Flexible multistage rotor systems have a variety of engineering applications. Vibration optimization is important to the improvement of performance and reliability for this type of rotor systems. Filling a technical gap in the literature, this paper presents a virtual bearing method for optimal bearing placement that minimizes the vibration amplitude of a flexible rotor system with a minimum number of bearings. In the development, a distributed transfer function formulation is used to define the optimization problem. Solution of the optimization problem by a real-coded genetic algorithm yields the locations and dynamic coefficients of bearings, by which the prescribed operational requirements for the rotor system are satisfied. A numerical example shows that the proposed optimization method is efficient and accurate, and is useful in preliminary design of a new rotor system with the number of bearings unforeknown.

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