This paper aims at providing a comparative survey of current analysis methods for the interpretation of vibration data measured at turbomachinery rotor blade tips using optical laser probes. The methods are classified by the form of the vibration that they attempt to identify, namely, asynchronous and synchronous with respect to rotor speed. The performance of the various techniques is investigated by using both actual assembly measurements and simulated response data. In the latter case, synchronous vibration data are obtained via a multidegree-of-freedom numerical simulator that includes the structural and geometric properties of the bladed-disk assembly, the external forcing terms, and the characteristics of the optical probe. When using experimental data, the results of the tip timing analysis are compared to those obtained from standard strain-gauge tests and the relative merits of the two approaches are discussed with emphasis on the effects of blade mistuning. Existing industry standard, tip-timing analysis techniques are found to exhibit a number of inherent limitations and suggestions were made to address these deficiencies. A detailed tip-timing case study for a steam turbine rotor is presented in some detail, and other potential application areas are explored. Of particular note is the introduction of a new indirect analysis method for identifying the characteristics of synchronous vibration modes using measurements from two probes. Finally, new avenues for future analysis methods and further developments in tip-timing systems are also discussed.

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