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Equipment Donation Will Benefit Engineering Students, Researchers

Vibration Shaker System to Aid in Structural Testing, Analysis

UMass Lowell Image
Prof. Peter Avitabile, second from right, shows the vibration shaker system to, from left, mechanical engineering graduate students Jesus Reyes and Julie Harvie and civil engineering Asst. Prof. Tzu-Yang Yu.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Mechanical engineering students and researchers who want to study how different structures respond to vibrations now have a new tool at their disposal, thanks to the generosity of a local company.

Sensata Technologies Inc., an Attleboro-based manufacturer of sensors and controls used in the automotive, appliance, aircraft, military, telecommunications and marine industries, has recently donated one of its vibration shaker systems to UMass Lowell’s Structural Dynamics and Acoustic Systems Laboratory (SDASL).

“Vibration qualification testing is a very important part of the overall product design and validation process,” says mechanical engineering Prof. Peter Avitabile, who co-directs the SDASL with Prof. Christopher Niezrecki. “Students rarely get a chance to see and experience this type of testing.”

Avitabile points out that, without having the actual equipment, academic exercises involving qualification testing can only be “discussed” in the classroom. But now, he says, he can show students various concepts experimentally and compare them to analytical modeling results.  

“There are very few schools that have a shaker system, and if they do, it is likely not used in the undergraduate curriculum,” notes Avitabile, who has been working in the field of analytical and experimental structural dynamics for nearly four decades.

The shaker system — a Ling Dynamic Systems V721-LPT600C — consists of a 700-pound-force shaker with amplifier along with an integral slip-plate. The entire unit measures nearly 6 feet long, 3 feet wide and 3 feet high and weighs about a ton.

“The system probably has a list price between $60,000 and $90,000 to purchase new,” says Avitabile.

A Unique Laboratory

Dominic Acquarulo, who received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1980 from UMass Lowell (then known as the University of Lowell), helped facilitate the donation by connecting Sensata with the University. Acquarulo is vibration test systems manager for the Americas at Brüel & Kjær, a world leader in sound and vibration measurement and analysis.

“The equipment will allow students to have real hands-on experience setting up and conducting vibration tests,” he says. “Theory and classroom work, backed up with laboratory training, is what makes the difference in the real world after graduation. As an alumnus, it gives me great pleasure to be in a position to be able to give back to the University and work with professors like Dr. Avitabile, who is so involved in industry.”

“The SDASL is one of the best-equipped facilities in the country for performing structural dynamics testing, and Sensata’s donation really helps to further expand the lab’s capabilities,” adds Avitabile.