This paper deals with the detection of distributed faults in ball bearings. In literature most of the authors focus their attention on the detection of incipient localized defects. In that case classical techniques (i.e. statistical parameters, envelope analysis) are robust in recognizing the presence of the fault and its characteristic frequency. In this paper the authors focalize their attention on bearings affected by distributed faults, due to the progressive growing of surface wear or to low-quality manufacturing process. These faults can not be detected by classical techniques; in fact, in this case the signal does not contain impulses at the fault characteristic frequency, but more complex components with strong non-stationary contents. Distributed faults are here detected by means of advanced tools directly derived from the theory of cyclostationarity. In particular three metrics — namely Integrated Cyclic Coherence (ICC), Integrated Cyclic Modulation Coherence (ICMC) and Indicator of Second-Order Cyclostationarity (ICS2x) — have been calculated in order to condense the information given by the cyclostationary analysis and to help the analyst in detecting the fault in a fast fault diagnosis procedure. These indicators are applied on actual signals captured on a test rig where a degreased bearing running under radial load developed accelerated wear. The results indicated that all the three cyclostationary indicators are able to detect both the appearance of a localized fault and its development in a distributed fault, whilst the usual approach fails as the fault grows.

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