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Most common causes of machine vibration

Vibration can result from a number of conditions, acting alone or in combination. Keep in mind that vibration problems might be caused by auxiliary equipment, not just the primary equipment.

Imbalance - A “heavy spot” in a rotating component will cause vibration when the unbalanced weight rotates around the machine’s axis, creating a centrifugal force. Imbalance could be caused by manufacturing defects (machining errors, casting flaws) or maintenance issues (deformed or dirty fan blades, missing balance weights). As machine speed increases the effects of imbalance become greater. Imbalance can severely reduce bearing life as well as cause undue machine vibration.

Misalignment/shaft runout - Vibration can result when machine shafts are out of line. Angular misalignment occurs when the axes of (for example) a motor and pump are not parallel. When the axes are parallel but not exactly aligned, the condition is known as parallel misalignment. Misalignment can be caused during assembly or develop over time, due to thermal expansion, components shifting or improper reassembly after maintenance. The resulting vibration can be radial or axial (in line with the axis of the machine) or both.

Wear - As components such as ball or roller bearings, drive belts or gears become worn, they might cause vibration. When a roller bearing race becomes pitted, for instance, the bearing rollers will cause a vibration each time they travel over the damaged area. A gear tooth that is heavily chipped or worn, or a drive belt that is breaking down, can also produce vibration.

Looseness - Vibration that might otherwise go unnoticed can become obvious and destructive if the component that is vibrating has loose bearings or is loosely attached to its mounts. Such looseness might or might not be caused by the underlying vibration. Whatever its cause, looseness can allow any vibration present to cause damage, such as further bearing wear, wear and fatigue in equipment mounts and other components.