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The research reported in this thesis investigates the use of vibration analysis techniques for fault detection and diagnosis in geared transmission systems. The primary objective was the improvement of safety in helicopters by identifying and, where necessary, developing techniques for the detection and diagnosis of safety critical faults in helicopter transmission systems. Reduction of maintenance costs was of secondary consideration. This can be achieved to some extent by improvement in discrimination between critical and non-critical faults; avoiding unnecessary maintenance action. Although this research concentrated on helicopter transmission systems, many of the techniques described in this thesis are also applicable to other geared transmission systems.

The development of failure prevention technology requires the involvement of many engineering disciplines; mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, and metallurgical. Indeed, Eshleman [29] argued that the lack of clear identity with any one formal academic discipline has hindered the development of machine fault diagnosis and prognosis. In this thesis, it has not been assumed that the reader has a prior knowledge of all disciplines involved. Therefore, the background research is discussed in some detail prior to the presentation of the outcome of the original research components. Despite the requirement to combine various aspects of different disciplines, an attempt has been made to structure this thesis in an evolutionary fashion. Because of this, the traditional literature survey is not presented as a separate chapter, but previous research

is discussed and, where necessary, expanded upon as the relevant disciplines are introduced. A brief introduction to failure prevention and the techniques used (particularly vibration analysis) is given later in this chapter. In order to identify the areas in which further research on vibration analysis can provide maximum benefit, we need to know a) how mechanical vibrations are produced, b) how transmission system components fail, c) which failure modes are critical to the safety of the helicopter, and d) how the safety critical failure modes affect the vibration signal. Chapter 2 addresses the first of these subjects. A review of past research on the

mechanisms involved in the production of transmission system vibration is given. This is further developed into a general model of gearbox vibrations which is novel in its approach. Previous models were based on frequency domain representations of vibration and difficulties arose in the description of processes leading to non-stationary signals, such as speed fluctuations and variable transmission path effects. The model developed here is based on the angular position of the various rotating elements which, it is shown, enables complex non-stationary processes to be modelled as simple angular dependencies. Chapter 3 investigates the consequences of failures on aircraft safety (both in terms of logical expectations and documentary evidence), and discusses the expected vibration characteristics of each of the failure modes. This leads to the identification of the critical failure modes which need to be examined in more detail. Chapter 4 provides a review of current vibration analysis techniques to determine which methods are best suited to the detection and diagnosis of the safety critical failure modes,

where these methods are deficient and, as a consequence, where further development is needed. Based on the findings presented in the first four chapters, a number of areas were targeted for further research. Chapter 5 provides a detailed investigation of synchronous signal averaging techniques which includes; a model of synchronously averaged gear vibration; a theoretical examination of the consequences of synchronous signal averaging, including its effects on non-synchronous vibrations; development of a new method of quantifying and optimising the effects of the synchronous signal averaging process; and detailed examination of coherent resampling techniques including the development of new techniques based on high order spline interpolation. In Chapter 6, existing vibration analysis techniques are examined and their performance evaluated against actual helicopter fault data. Chapter 7 describes the development of an experimental spur gear test rig, the generation of seeded faults and the analysis of the seeded fault vibration data using traditional approaches to vibration analysis. In Chapter 8, a new approach to vibration analysis, based on time-frequency energy distributions, is introduced. In Chapter 9, the helicopter flight data and seeded fault trial data described in Chapters 6 and 7 are re-examined using the time-frequency analysis techniques discussed in Chapter 8. This shows that, although significant additional diagnostic information can be

obtained using time-frequency analysis techniques, existing time-frequency analysis techniques do not provide an adequate representation of small short term frequency modulations which can be important as an early indicator of faults such as cracks in gears and gear teeth. Chapter 10 describes the development of a new time-frequency analysis technique which has been specifically designed to detect small frequency deviations without sacrificing the

other benefits of time-frequency analysis techniques. The new technique is applied to the helicopter and test rig gear fault vibration data studied in previous chapters and the improvement over the other vibration analysis techniques studied is demonstrated.


The chosen layout of this thesis has resulted in some interspersing of original research with review of research by others. The distinction between the two should be clear when reading the thesis. However, for the benefit of readers who are familiar with the

background material, the following is a list of the original research which (in the opinion of the author) provide significant contributions to knowledge in the area of vibration analysis and mechanical failure prevention: a) A general model of gearbox vibration has been developed which combines gear, shaft and bearing vibrations taking into account transmission path effects (both static and variable) and variable loading (due to torque fluctuations and/or moving load zones). By basing the model in the angle domain, speed variations and the effects of multiple faults can be easily incorporated. The mathematical formulation of the model is described in Chapter 2, Section 2.2. b) A new method of modelling the effects of synchronous signal averaging has been developed which provides quantification of the attenuation of non-synchronous vibration components. This model is described in Chapter 5, Section 5.2. c) Based on the model of synchronously averaged vibration data, a method of calculating the ideal number of averages has been developed (Chapter 5, Section 5.3) and, for situations where the ideal number of averages is impractical to implement, a method has been developed for optimising the number of averages (Chapter 5, Section 5.4) which includes methods for the quantification of leakage and the estimation of the signal-to-noise ratio of signal averaged data. d) An alternate formulation of cubic splines, based on the use of differentiating filters, has been developed (Chapter 5, Section which shows significant improvement

in accuracy over conventional cubic splines when used for digital resampling. A similar approach was used to develop a digital resampling technique using fifth order splines (Chapter 5, Section which showed comparable performance to signal reconstruction using low-pass filters (i.e., close to perfect reconstruction) with a significant reduction in processing time (less than one quarter of the time). e) An investigation has been made of the application of time-frequency analysis techniques for the study of transmission system vibration. This research is described in Chapters 8 and 9. Time-frequency analysis techniques have been the subject of theoretical study for many years and practical use of some of the techniques has been made in other areas over the last ten years. However, it is believed that the work presented here constitutes the first practical application of these techniques to transmission system fault diagnosis. During the course of this project, a number of papers (including two book chapters) have been published describing portions of this research (see List of Publications) and, since then, a number of other researchers have started to investigate this area. f) A new time-frequency analysis technique designed specifically for gear vibration analysis has been developed. The development and application of this new technique is described in Chapter 10.

1.4 BACKGROUND 1.4.1 The need for failure prevention

In many mechanical systems, the cost of component failure can be very high; secondary damage, loss of utility, and human injury or death can far outweigh the value of the failed component. One particularly critical mechanical system is the transmission system in a helicopter. This is required to transmit power from the engines to the rotors, providing lift, thrust and directional control. A mechanical failure in a helicopter transmission system which causes loss of, or significantly reduces, the ability to transmit power can result in catastrophic accident of the aircraft. 5

The helicopter transmission system needs to efficiently transmit high loads with large speed reduction and, for the sake of aircraft performance, it needs to be of minimal size and weight. This results in complex geared systems in which the components are highly stressed. In addition, duplication of components is impractical, therefore safety margins cannot be increased by redundancy (unlike the propulsion source, for which multiple engines can be used to add a measure of redundancy). Because of this, helicopter transmission systems cannot be made fault tolerant and, in order to increase safety, failure prevention techniques must be used.

1.4.2 Fault detection, diagnosis and prognosis

Failure prevention in any system, be it mechanical, electrical, biological, or whatever, can be viewed at three levels of detail: a) Fault detection: the essential knowledge that a fault condition exists; without this, no preventative action can be taken to avoid possible system failure. b) Diagnosis: the determination of the nature and location of the fault; this knowledge can be used to decide the severity of the fault and what preventative or curative action needs to be taken (if any). c) Prognosis: the forecast or prediction of the probable course and outcome of a fault; based on this, the most efficient and effective method of treatment can be decided upon. The level of detail required for failure prevention depends very much on the type of system, its perceived value and the consequences of failure. For instance, failure

prevention for a relatively inexpensive fuel pump may require only fault detection, with the faulty pump simply being discarded and replaced with a new one. Whereas failure prevention for humans (a mechanism with in-built fault detection capabilities) involves elaborate diagnosis, prognosis and treatment procedures, resulting in huge health care systems.

In the case of helicopter transmissions, and most other geared transmission systems, simple fault detection is not sufficient, as the cost of the system is usual too high to justify total replacement, and some form of diagnosis is required. For simple

transmissions which are readily accessible, such as one in an automobile, the diagnosis procedure may involve strip down and visual inspection of the components. In a

helicopter, removal and strip down of the transmission is very complex and time consuming, therefore other means of diagnosis must be used. Diagnosis without

intervention also allows scope for prognosis; either to predict the possibility of progression from a non-critical fault to a critical fault (indicating the need to closely monitor the fault progression), or to predict the time to failure (allowing scheduling of repairs).

1.4.3 Failure prevention techniques

The most commonly used techniques for failure prevention in geared transmission system are temperature monitoring, oil debris monitoring and vibration monitoring. Temperature monitoring is a simple fault detection technique which provides no diagnostic or prognostic capabilities. It is used in a wide range of transmission system, primarily for the purposes of detecting lubrication and cooling system problems. Oil debris monitoring is widely used in transmission systems and a large number of detection and diagnosis techniques are available (a review of these is given by Kuhnell [44]). The fundamental limitation in oil debris monitoring is that not all failures generate material debris and, without debris, no detection or diagnosis can take place.

1.4.4 Vibration analysis

Vibration analysis offers the widest coverage of all failure prevention techniques. Virtually any change in the mechanical condition will cause a change in the vibration signature produced by the machine. For a long time, vibration analysis has been used for Rotor Track and Balance (RTB) in helicopters to reduce the vibrations from the rotor


However, vibration analysis techniques are still not widely used for fault

detection and diagnosis in helicopter transmission systems, although this is rapidly changing. Past resistance to the use of vibration analysis for fault detection and diagnosis was probably due to its perceived complexity and lack of rigid procedural guidelines; although for many years informal (intuitive) vibration analysis has been used for fault detection in the sense that operators and/or mechanics often detect the presence of a fault based on a strange sound. The mechanic who can accurately diagnose a fault by listening to the vibrations transmitted via a screwdriver held against the machine casing is held in some reverence, adding to the perception that vibration analysis is an art rather than a science. Early work on the formalisation of vibration diagnostics using spectral analysis (Blackman and Tukey [4]) progressed slowly through the 1960s, mainly due to the expense of analysis equipment. The development of the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) in 1965 (Cooley and Tukey [25]) allowed the development of commercial real-time spectral analysers and, as the use of these analysers became more widespread, a number of authors describe the vibration effects of various machine faults and how these could be diagnosed using spectral analysis (White [82], Minns and Stewart [60], Swansson [77], Braun [15] and Randall [67]). However, even with the use of spectral analysis, fault diagnosis using the vibration signature was still relative complex and required specialised skills. In the mid 1970s, Stewart [73] made a significant contribution to the use of vibration analysis as a diagnostic tool for machine faults, especially for gear faults. Based on the use of synchronous averaging techniques to separate the vibration signatures from different rotating components, Stewart developed a number of signal metrics (Figures of Merit) which could be used to indicate (and differentiate) the presence of various vibration characteristics. The use of these figures of merit greatly simplified the

diagnostic task by reducing the complex vibration signals to a handful of parameters characterising the signal.

Further work by Randall [65] and McFadden [54] in the underlying causes of gear vibration resulted in a better understanding of the correlation between Stewarts figures of merit and mechanical condition. McFadden [56] showed the importance of phase modulation in the diagnosis of cracks and outlined a signal parameter sensitive to phase modulation. Up until the late 1980s, machine vibration analysis was based on either the time or frequency domain (spectrum) representation of the vibration signal. Forrester [34]

showed that localised machine faults introduce short-term non-stationarities into the vibration signal and that these could be analysed using joint time-frequency signal analysis techniques. Joint time-frequency analysis techniques were originally developed in the field of quantum mechanics in the 1930s (Wigner [83], Kirkwood [41]) and adapted to signal processing in the 1940s by Gabor [35] and Ville [81]. During the 1950s and 1960s a number of different time-frequency distributions were proposed (Page [62], Margenau and Hill [46], Rihaczek [71]) all of which seemed plausible and showed desirable properties, but produced quite different results. In 1966, Cohen [23] showed that there were an infinite number of plausible time-frequency distributions and developed a generalised description from which all of these could be derived. After fifty years of theoretical development, practical use of joint time-frequency distributions has only commenced in earnest over the last 10 years. Cohen [24] and Boashash [8] give comprehensive reviews of time-frequency analysis techniques and applications.