Despite the well-established theories and considerable experimental research, the identification of the complex mode shapes of a real machine tool structure with general damping still remains a formidable task. Moreover, the existence of closely coupled modes with heavy damping introduces additional difficulties. This paper presents a detailed procedure for experimental complex modal analysis of a machine tool structure by the Dynamic Data System method. The accuracy and efficiency are first illustrated by numerical examples through simulation studies. It has been shown that closely coupled modes and modes with heavy damping can be successfully identified from both simulated and actual experimental data from a machine tool. Complex mode shapes were also obtained without adding any complexity or losing accuracy as compared to normal mode analysis. The experimental results obtained by the proposed method were compared with those based on the FFT algorithm.

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