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Journal of Sound and Vibration (1996) 192(5), 927939


W. J. W
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, De Montfort University,
Leicester, England

P. D. MF
Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PJ, England

(Received 19 May 1994, and in final form 11 September 1995)

The wavelet transform is used to represent all possible types of transients in vibration
signals generated by faults in a gearbox. It is shown that the transform provides a powerful
tool for condition monitoring and fault diagnosis. The vibration signal from a helicopter
gearbox is used to demonstrate the application of the suggested wavelet by a simple
computer algorithm. The major advantage of the wavelet transform for analyzing the signal
is that it possesses multi-resolutions for localizing short-time components so that all
possible types of gear faults can be displayed by a single timescale distribution resulting
from the transform.
7 1996 Academic Press Limited


To determine the condition of an inaccessible gear in an operating machine, the vibration

signal of the machine can be measured at some convenient location on the casing, together
with a signal which is synchronous with the rotation of a shaft or gear in the machine.
The time domain average of the vibration of an individual gear can then be extracted from
the original vibration signal, representing in the time domain the vibration of that
gear alone over one revolution [1, 2]. Although the time domain average of the vibration
of a gear contains all the information describing the gear condition, clear symptoms of
any damage may not be directly visible in the time domain average, particularly in the
early stages. Further processing of the time domain average may be necessary to detect
and diagnose the first signs of gear damage, and a wide variety of different techniques
have been explored over the years. Most techniques have sought to represent the gear
vibration signal in either the time domain or the frequency domain, with each approach
having its advantages and disadvantages. However, a more recent trend has been toward
representation in the timefrequency or timescale domain, seeking to combine the
advantages of both approaches.
A timefrequency distribution describes simultaneously when a signal component occurs
and how its frequency spectrum develops with time [35]. One important timefrequency
representation, the windowed Fourier transform, gives a constant resolution in the time
and frequency domains because the window width in the time domain is fixed. Reducing
0022460X/96/200927 + 13 $18.00/0 7 1996 Academic Press Limited
928 . . . .
the window width will increase the time resolution, but will reduce the frequency
resolution, because under the uncertainty principle, a higher time and frequency resolution
cannot be achieved simultaneously [5]. This may not be a problem when only one
resolution is required to display the components of interest. However, if resolutions are
required to be different to suit a variety of signal components of different duration, for
example in fault diagnosis where suitable resolutions may be not known in advance, this
fixed-window timefrequency distribution does not meet the requirement of displaying all
possible sizes of components.
Thus the windowed Fourier transform is really only suited to the analysis of signals
where all of the patterns appear at approximately the same size [6]. In the timefrequency
representation, the fixed resolution represents only one of all the possible sizes. The
features of other sizes in the signal cannot be expressed with reasonably high resolutions.
For example, in the existing timefrequency representation known as the Gabor
spectrogram [5, 7], the recommended width of the window for the detection of gear tooth
damage is related to the meshing period of one tooth. This fixed width may enable
representation of certain sizes of local damage on a tooth, but may not be suitable for other
faults, such as the long duration of distributed faults, or the very short duration of early
The recently developed wavelet transform uses a changing width function so that not
one but a series of resolutions can be achieved in a single timescale display. Unlike
the Fourier transform, in which a signal is decomposed on to a sinusoid function basis,
the wavelet transform uses a more general function as the basis. This produces, on the
one hand, more comprehensive transform results but, on the other hand, a variety of
possible explanations. The selection of a wavelet basis thus becomes a major issue in
the application of the wavelet transform. With the rapid theoretical progress being
made in the wavelet transform over the past ten years, its applications have rapidly
penetrated areas of one-dimensional and two-dimensional signal analysis in many fields
of science and engineering. It is suggested here that if the property of the timescale
localization of the wavelet transform is applied to the analysis of local phenomena
in vibration signals, such as the short-time variations caused by faults, it may be
possible to give time and scale information for all of the possible sizes of features so
as to find the faults and assess their nature from a single three-dimensional
representation [8, 9].
The vibration signal picked up from an operating machine has long been used to
diagnose the condition of an inaccessible moving component inside the machine. Of
course, this vibration is assumed to be associated with the component, and normally
the component is one of the vibration generators. Therefore, any damage, such as a
fatigue crack, will cause a relatively short-time transient in the vibration. In the early
stages, this change is small, so that a high detection sensitivity is required. In gear fault
diagnosis, although the information about the gear condition can be conveyed by the
vibration signal transmitted through the gearbox casing, and the time domain average
[1, 2] produces a high signal-to-noise ratio for the gear in question, clear symptoms may
not be directly observed from the average and more information about its nature is
very hard to determine directly from the averaged time history. Timefrequency
distributions have already been applied to detect faults, and have been proved very
useful [5]. However, in more general cases, many faults with different durations are
possible in a mechanical component. Faults in a gear, such as wear and spalling, may
occur with many different sizes. Since the wavelet transform [6] uses a series of sizes
of windows to compare with all sections of the signal, it is therefore possible to display
them all simultaneously.
To overcome the limitation of the fixed resolution of the windowed Fourier transform
in the time and frequency domains, Grossmann and Morlet [10] decomposed the signal
x(t) into a family of functions which are the translation and dilation of a unique-valued
function c(t), to give the wavelet transform which is defined by


WTx (t, s) = x(t)zsc(s(t t)) dt, (1)


where s is a scaling factor which produces dilation, t is the time or some other
spatial co-ordinate, and c(t) is called a wavelet. The corresponding wavelet family is
generated by translation of the wavelet in the time domain and dilation in the scale domain,
given by

(zsc(s(t t)))(t,s) $ R2 , (2)

where R denotes the set of real numbers. Any function in L2(R), the vector space of
measurable square integrable one-dimensional functions x(t), can be characterized by its
decomposition of the wavelet family of equation (2). A wavelet transform can be
interpreted as a decomposition of a signal into a set of frequency channels.
A process of dilation in a wavelet family is illustrated in Figure 1. As the scaling factor
increases, from bottom to top, the width of the wavelet envelope decreases. In Figure 2
are shown, from left to right, the corresponding Fourier spectra for the wavelet family.
As the scaling factor increases, both the centre frequency and the width of the frequency
band increase. By using all of the scales, the full frequency range can be covered, from
a low frequency to the required cut-off frequency.

Figure 1. Wavelets in the time domain. (a) Real part; (b) imaginary part.
930 . . . .

Figure 2. Wavelets in the frequency domain; spectra at different scales.

The reconstruction of the signal x(t) from the wavelet transform is

g g
a a
x(t) = WTx (t, s)zsc(s(t t)) ds dt, (3)
Cc a 0


=C( f )=2
Cc = df (4)

and C( f ) is the Fourier transform of c(t). In order to reconstruct x(t), Cc must satisfy
Cc Q +a. (5)
An important particular case of the discrete wavelet transform is that some wavelets c(t)
exist such that the family
z2 jc(2 j(t 2jn))( j,n) $ Z2 , (6)
where Z denotes the set of integers, is an orthonormal basis of L (R) [8, 11, 12]. The
orthonormal wavelet transform is defined as


WTx (n, j) = x(t)z2 jc(2 j(t 2jn)) dt. (7)


For orthogonal wavelets, the reconstruction of signal x(t) is then

x(t) = s s WTx (n, j)z2 jc(2 j (t 2jn)). (8)

j$Z n$Z

Orthogonal wavelets, such as the well-known Daubechies wavelet series, offer faster
algorithms and no redundancy in the decomposition [8, 12]. The original signal can be
reconstructed by a minimum number of wavelet terms. That is, the original signal is
decomposed into a compact wavelet series, which is advantageous in signal reconstruction.
However, due to its special shape and limited number of scales, a single wavelet amplitude
map has not enough scales to describe all the details, both large and small, of the
signal. Since N = 2M samples normally provide M + 1 different widths of wavelets, all
scales of transients in the analyzed signal will be scaled only into the nearest size of wavelet.
In gear damage detection, a small change in the vibration signal may miss the chance
of matching the wavelet of the same size during the translation and dilation, as the
locations of the orthogonal wavelets are limited, and there is no intermediate scale and
location provided, so that no wavelet matches well the features of the signal. Another
problem of using the orthogonal wavelets is the time translation variant. That is, the
same transients at different time may be shown as different patterns. Therefore, using
the non-orthogonal wavelet transform is preferred for the timescale representation of
short-time features, avoiding the mentioned problems.
The wavelet transform means that the function x(t) is characterized by its decomposition
of a wavelet family with a series of different frequency bandwidths. This can be
explained by working out the bandwidth of the wavelet family. The Fourier transform
of the wavelet family zsc(st) is

Cs ( f ) = (1/zs)C( f/s). (9)

Let f0 be the centre of the passband of C( f ). Then


( f f0 )=C( f )=2 df = 0,

so that

g >g
a a

f0 = f =C( f )=2 df =C( f )=2 df. (10)

0 0

For the wavelet family, one finds, by substituting equation (9) into (10), that the centre
frequency of the passband is

g >g
a a

f =Cs ( f )=2 df =Cs ( f )=2 df = sf0 . (11)

0 0

The root mean square bandwidth of the wavelet around f0 is given by sf , where


sf2 = ( f f0 )2 =C( f )=2 df. (12)


With C( f ) replaced by Cs ( f ) and f0 by sf0 in the above equation, the root mean square
bandwidth is seen to be ssf . That is, the bandwidth of the wavelet is proportional to the
scaling factor s. Thus the wavelet transform produces a series of frequency channels with
increasing bandwidth as the scale s changes.

Early damage to a gear tooth usually causes a variation in the associated vibration signal
over a short time, initially less than one tooth meshing period, taking the form of
modulated or unmodulated oscillation. In later stages, the duration of the abnormal
variation becomes longer, lasting more than one tooth meshing period. Other distributed
faults, such as eccentricity and wear, may cover the most part of the whole revolution of
the gear.
932 . . . .
To suit these features, the wavelet c(t) can be chosen to be a Gaussian-enveloped
oscillation, given by
c(t) = c exp(s 2t 2 i2pf0 t), (13)
where c, s and f0 are positive parameters, s determines the width of the wavelet and
hence the width of the frequency band, and f0 is the frequency of oscillation which is the
centre frequency of the band. The parameter c can usually be unity. It is to be expected that
by changing the scaling factor in its corresponding wavelet family, this function will be
suitable for the modelling of all sizes of oscillating transients in a gear vibration signal.
The Fourier transform of c(t) is given by
C( f ) = (czp/s) exp((p/s)2( f + f0 )2 ). (14)
It can be seen that the frequency of oscillation f0 appears at the centre of the frequency
band of the wavelet. From the definition of equation (1), the wavelet transform is


WTx (t, s) = x(t)czs exp(s 2s 2(t t)2 i2pf0 s(t t)) dt. (15)

For transients, the wavelet c(t) can also be chosen from other functions, such as a
symmetrical Gaussian-enveloped oscillating function, given by
c(t) = c exp(s 2t 2 ) cos (2pf0 t) (16)
with a Fourier transform of

C( f ) = (czp/s)[exp((p/s)2( f + f0 )2 ) + exp((p/s)2( f f0 )2 )]. (17)

The wavelet family czs exp(s 2s 2(t t)2 i2pf0 s(t t)) is illustrated in Figure 1,
which models the oscillating transients with all oscillating frequencies as the scale changes.
At the same time, the width of the wavelet is reduced as the scale becomes larger.
The Fourier spectra for all scales of wavelets are shown in Figure 2.
When a signal is decomposed on to one of these wavelet bases, large values will be
obtained if there is a transient with the same shape as the wavelet. The wavelet family of
equation (13) is well suited to the detection of the transients in the signal, such as the
transients caused in a vibration signal by a cracked gear tooth.

For gear damage diagnosis, the function x(t) can be either the time domain average of
the vibration of a gear or the corresponding analytic function, both of which are periodic
with the gear rotation. The selected wavelet of equation (16) satisfies c(t) = c
 (t), so that,
by using the convolution theorem, equation (15) can be written as
WTx (t, s) = (1/zs)F1 (X( f ) C
 ( f/s)), (18)
where F represents the Fourier transform, and C
 ( f ) represents F(c
 (t)). For the Gaussian
enveloped oscillating wavelet in equation (13), the wavelet transform can be written as
WTx (t, s) = (c/zss)F1 (X( f ) exp((p/s)2(( f/s) f0 )2 )). (19)
Thus the calculation of the wavelet transform can be implemented by an inverse Fourier
transform, taking advantage of the efficient fast Fourier transform (FFT) algorithm.
The Fourier transform of the wavelet family can be written as
(c/zss) exp((p/ss)2( f sf0 )2 ), (20)
which implies that the centre frequency of the wavelet is sf0 , proportional to s. Since the
half-power bandwidths in the time and frequency domains are tB = 118/s and fB = 0375s
respectively, then at scaling factor s, they are therefore 118/ss and 0375ss respectively.
The narrower the wavelet is in the time domain, the wider it is in the frequency domain.
This increases the frequency overlap between the wavelets of adjacent high scales, which
brings about redundancy.
Consider a new discrete scaling factor
s = 2kl, k = 0, 1, 2, . . . , M 1, (21)
where M is an integer. For N samples of signal, M can be defined by 2 = N. The centre
frequency and half-power bandwidth of the kth wavelet become
f0 (k) = 2klf0 , fB (k) = 0375 2kls. (22, 23)
If the cut-off frequency is fC , the analysis frequency range then will be [( f0 0187s), fC ].
At the scaling factor k = M 1, the cut-off frequency is
fC = 2(M 1)lf0 + 0187 2(M 1)ls. (24)
Let adjacent frequency bands overlap at half-power points, so that
2klf0 + 0187 2kls = 2(k + 1)lf0 0187 2(k + 1)ls, k = 0, 1, 2, . . . , M 1,
which can be simplified to
f0 + 0187s = 2lf0 0187 2ls. (25)
In Figure 3, the top and bottom curves show upper and lower frequencies, and the middle
curve is the centre frequency.
From equation (25)
f0 = 0187{(2l + 1)/(2l 1)}s. (26)

Figure 3. Frequency bands of wavelets at different scaling factors.

934 . . . .
From equations (22), (23) and (26), the lower and upper frequencies of each band or
channel are, respectively,
2kl 2(k + 1)l
fL (k) = f0 (k) 12 fB (k) = 0375 l s, fU (k) = f0 (k) + 12 fB (k) = 0375 s.
2 1 2l 1
Therefore the scaling factor s = 2kl brings about l (for example 12 or 13 ) octave frequency
bands, so that
fU (k) = 2lfL (k). (27)
For a given cut-off frequency, there are four parameters, f0 , s, l and M, to be adjusted.
Two independent equations, (24) and (25), can be used to determine two parameters
given the values of the others. In total, there are 4 3/(2 1) = 6 combinations of
situation, but probably only two of these are likely. Firstly, M and l can be set to find
f0 and s. By considering equations (24) and (26), f0 and s can be found as
f0 = {(2l + 1)/2Ml + 1}fC , s = 535{(2l 1)/2Ml + 1}fc . (28, 29)
Secondly, l and f0 can be set to find s and M. Parameters f0 and s can be found as

0 1
(2l 1) 144 f 2l + 1
s = 535 f, M= ln C l + 1 + 1. (30, 31)
(2l + 1) 0 l f0 2

Upon assuming that N samples exactly cover one period of the signal, the corresponding
discrete form of equation (18) is given by the circular convolution
WTx (n, k) =  (2klr) exp(2pirn/N),
s X(r)C
z2 kl

n = 0, 1, 2, . . . , N 1; k = 0, 1, 2, . . . , M 1, (32)
where X(r) and C  (2klr) take the discrete values of the Fourier transforms of x(t) and
c(t) respectively. A typical timescale distribution of the wavelet transform will require
M FFTs of N samples. Usually, M is small, and therefore a complete map of the wavelet
transform can be completed quickly. For the calculation of the discrete form of the FFT,
aliasing-free conditions must be satisfied for a given cut-off frequency.
Equation (32) can be implemented easily on a personal computer by a short program,
in which a standard FFT algorithm can be called. The resulting distribution can be
displayed in contour form as a two-dimensional chart with a typical size of 1024 10
pixels, representing the rotation angle of the gear and wavelet transforms with different
scaling factors s.

The time domain averages described in this section were obtained from a helicopter main
rotor gearbox undergoing a fatigue test in a full-scale back-to-back gearbox test facility
[13]. During sustained testing at very high load, a fatigue crack began at the root of one
tooth in the input spiral bevel pinion and subsequently propagated along the length of
the tooth.
In Figure 4, the top left curve shows the time domain average of the vibration of the
gear obtained before the fatigue crack began to propagate. The gear has 22 teeth, but in
the time domain average the fourth harmonic at 88 orders is dominant, either due to a

Figure 4. Time domain averages and residuals for helicopter gear.

high frequency response in the vibration propagation path, or else the particular gear tooth
geometry. By removing the fundamental and harmonics of the tooth meshing frequency,
the residual signal shown in the bottom left of Figure 4 is obtained, representing the
difference between the actual vibration signal and that caused by a hypothetical average
tooth [14]. At this stage, there is no indication of tooth damage.
Figure 5 is the timescale distribution of the wavelet transform for the residual signal,
based upon the Gaussian-enveloped oscillation wavelet family. Absolute values of the

Figure 5. Timescale distribution of residual for undamaged gear (1/2 octave passband).
936 . . . . c

Figure 6. Timescale distribution of residual for damaged gear (1/2 octave passband).

wavelet transform are presented. Due to the variations between the teeth caused by normal
manufacturing errors, extensive patterns appear at all scales. All sizes of variation in the
signal are fully displayed. There is no dominant peak in the distribution, showing that there
is no damage. At the low scale of 2, three large hills spaced at intervals of one third
of a revolution are apparent. The cause of these peaks is not certain, but they
could originate from a coupling external to the gearbox. Small sizes of variation can be
found in the higher scale area. However, the pattern is relatively uniform and at a low
level, confirming that the gear is in good condition. At low values of s, at which large sizes
of variations in the signal should be apparent, the distribution is also relatively uniform
through the whole rotation of the gear.
The top right curve of Figure 4 shows the time domain average for the vibration of the
same gear obtained shortly after the fatigue crack had started to propagate. Note that there
is still no indication of damage which can be observed as the time domain average is
dominated by the strong vibration at the harmonics of the tooth meshing frequency. After
removal of the fundamental and harmonics, the residual signal of the bottom right of
Figure 4 shows a large burst of vibration around sample 750, near 270 degrees of rotation,
caused by the fatigue crack, followed by a smaller burst slightly later at sample 950, about
345 degrees.
Figure 6 represents the timescale distributions of the residual signal obtained for
the wavelet transform. In the distribution, when using absolute values, clear peaks near
sample 750 show details of the components. At low scales, no significant changes appear.
In Figure 7 is shown the distribution when using 20 scales, which gives finer details along
the scale co-ordinate, which may sometimes be necessary but at the cost of increased
computing time.

Figure 7. Timescale distribution of residual for damaged gear (1/8 octave passband).

There are strong similarities between the timescale distributions shown in Figures 57
and the timefrequency distribution of the Gabor spectrogram [5, 7], but for the important
difference that in the wavelet transform the resolution becomes higher as the scale s
becomes larger. Low resolution is used at low scales to show large sizes of faults and high
resolution is used at high scales to display small sizes of faults. The examples given
demonstrate that the timescale distribution of the wavelet transform can successfully
represent, in a single display, both small and large sizes of variations in the vibration of
a gear, such as the small variation from one tooth to the next due to normal manufacturing
errors, or the large scale changes due to tooth damage, eccentricity or other faults. This
may be contrasted with the timefrequency distribution, in which the width of the window
remains constant across the distribution, so that a selected width may only be suitable for
one particular type of fault under study.
Some progress has already been made toward automated interpretation of
timefrequency distributions [15]. The timescale distribution may need to be inspected
and interpreted by a sophisticated system since, firstly, each scale value corresponds to a
bandpass filter with pre-defined boundaries and a centre frequency and, secondly, a
different wavelet family gives a completely different distribution in the timescale domain.
The choice of types can be varied, depending on the objective of the signal processing.
The features to be identified in the timescale distribution are different from those in the
timefrequency distribution, and new rules to suit a particular timescale distribution need
to be worked out for automatic interpretation.
The basis of selecting the wavelet family to perform the transform is to find a
function to compare the local components of interest. Therefore, the transform gives a
high level if at a certain scale and time there is a similarity between the wavelet and the
analyzed signal, otherwise it gives a low level. The change of scale can be linear or octave,
938 . . . .
and the number of scales can also be chosen according to the requirement of frequency

This paper has outlined the definition of the wavelet transform and then demonstrated
how it can be applied to the analysis of the vibration signals produced by a gear in
a helicopter gearbox in order to represent gear condition and detect faults. It has
been shown that the timescale distribution of the wavelet transform can be employed to
analyze the local features of vibration signals. Unlike the timefrequency distribution,
which incorporates a constant time and frequency resolution, the wavelet transform can
display simultaneously both the large and small sizes in a signal, enabling the detection
of both distributed and local faults. From the possible choices of wavelets, it is suggested
that the Gaussian-enveloped oscillating wavelet is well-suited to detecting various sizes
of gear faults. By adopting a series of different scales and shifting along the time axis
via all locations, the wavelet can be arranged to compare all sections of the analyzed
signal so that all faults, large size and small size, can be represented in a single display.
In the implementation, effective wavelet bandwidths and speed of dilation have been
recommended, to ensure that the number of scales just covers the frequency band of
interest and that redundancy of computation is minimized.

The authors wish to thank the Mechanical Research Division of Westland Helicopters
Limited for supplying the Wessex gearbox data.

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