Subharmonic vibration refers to the response of a dynamic system to excitation at a whole-number multiple (n) of its natural frequency by vibrating asynchronously at its natural frequency, that is, at (1/n) of the excitation. The phenomenon is generally associated with asymmetry in the stiffness vs. deflection characteristic of the system. It may be characterized as the “bouncing” of the rotor on the surface of the stiff support, energized by every nth unbalance impulse prior to contact. Second, third and fourth order subharmonic vibration responses have previously been observed in high speed rotating machinery with such an asymmetry in the bearing supports. An incident is reported where 8th and 9th order subharmonic vibration responses have been observed in a high speed rotor. A simple but exact computer model of the phenomenon has been evolved based on the numerical integration of a finite difference formulation. Response curves and wave forms of rotor deflection at individual speeds are computed. It is shown that the response is a series of pseudo-critical peaks at whole-number multiples of the rotational speed. Very high orders of subharmonic vibration are found to be possible for systems with low damping and extreme nonlinearity.

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