Attempts have been made in the past to use Coulomb damping for vibration suppression in rotating machinery. Typically, a dry friction damper is designed to operate on a flexible bearing support. These designs have usually been unsuccessful in practice, partly because the Coulomb coefficient changes with temperature, with ingress of dirt or lubricant, and with the surface wear conditions. It is known that purely Coulomb damping forces cannot restrain the peak rotor whirl amplitudes at a critical speed. The invention of a disk type of electroviscous damper, utilizing a fluid with electrorheological (ER) properties, has recently revived the interest in Coulomb type dampers. Several investigations have suggested that a Coulomb friction model was the best representation for an ER damper with voltage applied. This model was used to study the feasibility of developing actively controlled bearing dampers for aircraft engines. This paper analyzes the imbalance response of two different rotordynamic models with Coulomb friction damping and shows the benefit of adding active control. Control laws are derived to achieve minimum rotor vibration amplitudes while avoiding large bearing forces over a speed range that includes a critical speed. The control laws are derived for purely Coulomb type of damping and assuming a combination of Coulomb and viscous damping effects. It is shown that the most important feature of Coulomb damping for minimal rotordynamic amplitude response is the control of rotor support stiffness, i.e. leading to the relocation of critical speeds, rather than control of a damping coefficient.

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