Reliable Shock Pulse Evaluation of Anti-Friction Bearing Condition

June 23, 2011

June 2011 • PUMPS & SYSTEMS

Ensure proper bearing assessment and maintenance with this proven method

Of the methods used to assess the operating condition of rolling element bearings, one of the most successful and popular techniques is that of Shock Pulse evaluation. Shock Pulses are a special type of vibration that can be clearly distinguished from ordinary machine vibrations:

• The actual Shock Pulse is the pressure wave generated at the moment when one metallic object strikes another.

• The bulk of the impact momentum, however, acts to deform the target object, which then oscillates at its natural frequency. This vibration ultimately dissipates primarily as heat due to internal friction material damping.

Shock Pulses in Bearings

Shock Pulses occur during bearing operation when a rolling element passes over an irregularity in the surface of the bearing race. Of course, there is no such thing as a perfectly smooth surface in real life. Therefore, even new bearings emit a signal of weak Shock Pulses in rapid succession. This Carpet Value rises when the lubrication film between rolling elements and their races becomes depleted.

A defect on the surface of a rolling element or bearing race produces a strong Shock Pulse reaction with up to 1,000 times the intensity of the Carpet Value. These clusters of high amplitude peaks or Maximum Value stand out clearly from the background noise and are ideal indicators of bearing damage.


Shock Pulses propagate within a much higher frequency range than that of ordinary machine vibration, and their energy content is relatively low.

Therefore, the accelerometer used for Shock Pulse measurement is tuned with a 36 kHz resonance frequency that lies precisely within the Shock Pulse frequency range. In addition, a 36 kHz band pass filter is applied to the accelerometer signal to help filter out lower frequency mechanical vibration. When Shock Pulse is present the tuned accelerometer resonance is excited and amplifies the Shock Pulse signal resulting in an excellent indication of bearing lubrication and damage.

Shock Pulse is responsive even when far more energetic machine vibration is present. Therefore, lower frequency mechanical conditions such as unbalance, shaft misalignment or vibration from adjacent machines have little effect on Shock Pulse. In addition, high-frequency signals tend to dissipate rapidly so very little interference is encountered from adjacent bearings.

Read article Reliable Shock Pulse Evaluation of Anti-Friction Bearing Condition

Learn about our VIBXPERT II Portable Vibration Analyzer —with Full Color Display, Fast Data Acquisition and Powerful Vibration Diagnostic Tools. VIBXPERT uses the Shock Pulse method to detect lubrication condition and bearing damage.

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