Sometimes the best information that you can get about your machining process requires your sense of touch to feel the vibration.

In many shops, the definition of a problem is  “something that is not easily seen.”

Unwanted vibration in our machining processes can cause variation, unsatisfactory surface finish, and dimensional variability. Unwanted vibration is not easily seen.

A friend who plays fingerstyle guitar sent me a link to a video that got me to thinking about the role of vibration, harmonics, and chatter in our shop processes. The genius of the video is that it makes something not easily seen- easily seen!

Don't try this with your iPhone in your machines...
Don’t try this with your iPhone in your machines…

The video is convincing  that the sounds we hear are tied to a wave form on the string.

The sounds that we hear from our machining processes similarly are tied to a ‘harmonic’ or standing wave  vibration in the workpiece or in the tool and machine. Sometimes, this sound  is lost beneath the noise of other processes in the shop.

So when a machine operator complains about variation while machining, I ask him to lay his hands on a safe part of the machine and tell me what he feels.

If it is more like a Rock  Concert than a smooth constant vibration punctuated with noticeable jolts from the indexing, I suggest that rather than looking at material, we look at the machine itself and the rigidity of the tooling as the likely cause of the variation being experienced.

  • Mass in machines is used to attenuate this kind of unwanted vibration.
  • Wear in machines or any kind of looseness can decouple the tool from that mass, promoting vibration, and thus variation.

In the guitar photo and video, the displacement of the string appears to be far greater than we could imagine possible.

And it turns out that it is an illusion created by the sampling rate of the CMOS camera ‘shutter’ in the iPhone Camera.

Regardless, it serves us a great picture of the unseen and reminds us that in noisy shops, feeling a vibration on a machine may tell us more about the process than our control charts or reading of the tools.

Link to YouTube Video