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A Review of Enveloping and Demodulation Techniques

Enveloping/Demodulation is an advanced tool for vibration analysis; and it is used extensively for fault detection in bearings and gearboxes. The technique focuses on the high-frequency zone of the spectrum. Using a high-pass filter (allowing high frequencies, but blocking lower ones), the analyzer focuses on the low-level high-frequency data content. The analyzer essentially tries to pick up some peaks that would otherwise be lost in the noise floor (or at times called the carpet, consisting of extremely small amplitudes across the whole frequency range of the spectrum) of a narrow band spectrum. To understand the concept of enveloping and demodulation, let us consider the example of a defective bearing which has a single spalling (where a piece of metal chipped off) on the track of the outer race. Every time a ball passes through this spall, it would generate an impact; and let us just 'call it a “click” for simplicity. See figure below.

High frequency vibrations

Outer race defect

Acceleration time waveform

As a specific example, let us say in this bearing 8.6 balls pass over this spall defect during every revolution. Then 8.6 clicks per revolution are generated. If the shaft were rotating at 1800 rpm we would see a peak at 15,480 cpm on the FFT display. This peak may be visible in a regular FFT, but generally the low-frequency area in a spectrum is crowded, and it may be difficult to notice the small peak and relate it to the bearing or gearbox defect. For this reason, the enveloping technique is used. Returning to the ball bearing travelling over the spall, we should note that along with 15,480 cpm low-frequency peak, there is something else that is happening. Every “click” of the ball bearing passing over the defect is analogous to someone striking a bell. When someone rings the bell, we hear two kinds of sounds. One is of the striking frequency and the other is the ringing sound of the bell. The ringing sound is the resonance of the bell, which is basically a high-frequency vibration. Now, let us carry this analogy over to the defective ball bearing. Every “click” of the ball passing over the defect is similar to the bell being struck. Just as the bell rings, the bearing resonates in a similar manner, generating high frequency vibrations. The ringing high frequency of the bearing is dependent on the mass and the stiffness of the bearing. Thus, the frequency of 15,480 cpm in the FFT is the same as the striking frequency, and the resonance of bearing components relates to the ringing of the bell. To understand this technique, we need to look at the high-frequency ringing vibrations of the bearing. As the balls pass over the spall defect, the bearing continues to generate the ringing frequency. At the instant of the ball impact on the defect, the vibration amplitude reaches maximum value, after which it begins to die out until the next ball impacts and the amplitude rises again.

Amplitude Modulation This phenomenon of amplitude rising and falling with time is called amplitude modulation in wave terminology. . This is exactly the kind of vibration generated from defective bearings and gears.This process continues endlessly. Thus. It is important that this lowfrequency vibration be impacting in nature to cause amplitude modulation of a high-frequency wave. giving rise to a waveform that looks like the one shown below. it would appear on the FFT chart as an amplitude peak. In this process. These techniques are referred to as Demod. there are several techniques of enveloping/demodulation. and SPM instruments. Spike Energy (gSE). SKF. These are used for analyzing defects in the high-frequency range. the method of enveloping and demodulation is used for analyzing bearings and gears. the ringing of the bearing is removed and the process leaves us with a trace that looks like the wave shown. Entek. by looking at a small bandwidth in the high-frequency region.480 cpm. Spectral Emission Energy (SEE). which happens to be what we called the “click” frequency. with a frequency of 15. CSI. Thus. and the Shock Pulse Method (SPM). including Commtest. High-frequency Information Removal If this enveloped waveform was analyzed. we can trace a low frequency wave. Commercially. and these are available from a number of vendors. The next step is demodulation. PeakVue.

but we are unable to separate and distinguish the two. Our ears hear the combination of both events. how can we use the vb instrument to 'hear' them? Enter the mode “Envelope Demodulation” also known as “High Frequency Enveloping”. But how does it work? . we will pick the example of a bearing that is developing a crack in its outer race. we would normally expect to see a big spike or peak occurring at the same frequency (or rate of occurrence) that each ball passes over that crack. Each time a ball passes over the crack it creates a high-energy burst of vibration. Reviewing the time waveform at the top of the page. The vb instrument will then display a demodulated frequency spectrum that will greatly emphasise these fault frequencies. as it is implemented in the vb instrument family. the FFT correctly tells us that there is not enough occurring at the BPFO frequency to stand out on its own. with each burst lasting for a very short time. we note that repetitive noise bursts are occurring. instead we will commonly see what is referred to as a highfrequency 'haystack'. So. and due to the short duration and low amplitude nature of these impact events. Demodulation As above. Unfortunately we do not. The Demodulation process looks for the repetitive patterns created by impact events that lie embedded within the time waveform. as displayed below. This can be further illustrated by picturing yourself trying to listen to someone tapping on a drinking glass filled with water while at the same time you are standing next to a loud and low-toned gong or church bell. What happens is that the longer and louder vibration event of the gong drowns out the softer and shorter sound coming from the tapping event.Let us first examine the Commtest technique. this is true even though both events are occurring at the same time. Why does the FFT analyzer display a haystack instead of distinct peaks? The reason is that the FFT process looks for repeating sinusoidal (wave-shaped) components at individual frequencies. When the vibration signal is passed through the FFT analyzer to create a frequency-based spectrum.

there will be 1024 digital peak values if there are strong impacts. The illustration below gives an idea of what the FFT analyzer then 'hears' – only the tapping on the water-filled glass: Next we trace an 'envelope' around the bursts in the waveform to identify the impact events as repetitions of the same fault. Each sample is scrutinized and only the amplitude level that exceeds a specified trigger level is assigned a digital value. but there is no rectifier or enveloping done by a low-pass filter. • The FFT algorithm then processes this digital information and the resulting spectrum will only show a fundamental peak and harmonics that have a frequency equal to that of the pulse. one per sample. If there are no defects. if the analyzer is set up to take 1024 samples from the analog signal. there will be no high pulses. there will only be high peak values in the cells or samples where the pulse occurred.The first step is to apply a high-pass filter that removes the large low-frequency component(s). It passes through the analog-to-digital converter. PeakVue The PeakVue method offered by CSI can be briefly described as: • • • A high-pass filter removes low-frequency content in the acceleration signal. thus. The digital time waveform will only have the highest positive values. A pulse from an impact due to a defect bearing or gear has very short time duration and can be periodic. With PeakVue. and only low amplitude noise (from the signal or instrument) may show. The signal now clearly presents the BPFO peaks (and harmonics) as we first hoped for. the signal is extracted from high-frequency data. That is. Other similar technologies are discussed briefly below. . And now this enveloped signal is passed through the FFT process to obtain a frequency spectrum.

A low-pass filter then ensures that only low-frequency components remain. and also determines the duration of the pulse. the resulting spectrum will only show a fundamental peak and harmonics that have the pulse frequency. In this case. which removes most of the vibrations caused by structural vibration. The output signal from a Spike Energy peak-to-peak detector is a saw-tooth-shaped signal. the digital values represent the total energy in each time sample. • • • • Even though the rectified signal has only positive values. The differences here can be summarized as follows: • Spike Energy uses a rectifier. but are still occurring at the same time intervals. The filtered signal (step 1) passes through a peak-to-peak detector. The SEE method differs from normal spectral analysis that only go as high as 20 kHz and of enveloping techniques at 5-60 kHz. The resulting signal then passes through a rectifier. After the analog-to-digital converter digitizes the acceleration signal. During enveloping. the signal is enveloped.gSE (Spike Energy) Spectrum The gSE spectrum is performed as follows: • • A high-pass filter removes the low-frequency content (long time period data) in the acceleration signal. an acoustic emission transducer is used. Spectral emission energy . which has an RC time decay to emphasize the impact events. which not only holds the peak-to-peak amplitude. . The data is then subjected to a peak-to-peak detector that determines how often the pulse is occurring (the fundamental period). This contact generates high frequencies in the region of 250-350 kHz. • In Spike Energy. They are gSE (Spike Energy) values. Thus. perhaps only signal/instrument noise of low amplitude (energy) in each sample. there will be no outstanding pulses. the digitized information is sent through a low-pass filter. It is then 'enveloped' or smoothened electronically and passed through the analog-todigital converter. when digital information is processed using the FFT algorithm. This enveloped signal is analyzed digitally using normal analysis equipment. If there were no defects. the vibration signal is filtered to leave only the high frequencies.SEE A spectral emission energy (SEE) device used by SKF takes high-frequency acoustic measurements and combines them with enveloping techniques to diagnose bearing condition. The decay time constant is directly related to the spectrum maximum frequency (Fmax). not just the peaks. misalignment and other factors. The remaining defect signals are reduced in energy content. but also applies a carefully selected decay time constant. The SEE method monitors bearings by using high-frequency acoustic emission detection using a wideband piezoelectric accelerometer. it is made up of many periods of highfrequency values. The SEE provides detection of metal-to-metal contact when the lubrication film is broken due to a bearing defect or other similar faults. The transducer's contact with the machine should be free of grease or any air gaps that could cause loss of signal strength. To remove the high-frequency content. The resulting waveform is the shell or the envelope of the modulation. • The amplitudes are not true peak acceleration values. High-frequency vibrations are generated each time a defect bearing is rolled over. A signal of 250-350 kHz is filtered and enveloped.

Shock Pulse Method . When the oil film in the bearing is thick. Damage causes strong pulses at irregular intervals. The filter passes a train of transients at 32 kHz. at two levels. Independent studies have shown that these methods all provide the desired results in detecting high frequency impacts imparted by early signs of failure in rolling element bearings and gearboxes. Machine vibration at a much lower frequency is filtered. The transients are converted into analog electronic pulses. Their amplitudes depend on the energy of the shock pulses. It uses vibration signals measured from rotating rolling bearings as the basis for condition monitoring of machines. because it is excited at its natural frequency at 32 kHz. with superimposed transients at the resonance frequency caused by shock pulses. but there are still no distinctive peaks. The converted shock pulse signal from the bearing is finally converted to a rapid sequence of stronger and weaker electrical pulses. On the impact of a roller with a race defect.SPM The Shock Pulse Method is a technique patented by SPM Instruments. Shock pulse meters measure the shock signal on a decibel scale. the shock pulse transducer reacts with a large amplitude oscillation to the weak shock pulses. Concluding Remarks While there are a variety of methods having different names and implementation. is passed to an electronic filter. This technique was invented in the late 1960’s. The analysis comprises of the following stages: • • • • The vibration signal from the machine. they all strip off the normally occurring low-frequency content in an acceleration signal and focus on the high-frequency (ultrasonic) data. . The filtered transducer signal reflects the pressure variation in the rolling interface of the bearing. The level increases when the oil film is reduced. the shock pulse level low and without distinctive peaks.