In a wind-turbine gearbox, planet bearings exhibit a high failure rate and are considered as one of the most critical components. Development of efficient vibration based fault detection methods for these bearings requires a thorough understanding of their vibration signature. Much work has been done to study the vibration properties of healthy planetary gear sets and to identify fault frequencies in fixed-axis bearings. However, vibration characteristics of planetary gear sets containing localized planet bearing defects (spalls or pits) have not been studied so far. In this paper, we propose a novel analytical model of a planetary gear set with ring gear flexibility and localized bearing defects as two key features. The model is used to simulate the vibration response of a planetary system in the presence of a defective planet bearing with faults on inner or outer raceway. The characteristic fault signature of a planetary bearing defect is determined and sources of modulation sidebands are identified. The findings from this work will be useful to improve existing sensor placement strategies and to develop more sophisticated fault detection algorithms.

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