In the condition monitoring of roller bearings, the measured signals are often compounded due to the unknown multi-vibration sources and complex transfer paths. Moreover, the sensors are limited in particular locations and numbers. Thus, this is a problem of underdetermined blind source separation for the vibration sources estimation, which makes it difficult to extract fault features exactly by ordinary methods in running tests. To improve the effectiveness of compound fault diagnosis in roller bearings, the present paper proposes a new method to solve the underdetermined problem and to extract fault features based on variational mode decomposition. In order to surmount the shortcomings of inadequate signals collected through limited sensors, a vibration signal is firstly decomposed into a number of band-limited intrinsic mode functions by variational mode decomposition. Then, the demodulated signal with the Hilbert transform of these multi-channel functions is used as the input matrix for independent component analysis. Finally, the compound faults are separated effectively by carrying out independent component analysis, which enables the fault features to be extracted more easily and identified more clearly. Experimental results validate the effectiveness of the proposed method in compound fault separation, and a comparison experiment shows that the proposed method has higher adaptability and practicability in separating strong noise signals than the commonly-used ensemble empirical mode decomposition method.
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