The paper describes current research into mathematical modelling of a novel vibro-impact ground moling system. Experimental and theoretical studies suggest periodic responses are required to achieve the optimal penetrating conditions for the ground moling process, as this results in reduced soil penetration resistance. Therefore, there is a practical need for a robust and efficient methodology to calculate periodic responses for a wide range of operational parameters. Due to the structural complexity of a real vibro-impact moling system, the dynamic response of an idealised impact oscillator has been investigated in the first instance. This paper presents a detailed study of periodic responses of the impact oscillator under harmonic forcing using alternating frequency-time harmonic balance method. Recommendations of how to effectively adapt the alternating frequency-time harmonic balance method for a stiff impacting system are given. The periodic motion is represented algebraically by a truncated Fourier series and the systematic methodology employed allows for convergence. The idea central to this procedure is that the linear oscillator is explicitly solvable analytically, and this allows for the initial set of Fourier coefficients. The clearance value is then adjusted so that contact with the secondary stiffness is slight and the nonlinearity is weak. The solution to this subsequent system is obtainable as the initial guess is close to the required solution.

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