Bayesian approaches have been demonstrated as effective methods for reliability analysis of complex systems with small-amount data, which integrate prior information and sample data using Bayes’ theorem. However, there is an assumption that precise prior probability distributions are available for unknown parameters, yet these prior distributions are sometimes unavailable in practical engineering. A possible way to avoiding this assumption is to generalize Bayesian reliability analysis approach by using imprecise probability theory. In this paper, we adopt a set of imprecise Dirichlet distributions as priors to quantify uncertainty of unknown parameters and extend traditional Bayesian reliability analysis approach by introducing an imprecise Dirichlet model (IDM). When the prior information is rare, the result of imprecise Bayesian analysis method is too rough to support engineering decision-making, so we proposed an optimization model to reduce the imprecision of the new method. Spindles are crucial for machine tools and reliability data related to spindles of new-developed machine tools are often rare. We can then use the imprecise Bayesian reliability analysis method to assess its reliability. In this paper, we mainly investigate the reliability assessment of a motorized spindle to illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed method.

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