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A Practical Fft Spectrum Analysis Laboratory For Undergraduate Instrumentation Or Vibration Courses

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Instrumentation and Control Applications

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.87.1 - 7.87.7



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Paper Authors

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Alvin Post

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Main Menu Session 2159

An FFT Spectrum Analysis Laboratory for Undergraduate Vibration or Instrumentation Courses

Alvin Post

Department of Manufacturing and Aerospace Engineering Technology Arizona State University-East


A complete spectrum analysis laboratory experiment is described. It is intended for mechanically oriented, introductory instrumentation classes, and requires students to diagnose mechanical problems in a machine with rotating components. Equipment requirements are modest. The experiment has been conducted with a sophomore-level class, and practical observations that may increase its educational value are included.


Many undergraduate measurements or instrumentation classes include a section on the frequency domain and Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) spectrum analysis. This paper describes a practically oriented FFT laboratory that can be carried out with commonly available equipment and software. Students gather data from a rotating machine such as a lathe in a single laboratory session, generate an amplitude spectrum as 'homework', and then use it to identify problems in the machine. The intent is to instill a practical understanding of the frequency domain, via exposure to spectrum analysis.

The experiment has been carried out twice by the author in the course "AET 210, Measurements and Testing", offered by the Department of Manufacturing and Aeronautical Engineering Technology (MAET) at Arizona State University – East (ASU-East). All students successfully completed it with only occasional 'coaching', and subsequent informal polling showed the majority were enthusiastic about this lab. The written lab procedure is available online1, and can illuminate the discussion to follow. The 15-page procedure includes detailed instructions for data reduction, sufficient for students with only a basic knowledge of spreadsheet use. It has been revised based on experience with the students, and contains some explanatory material in addition to the necessary procedural steps.

This lab should follow classroom lectures explaining sine waves, Fourier series, the frequency domain, digital data acquisition, and at least a brief introduction to the uses, concepts, and practicalities of spectrum analysis. Many introductory textbooks for measurements or

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Post, A. (2002, June), A Practical Fft Spectrum Analysis Laboratory For Undergraduate Instrumentation Or Vibration Courses Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11293

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