Under normal operation a rotor spinning within an active magnetic bearing system will be levitated and hence rotor-stator contact conditions do not exist. In such a case, external disturbances and inherent unbalance will cause rotor responses that are maintained by the magnetic bearing control system to be within the clearance gap. However, magnetic bearings have limited dynamic load capacity due to magnetic material field saturation. Hence large external disturbances may be sufficient to cause the clearance gap to become closed and result in rotorstator contact. A touchdown bearing is usually incorporated as a sacrificial stator component to protect the expensive rotor, magnetic bearing and sensor components. Once contact has been made, rotor dynamic conditions may ensue resulting in persistent rotor bouncing or rubbing limit cycle responses. Prolonged exposure to these severe dynamics will cause touchdown bearing degradation and require regular replacement. A clear aim is therefore to restore contact-free levitation through available control capability in an efficient manner. This paper provides an analysis to gain an understanding of the uncontrolled rotor/touchdown contact dynamics. These will then be used to guide the control options that are available to restore contact-free levitation. The use of magnetic bearing control is appropriate if the required control forces are within saturation limits. It is also possible to actuate touchdown bearings and destabilize persistent rotor dynamic contact conditions. For example, piezo-based actuation offers larger control forces than those from magnetic bearing systems.

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