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What is a Vibrometer?
A vibrometer is an instrument that measures vibration by firing a laser at a surface.
Vibrometers work by recording the frequency difference between a standard reference laser and the beam fired at the surface being tested. A vibrometer captures the Doppler shift of the test beam, from which the amplitude and frequency of the vibration are derived, thanks to the motion of the surface. For this reason, vibrometers are also referred to as laser doppler vibrometers. By measuring the internal reference beam’s frequency and comparing it to that of the test beam, a laser vibrometer discerns the frequency difference, translates that into electrical impulses, and displays it for the user.
Laser vibrometry is an ideal test method: non-contact, non-destructive, and high precision. Traditional vibration measurement methods, like accelerometers, require contact with the surface under test, while a laser doppler vibrometer can take measurements from a distance and reach difficult-to-access surfaces. Vibrometers also offer the distinct testing advantages of wide frequency ranges, high sensitivity, high resolution, and a broad range of stand-off and working distances.
What is a Vibrometer Used For?
Laser doppler vibrometers provide spectral data to vibration analyzers and are instrumental in determining the failure modes of large structures. A vibrometer may be preferred in areas where the test unit is lightweight and the accelerometer from a vibration analyzer adds mass that influences the results of the test. Laser vibrometers are ideal tools for measuring vibration characteristics and obtaining spectral data in applications like machinery maintenance, building construction, product quality, production, or haptic analysis. Laser vibrometry has a variety of other uses as well, from deciphering elephant speech to verifying the performance of aircraft wings. The following are common applications for laser vibration measurement:
- Aerospace & defense testing
- Acoustic testing
- Biological measurements
- Building/bridge vibration tests
- Component testing
- Quality testing
Types of Laser Doppler Vibrometers
The following are the standard types of vibrometers:
- Single-Point Vibrometer
- A single-point vibrometer fires a laser in a single direction and measures a single spot. Single-point vibrometry is a simple and fast way to measure velocity, displacement, and acceleration on a surface.
- Fiber-Optic Vibrometers
- A fiber-optic laser doppler vibrometer works by shooting its laser through a fiber-optic path, rather than the direct path a single-point laser vibrometer follows. The flexibility of a fiber path makes these vibrometers ideal for measuring surfaces generally inaccessible due to distance or a dense, obstructed test environment.
- Scanning Vibrometers
- Scanning laser vibrometers scan surfaces rather than individual points by firing the laser beam at a mirror and measuring numerous points at once. This holistic view of a surface’s vibration profile gives the user insight into vibration modes, discovering the propagation properties of waves, and more.
Choosing the Right Laser Vibrometer
Look for the following features when choosing a vibrometer:
- Digital signal processing: Vibrometers with digital signal processing bring enhanced performance and precision to your test.
- User experience: Modern vibrometers offer a comprehensive suite of test capabilities in a compact, lightweight, affordable frame. Many contemporary models also offer intuitive operation options in which testers new to vibration measurement can successfully obtain reliable data without hours of learning or trial and error.
- Modularity: Laser doppler vibrometers that are compatible with modules designed to measure velocity, acceleration, and displacement, and pair with varying optical configurations and software options, give users the freedom to build a test system ideal for their application.