This article describes an instrument to measure the error motion of rolling element bearings. This challenge is met by simultaneously satisfying four requirements. First, an axial preload must be applied to seat the rolling elements in the bearing races. Second, one of the races must spin under the influence of an applied torque. Third, rotation of the remaining race must be prevented in a way that leaves the radial, axial/face, and tilt displacements free to move. Finally, the bearing must be fixtured and measured without introducing off-axis loading or other distorting influences. In the design presented here, an air bearing reference spindle with error motion of less than 10 nm rotates the inner race of the bearing under test. Noninfluencing couplings are used to prevent rotation of the bearing outer race and apply an axial preload without distorting the bearing or influencing the measurement. Capacitive displacement sensors with 2 nm resolution target the nonrotating outer race. The error motion measurement repeatability is shown to be less than 25 nm. The article closes with a discussion of how the instrument may be used to gather data with sufficient resolution to accurately estimate the contact angle of deep groove ball bearings.
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