Capacitance tip timing techniques in gas turbines
The vibration of turbomachinery blades is an important phenomenon to understand, observe and predict and is the reason for developing a tip timing measurement system. Vibration leads to High Cycle Fatigue (HCF), which limits blade durability and life. HCF can result in blade failure, having expensive consequences for the engine involved. The traditional method for monitoring blade vibration under test conditions is to use blade mounted strain gauges. However, strain gauges are costly and time consuming to install. They have a limited operating life as they are subjected to the harsh on-engine conditions. Only a limited number of blades can be monitored with strain gauges as the number that can be used is limited by the number of channels in the slip ring or telemetry. They can also interfere with the assembly aerodynamics. Consequently non-intrusive alternative techniques such as tip timing are sought. Capacitance probe based clearance measurement systems see widespread use in turbomachinery applications to establish rotor blade tip clearance. This thesis reports investigations into an alternative and additional use in aero-engine rotor blade tip timing measurement for these commercially available systems. Tip clearance is of great importance in the gas turbine industry; this is clear from the fact that gas turbine efficiency has an inverse relationship with tip clearance. Large tip clearance leads to large leakage flows, hence low efficiency, thus the common use of the capacitance probe clearance measurement technique in monitoring turbomachinery. Optical systems have been successfully used to measure rotor blade tip timing on test rigs with several optical probes mounted equally spaced around the turbomachine casing. However, there are practical problems associated with mounting such monitoring systems on in-service jet engines. Optical probes require high maintenance to keep the lenses clean, probably incorporating a purge air system to keep the lenses from fouling. Such impracticalities and added weight make it unlikely that an optical probe based tip timing system will be fitted on an in-service engine in the foreseeable future. In this thesis the scope for a dual use sensor to measure both turbomachinery tip clearance and tip timing is investigated. Since it is impractical to measure blade tip clearance with an optical probe, then the obvious choice for such a sensor is a capacitance probe. Therefore, a commercially available FM capacitance probe based blade tip clearance measurement system is used in a series of tip timing practical investigations. The equipment and instrumentation designed, assembled and produced to facilitate this investigation is documented. These include the development of an optical once per revolution sensor and the design of an independent vibration measurement system based on blade mounted strain gauges. Through an extensive body of experimental work the practicalities in this alternate use of the tip clearance measurement equipment have been assessed. System responses pertaining to tip timing measurement have been investigated, characterised and quantified. The accuracy by which tip timing can be measured using the system has been reported through the findings of an experimental programme carried out on a full-sized, low-speed compressor. Specifically, dual capacitance probe tip timing derived vibration amplitudes have been compared to those derived from blade mounted strain gauge signals. Sources of error have been identified and quantified. Amplitudes were found to agree within the calculated error bands. Instantaneous resonant blade vibrations measured through single capacitance probe tip timing have been correlated with strain gauge derived vibration levels. This has also been done as the rotor traverses blade resonant speed. In this case the vibration phase change across resonance expected from theory was successfully detected through tip timing. Also, the accuracy by which blade time of arrival can be determined by using capacitance probe tip timing has been assessed using a precision OPR sensor and a non-vibrating compressor rotor blade. The characteristics of a DC capacitance probe based clearance measurement system's response to movement in 3D space in proximity to a blade tip have been mapped. Detection of small vibrations have also been investigated in a series of static impulse tests.