Vibration is occasionally "desirable". For example the motion of a tuning fork, the reed in a woodwind instrument or harmonica, or the cone of a loudspeaker is desirable vibration, necessary for the correct functioning of the various devices.
More often, vibration is undesirable, wasting energy and creating unwanted sound – noise. For example, the vibrational motions of engines, electric motors, or any mechanical device in operation are typically unwanted. Such vibrations can be caused by imbalances in the rotating parts, uneven friction, the meshing of gear teeth, etc. Careful designs usually minimize unwanted vibrations.
The study of sound and vibration are closely related. Sound, or "pressure waves", are generated by vibrating structures (e.g. vocal cords); these pressure waves can also induce the vibration of structures (e.g. ear drum). Hence, when trying to reduce noise it is often a problem in trying to reduce vibration.
Types of vibration
Free vibration occurs when a mechanical system is set off with an initial input and then allowed to vibrate freely. Examples of this type of vibration are pulling a child back on a swing and then letting go or hitting a tuning fork and letting it ring. The mechanical system will then vibrate at one or more of its "natural frequencies" and damp down to zero.
Forced vibration is when an alternating force or motion is applied to a mechanical system. Examples of this type of vibration include a shaking washing machine due to an imbalance, transportation vibration (caused by truck engine, springs, road, etc), or the vibration of a building during an earthquake. In forced vibration the frequency of the vibration is the frequency of the force or motion applied, with order of magnitude being dependent on the actual mechanical system.
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- Normal vibration modes of a circular membrane