Understanding Vibration Test Terminology. A Technical Guide

Vibration testing is a crucial component of product development and quality assurance across various industries, including aerospace, automotive, electronics, and more. To effectively navigate the world of vibration testing, it is essential to grasp the fundamental terminology associated with it. In this blog, we'll delve into the key terms and concepts related to vibration intensity, including vibration frequency, displacement, velocity and acceleration.

Vibration Frequency (f)

Vibration frequency, denoted as "f" and measured in Hertz (Hz), is a fundamental parameter in vibration testing. It represents the number of cyclical movements a vibrating object makes per second. The time taken for a single cycle is referred to as the "period" (T), and the frequency can be calculated using the formula: Vibration frequency (f) = 1/T.

In practical terms, the frequency of vibration is like the pitch of a sound – a higher frequency corresponds to faster oscillations, while a lower frequency indicates slower movements. For example, a vibration with a frequency of 100 Hz means that the object oscillates 100 times in one second.

Displacement (Amplitude) (D)

Displacement, often referred to as "amplitude," measures the distance that a vibrating object moves during one vibration cycle. It is usually expressed in meters (m) but can also be denoted in microns (µm) or millimeters (mm). It's important to note that displacement can be defined in two ways:

1.     Total Amplitude (Double Amplitude): This refers to the complete back-and-forth distance traveled by the vibrating object over one cycle.

2.     Half Amplitude: This indicates the distance traveled in one direction only (e.g., from the rest position to the peak).

Understanding these two definitions is crucial as they have different implications for vibration testing and analysis.

Acceleration (A)

Acceleration, denoted as "A," is another critical parameter in vibration testing. It quantifies how much the velocity (V) of an object changes per unit time. The standard unit of measurement for acceleration in the International System of Units (SI) is meters per second per second (m/s²). However, it is common to encounter acceleration expressed in the non-SI unit "G," which represents the acceleration due to gravity (approximately 9.81 m/s²).

The relationship between frequency (f), displacement (D), and acceleration (A) in vibration testing is defined by the following formula:

A = (2πf)² × D (D: half amplitude)

This formula underscores the interplay between these parameters, emphasising that changes in frequency or displacement will directly affect acceleration. As a result, keeping one parameter constant while altering the others can lead to distinct vibration conditions.

Velocity (V)

Velocity, denoted as "V," is a fundamental parameter in vibration testing that measures the rate of change of displacement over time. It indicates how fast the vibrating object is moving at any given moment during the vibration cycle. Velocity is typically expressed in meters per second (m/s) or millimeters per second (mm/s).

Velocity is a critical parameter which provides insights into the dynamic behaviour of the test specimen. It complements other parameters such as frequency, displacement, and acceleration by offering additional information about the movement of the vibrating object and its response to external forces. Understanding the velocity of a vibrating object is essential for evaluating its performance and structural integrity.

Implications of Frequency and Amplitude Changes

Understanding how frequency and amplitude interact is crucial when planning vibration tests. Two key observations are worth noting:

1.     Sweep Vibration Testing: When acceleration remains constant and frequency is gradually increased, the amplitude decreases as frequency rises. This is particularly useful for exposing a product to a range of frequencies to identify resonant frequencies and weaknesses.

2.     Constant Amplitude Testing: Conversely, when amplitude is maintained at a consistent level and frequency is increased, acceleration increases with the frequency. This is employed when the focus is on a specific frequency range.

Failure to account for all these relationships can result in transient vibrations affecting the test sample or conditions of excessively minimal vibrations, both of which may compromise the validity of the test results.

In practice, vibration conditions are often defined by maintaining constant amplitude in the low-frequency range and then keeping acceleration constant once a specific frequency threshold is reached. This approach ensures that the test accurately replicates the expected environmental conditions or stress factors the product will encounter during its lifecycle.

In conclusion, vibration testing terminology is crucial for understanding and effectively conducting vibration tests on products and components. By grasping the concepts of vibration frequency, displacement, velocity and acceleration, and their interdependencies, engineers and quality control professionals can ensure that their testing procedures provide meaningful insights into product performance, reliability, and durability.