multiple of the rotational rate of the shaft. For example second order is a rate that is exactly twice the current rotational speed of the shaft. What we are considering here then is the relationship between the rate at which we collect data from a rotating shaft and the highest order to avoid aliasing.

The relationship depends on how we do our sampling as we could sample at constant time steps (equi-time step sampling), or at equal angles spaced around the shaft (equi-angular or synchronous sampling). We will consider both of these but first let us recall the relationship for regular equi-time step sampling and the highest frequency permissible to avoid aliasing. This is often known as Shannons Theorem.

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Vibration Monitoring Phase Measurement And The Tacho Signal

Any vibration signal may be analyzed into amplitude and phase as a function of frequency. The phase represents fifty percent of the information so it is most important to measure phase for vibration monitoring. Most vibrations on a rotating machine are related to the rotational speed so it is clearly important to have a measure of the speed, either directly or as a once per revolution tacho pulse. A question sometimes arises as to whether a once per revolution tacho reference signal is needed to measure phase. Is it possible to get phase if we only have a speed signal? This note gives some insight into those questions.

Actually the question that should be asked is – “Can we measure a meaningful phase, for use in vibration monitoring, if we only have a speed signal as well as the vibration signals?”

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Torsional Vibration, Tacho Pulses And Aliasing

With shafts, gears and the like, the general method of determining the rotational speed is to use some form of tachometer or shaft encoder. These give out a pulse at regular angular intervals. It we have N pulses per rev then obviously we have a pulse every (360/N) degrees. Determining the speed is nominally very simple: just measure the time between successive pulses. If this period is Tk seconds and the angle travelled is (360/ N) degrees then the rotational speed is simply estimated by 360/(N*Tk) degrees/second or 60/(N*Tk) rpm.

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