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International Review of Applied Engineering Research.

ISSN 2248-9967 Volume 4, Number 3 (2014), pp. 241-250

Research India Publications

A Review of Rotating Machinery Critical Speeds and

Modes of Vibrations
Mili J. Hota and D.P. Vakharia
Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Surat.
The aim of this paper is to present a practical understanding of
terminology and behavior based in visualizing how a shaft vibrates,
and examining issues that affect vibration. The paper also presents the
synchronous critical speeds of rotor-bearing systems. The majority of
attention is on the unbalance excitation of natural frequencies with
whirling and spinning in same direction. Most rotor dynamic analyses
typically ignore the potential for critical speeds to be created by
traversing a backward processional whirl mode. While not commonly
recognized, a backward mode can be excited using unbalance as the
driving force. One of the major areas of interest in the modern-day
condition monitoring of rotating machinery is that of vibration. If a
fault develops and goes undetected, then, at best, the problem will not
be too serious and can be remedied quickly and cheaply; at worst, it
may result in expensive damage and down-time, injury, or even loss of
life. By measurement and analysis of the vibration of rotating
machinery, it is possible to detect and locate important faults such as
mass unbalance, shaft alignment, rub and cracked shafts vibration. This
paper helps to learn the basic modes of vibrations and predicting
critical speed by practical approach and also concludes some important
practical recommendations on rotor-bearing design so that unique
critical speed situation may be avoided.
Index Terms: Critical speed, Gyroscopic, high-speed, natural
Frequency, resonances, stiffness, vibration mode.

1. Introduction
The unique characteristics of rotating machinery vibration, the terminology and
behavior of a machine are been discussed. Like most specialty areas, there are a


Mili J. Hota & D.P. Vakharia

number of excellent texts, but it can be difficult to quickly pull out the practical insight
needed. At the other end of the spectrum, there is also a large number of
troubleshooting resources that focus on identification of problems and characteristics,
but only offer limited insight. Discussion of recent combined experimental and
analytical effort raised the possibility of an article that would attempt to provide a
deeper insight into some of the basic characteristics of rotating machinery vibration
from a less mathematical perspective.
Thus in this article several issues that are basic to an understanding of rotating
machinery vibration are been discussed:
What are critical speeds?
How do critical speeds relate to resonances and natural frequencies?
How do natural frequencies change as the shaft rotational speed changes?
How are shaft rotational natural frequencies different from more familiar
natural frequencies and modes in structures?
What effects do bearing characteristics have?

2. Vibration Intuition
2.1 A Brief Review of Structural Vibration
As engineers, we learn that vibration characteristics are determined by a structures
mass and stiffness values, with damping (ability to dissipate vibrational energy)
playing an integral role by controlling amplitudes. This education generally starts with
the simplest possible system a rigid mass attached to a spring as shown in Fig. 1[1].
With this simple system, we quantify our intuition about vibrational frequency (heavier
objects result in lower frequency, stiffer springs yield higher frequency). After some
work, we reach the conclusion that the free vibration frequency is controlled by the
square root of the ratio of stiffness to mass as shown in Fig. 1. We could then add a
viscous damper parallel with the spring, and provide a sinusoidal force as shown in
Fig. 2[3]. By carefully applying a constant amplitude sinusoidal force that slowly
increases in frequency and recording the amplitude of the motion, we could then
generate the classic normalized frequency responses of a spring-mass-damper system.
By repeating the test with a variety of dampers, the classic frequency response shown
in Fig. 3 can be developed. Assuming we knew the mass, stiffness and damping of our
system, this response is also predicted quite well by the standard frequency domain
solution to the differential equation of motion for this system shown in Equation 1[2].

Amplitude =


m 2 c


There are several noteworthy points about these frequency responses. The first is
that at low excitation frequencies, the response amplitude is roughly constant and
greater than zero. The amplitude is governed by the ratio of the applied force to the

A Review of Rootating Macchinery Crittical Speedss and Modess of Vibratioons


spriing stiffnesss [6]. The second

is thhat the respo
onse increases to a peaak, then rap
decrreases in the low and mediuum dampin
ng cases. This peakk frequency
y is
apprroximately the dampedd natural freequency, (m
more techniccally correcct, it is the peak
respponse frequuency, whicch moves down in frequency
the ddamped nattural
freqquency as damping
inccreases). Thhe system iss said to bee in resonaance when
n the
exciitation frequuency matchhes the dam
mped naturall frequency.. Very largee amplitudess are
posssible when the excitattion frequenncy is closee to this freequency. Thhe amplitud
de is
conttrolled by the
t magnituude of the damping
(more dampinng reduces tthe amplitud
Thee high dampping case haas no real peak,
and is said to be overdampeed. Finally
y, the
ampplitude continues to deccrease for alll higher freequencies. These
characcteristics wiill be
conttrasted withh the response of a rootating systeem to unbaalance excittation in a later
secttion. Movinng from the simple singgle mass system to muultimass systtems, the baasics
do not
n change. Natural freqquencies aree still primaarily relatedd to mass and stiffness, with
me changes due to daamping. Exxcitation freequency eqqual to a ddamped nattural
freqquency is a resonance.. Excitationn near a ressonance cann result in llarge ampliitude
respponses. Respponse amplitudes are controlled
y damping. With enouggh damping
g, the
respponse peak can be com
mpletely elim
minated. The biggest chhange is thaat there are now
mulltiple naturaal frequenccies and that each nattural frequeency has a correspon
uniqque mode-shape wiith differennt parts off the structture vibratinng at diffeerent
ampplitudes andd differing phases
relative to one an

F 1: Simpple spring-m
mass- system
with annd without damper.

Fig. 3:
3 Frequencyy response oof spring mass
dampeer system to constant am
mplitude forrce.

Figg. 2: Free reesponse of Simple

sprinng- Fig. 4: Basic macchine modell cross sectiion.


Milli J. Hota & D.P. Vakh


2.2 A Simple Rotating

Thee rotating machinery
to the sing
gle spring-m
mass dampper system is a
mped mass on
o a massless, elastic shaft. Thiss model, hiistorically rreferred to as a
Jefffcott or Laval model, is a singlee degree of freedom syystem that iss generally used
to inntroduce rottor dynamicc characteriistics. This model, shoown in crosss-section in Fig.
4[5]], consists of
o a rigid ceentral disk, a shaft (witth stiffness and mass) and two rig
mouunted bearinngs.
nrotating Dynamics
Supppose that ouur simple machine
is not
n spinning
g, that the bearings havve essentiallly no
mping, and that
t the bearrings have equal
radial stiffness inn the verticaal and horizo
direections (all typical charracteristics of ball beaarings). Let us also supppose that there
are three versioons of this machine,
onne each with
h soft, interrmediate and stiff beariings.
Through eitheer analysis or a moodal test, we wouldd find a set of nattural
freqquencies/moodes. At eaach frequenncy, the mo
otion is plaanar (just liike the pin
nnedpinnned beam). This behaviior is what we
w would expect
from a static struucture. Fig. 5[3]
ws the first three modee shapes andd frequenciees for the thhree bearingg stiffnessess. As
withh the beam
m, the thickk line show
ws the shafft centerlinne shape at the maxim
dispplacement. As
A it vibrattes, it movees from thiss position too the same location on
n the
oppposite side of
o the dispplaced centeerline, and back. Notee that the rratio of beaaring
stifffness to shafft stiffness has
h a signifi
ficant impacct on the moode-shapes. For the softt and
inteermediate beearings, thee shaft doess not bend very muchh in the low
wer two mo
Thuus, these aree generally referred to as rigid rotor
modees. As the bbearing stifffness
incrreases (or ass shaft stiffn
fness decreaases), the am
mount of shhaft bendingg increases. One
inteeresting featuure of the mode
shapess is how thee central disk moves. Inn the first mode,
the disk translaates withouut rocking. In
I the secon
nd mode, itt rocks withhout translaation.
Thiss general chharacteristicc repeats ass the frequeency increaases. If we m
moved the disk
off-center, we would findd that the motion
is a mix of trannslation andd rocking. This
charracteristic will
w give rise to some interesting
onnce the shaft
ft starts rotaating.
If we
w repeatedd the constant amplituude excitatiion frequenncy sweep eexperiment,, we
wouuld get veryy similar beehavior as with
w the spring-mass-ddamper systtem plot sh
prevviously. Theere would be
b a spring-ccontrolled deflection
att low frequeencies, a peaak in
ampplitude, and adecay in amplitude
w further increases
inn frequency.

Fiig. 5: Modee shapes verrsus bearingg

stiffness,, shaft not rootating.

Fig. 6: Shaft rotatiing at 10 rppm,1st modee

hape and freequencies inn rpm.

A Review of Rootating Macchinery Crittical Speedss and Modess of Vibratioons

Fig. 7:
7 Whirl sennse.


Fig. 8:
8 Effect of operating
sppeed on 1st

3. Rotating Dynamiccs Cylin

ndrical Mo
Sincce rotating machinery
has to rotatte to do useeful work, leets consideer what happ
to thhe first modde of our rootor once itt is spinning
g. Again, we
w will havee three diffeerent
verssions with increasing
stifffness, and we will asssume our suupport bearrings
have equal stifffness in alll radial direections. Lets repeat ouur analysis/m
modal test with
the shaft spinniing at 10 rppm, and loook at the frequency andd mode shappe of the low
ws the frequ
uencies and mode shapees or the low
natuural frequenncy. Fig. 6 below
modde of the thhree machines. Note that
the shaape of the motion hass changed. The
freqquencies, thoough, are quuite close too the nonrottating first mode.
As in the nonrotaating
casee, the beariing stiffnesss to shaft stiffness
ratiio has a strrong impacct on the modem
shappe. Again, the case wiith almost no
n shaft beending is reeferred to as a rigid mode.
Theese modes look very much
like the non ro
otation moddes, but theey now inv
circcular motionn rather thann planar mottion.
To visualizze how the rotor
is movving, first im
magine swinging a jum
mp rope aro
Thee rope tracees the outliine of a buulging cylin
nder. Thus, this modee is sometiimes
refeerred to as a cylindriccal mode. Viewed fro
om the fronnt, the ropee appears to
o be
bouuncing up and
a down. Thus, this mode is also
sometimes called a bouncee or
trannslatory mode. The whhirling motiion of the ro
otor (the juumprope m
motion) can be
b in
the same directtion as the shafts
rotattion or in the opposite direction.
This gives risse to
the labels forw
ward whirl and backkward whirl.. Fig. 7[8] shows rotoor cross secttions
overr the coursse of time for both syynchronous forward annd synchroonous backw
whiirl. Note thhat for forw
ward whirl, a point on the surfacee of the rotoor moves in
n the
me direction as the whirl.
Thus, for syynchronous forward whhirl (unbalan
nce excitation, for exam
mple), a poiint at
the outside of the rotor reemains to the
t outside of the whirrl orbit[9]. With backw
whiirl, on the other
hand, a point at the surface of the rootor moves in the oppo
direection as thee whirl to the inside of the
t whirl orrbit during thhe whirl.
To see how
w a wider raange of shafft speeds ch
hanges the situation,
wee could perfform
the analysis/moodal test wiith a range of
o shaft speeeds from non
n spinningg to high sp
We could thenn follow the forward annd backward
d frequencies associateed with the first
modde. Fig. 8 plots
the foorward (red line) and backward
dasheed line) natural


Mili J. Hota & D.P. Vakharia

frequencies over a wide shaft speed range. This plot is often referred to as a Campbell
Diagram. From this figure, we can see that the frequencies of this cylindrical mode do
not change very much over the speed range. The backward whirl mode drops slightly,
and the forward whirl mode increases slightly (most noticeably in the high stiffness
case). The reason for this change will be explored in the next section.

4. Rotating Dynamics Conical Mode

Now that we have explored the cylindrical mode, lets look at the second set of modes.
Fig. 9 shows the next frequencies and mode-shapes for the three machines. The
frequencies are close to the nonrotating modes where the disk was rocking without
translating. The modes look a lot like the nonrotating modes, but again involve circular
motion rather than planar motion. To visualize how the rotor is moving, imagine
holding a rod stationary in the center, and moving it so that the ends trace out two
circles. The rod traces the outline of two bulging cones pointed at the center of the rod.
Thus, this mode is sometimes referred to as a conical mode. Viewed from the side,
the rod appears to be rocking up and down around the center, with the left side being
out-of-phase from that on the right. Thus, this mode is also sometimes called a rock
mode or a pitch mode.
As with the first mode and the nonrotating modes, the low bearing stiffness mode
is generally referred to as a rigid mode, and a high bearing stiffness pulls in the rotor
ends. As with the cylindrical mode, the whirl can be in the same direction as the rotors
spin (forward whirl), or the opposite direction (backward whirl).
To see the effects of changing shaft speeds, we could again perform the
analysis/modal test from non spinning to a high spin speed and follow the two
frequencies associated with the conical mode. Fig. 10 plots the forward (red line) and
backward (black dashed line) natural frequencies over a wide speed range. From this
figure, we can see that the frequencies of the conical modes do change over the speed
range. The backward mode drops in frequency, while the forward mode increases.
The explanation for this surprising behavior is a gyroscopic effect that occurs
whenever the mode shape has an angular (conical/rocking) component. First consider
forward whirl. As shaft speed increases, the gyroscopic effects essentially act like an
increasingly stiff spring on the central disk for the rocking motion. Increasing stiffness
acts to increase the natural frequency. For backward whirl, the effect is reversed.
Increasing rotor spin speed acts to reduce the effective stiffness, thus reducing the
natural frequency (as a side note, the gyroscopic terms are generally written as a skewsymmetric matrix added to the damping matrix the net result, though, is a stiffening/
softening effect). In the case of the cylindrical modes, very little effect of the
gyroscopic terms was noted, since the center disk was whirling without any conical
motion. Without the conical motion, the gyroscopic effects do not appear. Thus, for the
soft bearing case, which has a very cylindrical motion, no effect was observed, while
for the stiff bearing case, which has a bulging cylinder (and thus conical type motion
near the bearings), a slight effect was noted.

A Review of Rootating Macchinery Crittical Speedss and Modess of Vibratioons


Fig. 9: Shaft rotating

at 10
1 rpm,2nd mode Fig
g. 10: Effectt of opperatting speed on
shapes and
a frequenncies in rpm
2nd naatural frequeencies

Fig. 11: Coomparison of

o different disk
properties, center diskk configuration

g. 11: Compparison of ddifferent dissk
properties, overhung

2.3 Exploring Gyroscopic and Masss Effects

w that we have seen how gyroscopic effeccts act to change the rotating natural
freqquency wheenever theree is motion with some conical com
mponent, leets look at two
sets of single disk rotors. In
I each casee, there will be a nominnal rotor, a hheavy disk ro
loonger disk rotor.
The heavy
disk differs
m the nominal in
and a smaller diameter,
thatt a fictitiouss mass equaal to the diskk mass is atttached (i.e., mass incrreases, but mass
ment of ineertia is unchhanged). Thhe smaller, longer dissk is the saame weight,, but
smaaller in diam
meter and greater
in length.
This smaller disk
has redduced the mass
ment of ineertia about the
t spin axxis (polar moment Ipp) by a facttor of 0.53, and
reduuces the mass
momennt of inertiia about th
he disk diam
meter (Id) by a facto
or of
For the firsst case, letss use a symm
metric, centter disk rotoor again. Figg. 12 showss the
threee models, and
a the threee sets of natural
quencies verrsus speed. Comparing
g the
minal modell to the two modified veersions, notee that:
The inccreased masss lowers thhe first mode frequenccies (mass is at a poin
nt of
large whirling
The inccreased masss leaves thee second mo
ode unchanged (increased mass iss at a
point off little whirlling motion)).


Mili J. Hota & D.P. Vakharia

The reduced mass moment of inertia version does not change the first mode
(disk center of gravity has very little conical motion).
The reduced mass moment of inertia increases the frequency of the second
mode, and decreases the strength of the gyroscopic effect (disk center of
gravity has substantial conical motion).
For the second case, lets move the disk to the end, and move the bearing inboard
to result in an overhung rotor with the same mass and overall length. Fig. 14 shows the
three models and the three sets of natural frequencies versus speed. Comparing the
nominal model to the two modified versions, the important things to note are:
The increased mass lowers the first mode frequencies and very slightly lowers the
second mode frequencies.
The reduced mass moment of inertia version increases the frequency of both the
first and second modes, and decreases the strength of the gyroscopic effect.
If we looked at the mode shapes and these plots, we would again see that the
reasons are the same as for the center disk rotor. Changes in affect the natural
frequency of that mode but have little effect if it is at a node. Changes to mass moment
of inertia at a location of large whirl orbit, on the other hand, have little effect.
Changes to mass moment of inertia at a node with large conical motions have a strong
effect on the corresponding mode. Although not entirely obvious from the plots
presented, changes in the ratio of polar mass moment of inertia to diametric mass
moment of inertia change the strength of the gyroscopic effect. Indeed, for a very thin
disk (a large ratio), the forward conical mode increases in speed so rapidly that the
frequency will always be greater than the running speed. Indeed, there will be no
conical critical speed as defined below.
2.4 Critical Speeds
With some insight into rotating machinery modes, we can move on to critical speeds.
The American Petroleum Institute(API), in API publication 684 (First Edition, 1996),
defines critical speeds and resonances as follows:
Critical Speed A shaft rotational speed that corresponds to the peak of a
noncritically damped (amplification factor > 2.5) rotor system resonance
frequency. The frequency location of the critical speed is defined as the
frequency of the peak vibration response as defined by a Bod plot (for
unbalance excitation).
Resonance The manner in which a rotor vibrates when the frequency of a
harmonic (periodic) forcing function coincides with a natural frequency of the
rotor system.
Thus, whenever the rotor speed passes through a speed where a rotor with the
appropriate unbalance distribution excites a corresponding damped natural frequency,
and the output of a properly placed sensor displays a distinct peak in response versus
speed, the machine has passed through a critical speed. Critical speeds could also be
referred to as peak response speeds.

A Review of Rootating Macchinery Crittical Speedss and Modess of Vibratioons


Numericallly, these are

a distinct from critiical speedss as defineed by the API
As a criticaal speed exaample, we will
w use thee medium sttiffness, cennter disk mo
and add an unbbalance distrribution thaat excites thee first three modes. Wee will also add
a a
smaall amount of dampinng at the bearings.
13 shoows the reesulting verrtical
dispplacement reesponse duee to the unbbalance forcces at the leeft bearing aas a functio
on of
speeed. The dam
mped naturaal frequencyy versus speeed plot (Caampbell Diaagram) is drrawn
beloow for referrence.

Fig. 13: Com

mparison bettween naturral Fig. 14:
1 Phase reelationship oof center off
frequenciees and criticcal speeds.
orbit veersus center of mass thrrough critical
3.1 Characteriistics of Un
nbalance Exxcitation
A careful compparison of thhe previouss set of unbalance response plot inn Figures 13
3 for
the center diskk machine, and
a the freqquency resp
ponse plot for
fo the sprinng-mass-dam
struucture in Figg. 3 reveals two
t significcant differen
nces. At low
w frequenciees, the structural
plott shows a reesponse equaal to the staatic responsee, whereas the
t unbalancce response plot
startts out with no responsse. Likewisse, at higheer frequenciies, the struuctural response
decaays, while thhe unbalancce response tends to a constant
valuue at higherr speeds.
These two differences are the ressult of the frequency
of the consstant
ampplitude sinussoidal forcee versus unbbalance exciitation.
The struuctural exciitation was assumed to be a constaant force at all frequen
while unbalance
exxcitation haas a speed-squared. At zero rpm, thhere is no force
from unnbalance exccitation, whhich explain
ns the first diifference nooted.
The seccond differrence thaat the unbaalance respoonse amplitude goes to a
constannt value abovve the criticcal speed has
h a more interesting
We can seee what occuurs by referring to Fig. 14. This Figg. plots the relative ang
relaationship beetween the unbalance
location and
d rotor response as rotor speed paasses
throough a criticcal speed. Below
the critical
speeed, the unbaalance acts to pull the disk
out into an orbbit that grow
ws increasingly large with speed. At the criitical speed, the
rotoor response lags the unbalance by approxiimately 90. Howeveer after passsing


Mili J. Hota & D.P. Vakharia

through the critical speed, the phase between the unbalance force and the response
direction has changed by 180. As a result, the disk now rotates around the mass center
of the disk/unbalance. Once the disk achieves this state, further increases in speed do
not change the amplitude until the effects of the next mode are observed.

5. Conclusions
It was shown that cylindrical rotor modes are not influenced by gyroscopic effects and
remain at a fairly constant frequency versus rotor speed. Conversely, conical rotor
modes are indeed influenced and caused to split into forward and backward whirl
components that respectively increase and decrease in frequency with increased rotor





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