Any engine or moving equipment part is going to have a physical effect on the parts near it, especially if the movement is repeated. Movement creates vibrations that run through all nearby parts, so if the movement repeats over and over again, the vibrations hit the other parts over and over again, too. This can have a bad effect on the parts, causing bolts to loosen and joints to become weak, and it can make being in the vicinity of the moving part very uncomfortable as the vibrations can be very strong. In order to run machinery without having the engine or moving-part vibrations affecting the rest of the area, manufacturers often include vibration isolators.

If they are not included, the users of the equipment can have them installed. There are two ways to dampen vibrations: active and passive. Active vibration isolators are powered up and “actively” countering the vibrations. Passive systems do not have any powered-up parts themselves, but instead merely sit in one spot, absorbing the vibrations and preventing them from traveling further. An analogy would be like having a person go over to a moving part and holding it, forcing it to stop vibrating; that would be active. If the person just set a pillow next to the moving part, so vibrations could not travel past the pillow, that would be passive.

Vibration isolators can be crucial to keeping the integrity of a ship or other structure if there is a large engine inside the structure, or if the moving parts are hitting something and sending out huge vibrations. Vibration isolators can be as simple as a pillow — though in an industrial setting, of course, that will be one large pillow-like structure — or a set of springs that absorb a lot of the movement. They can also include stands and blocks that physically isolate the vibrating part from most other structures, or devices that restrain equipment from moving too much. Vibration isolators also reduce noise levels substantially. In some cases this is obvious; if the vibrations are causing rattling parts, reducing the vibrations reduces the rattling. But the vibration isolators can also prevent the vibrating part from actually hitting other parts, such as a floor, and transmitting noise that way.

Anything that you install to dampen vibrations has to be big enough to handle the equipment that is causing the vibrations — otherwise the vibrations will overpower the isolator. This does affect cost. Larger, more intricate isolators are going to cost a lot more, and this needs to be factored into any calculations regarding the cost of owning or maintaining the equipment. Boat owners need to be sure they have included the cost of installing and maintaining vibration isolators when they look at their yearly budget. Vibration isolation is not something you can ignore, especially on a boat; if the wrong parts were to loosen, you could end up stranded with a broken motor. The type of vibration isolation you use will depend on what is making the vibrations, of course.

If you are not sure of the best way to dampen the vibrations from a piece of equipment, speaking to the customer service and sales reps at different companies will give you an idea. Of course they are going to want to sell you equipment, but if you talk to several companies, eventually you will find the techniques and isolators that people are recommending most. If all of the reps at several different companies recommend a certain type of isolator, chances are that is the best thing for you to use. Then you can go back and evaluate the price and other aspects of each company to find the one you will buy the isolator from.