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Axis & Ball Screw Inspection

When problems with machining accuracy occurs, it is necessary to investigate the cause. Often excessive backlash or axis noise develops due to various factors. This Does Not mean that the ball screw is at fault. Lost motion or noise can be from many sources, and must be properly diagnosed to avoid unnecessary expense and down-time.

Systematic Inspection
1. Clean the working area inside the machine before removing covers. 2. Remove call covers, etc., to gain access to the ball screw in question. However, keep the machine operable in order to conduct test. 3. First of all, is the ball screw and slideways getting proper lubrication? If lubrication is not present then investigate why. 4. Visually inspect the ball screw ball grove for signs of oxidation or pitting. If corrosion, pitting, or crash damage is seen the ball screw will have to be replaced. 5. Visually inspect the ball screw thrust bearing bracket, (housing) for signs of a crash. Look for loose TAC housing mounting bolts. remove and inspect the bracket taper alignment pins. If these are bent or sheered, then a crash has occurred. 6. In case of Z-Axis inspect the thrust bearing bracket for cracks around its mounting bolt holes. If cracks are present then a new bracket will have to be fitted. 7. Remove TAC bearing bracket End Cap and check thrust bearing lock nut. A. Were the mountings bolts loose??

B. Was the nut loose?

If the lock nut was found loose, then there may be damage to the thrust bearings. Evidence of this will be that the grease around and in the bearings will have a brown rusty appearance. If so, then the bearings Must be replaced. 8. Check for loose ball nut mounting bolts or damaged taper pins. 9. Check for loose/damaged drive belts or servo motor couplings. 10. Check servo motor and its mounting bracket for loose mounting bolts. 11. In case of an X-Axis problem, check the axis brake to see if it is releasing. Observe AXIS LOAD display. 3- 1 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.
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If noise is also present, and it varies it pitch thru full travel of the axis, then the ball screw may be misaligned due to a collision. Check Horizontal and Vertical alignment of the ball screw to the axis way. Parallelism should be within .015 mm (.0006) for Z-axis and .010 mm ( .0004) for X-Axis. Poor ball screw alignment can also be determined by watching the AXIS LOAD display. Load will vary significantly thru full stroke of the axis.


In case of poor machining accuracy in X-Axis, The ball screw may have lost pretension. Pre-tensioning, (stretch), of X-Axis ball screw, is found on certain models. i.e. LU-15, LB Mark II Series, The Grown Lathe, The Captain, All Okuma Grinders and Machining Centers. Almost all NEW models have pre-tensioned ball screws on one or more axis. This is done to increase machining accuracy and compensated for thermal growth and ball screw deformation. There are no easy checks to evaluate ball screw stretch without disassembly . Eliminate all other possible causes first! Pre-tensioning of the ball screw on the upper turret requires removal of the axis servo motor. Also, the ball nut will have to be separated from the cross-slide so turret weight will not influence the stretch adjustment.


Support the turret and cross-slide with blocks or clamps to prevent it from falling!!!!!

These systematic inspection checks are for reference. Detailed procedures for conducting some of the checks required are covered later in this manual.

3- 2 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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Checking Axis Lost Motion

Repeatability and lost motion are checked while running a test program. Repeatability is the ability of an axis to position to an exact target point a specified number of times. Lost motion is the difference between A and B when traveling 2 inches from opposite directions. Calculation of proper backlash settings is obtained by averaging the lost motion in rapid and feed modes then taking the average of both.

Fig. 3-1

first referance point X = 0.0 Z = 0.0

A Target B


Micron Indicator

Second referance point

Fig. 3-2 3- 3 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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1. Set up an indicator and base as ridge as possible in an appropriate position to check the axis in question. Keep the mag base stems as short as possible. 2. In manual mode, position the axis on the indicator and calculate X and Z axis zero using an unused tool offset. See the illustration on page 1. 3. Enter the test program into the control. Refer to figures 1 and 2 on page 4 for example programs. 4. Start the program in single block to prove out each move before allowing the cycle to run full automatic. At this time the indicator can be set to zero. 5. The program is allowed to run seven to ten times while noting repeatability and lost motion. Do not run the program too many times or excessive heat will be generated within the ball screw and thrust bearings causing abnormal thermal drift. Run program in rapid and feed modes. Final backlash setting is the average of both feed and rapid modes. Caution Do not very the feedrate override when recording data, test results will vary. otherwise

1. The first move to the target position is taken as repeatability and recorded as " A ". The reversal move to the target position is recorded as "B" and is used in calculating total lost motion. 2. Lost Motion is calculated by taking the difference between "A" and "B".

Pay close attention to the signs when recording the indicator readings, ( + / - ). Lost Motion = Gained Motion = " B " more positive than " A " . " B " less positive than " A " .

3- 4 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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3. When the data indicates lost motion, the current backlash compensation data is insufficient. Compensation data must be increased. 4. When the data indicates gained motion, the current backlash compensation data is excessive. Compensation data must be reduced.


1. Press, Parameter Set mode key. 2. Press, ( ITEM ) function key to display System Parameters. 3. Select upper or lower turret data for 4 axis machines only. 4. Locate the cursor on axis backlash to be updated. 5. Press, SET or ADD function key. 6. Enter data thru the keyboard and press the WRITE key. 7. Alarm message " ALARM-D W01 Power on effective parameter set" is displayed. For OSP 5000L-G, and early model 5020L controls, it is necessary to wait for 3 minutes, turn off control and then turn it back on. Data becomes effective after power is turned on again. For later model 5020's and 7000 controls, press EXTEND function key to display BACKUP function. Press BACKUP function key, then turn the control off and back on again to clear the alarm message and make the data effective. 8. Confirm that the backlash parameter data has been set correctly. Repeat steps 3 thru 7 if data is not correct.

TYPICAL BACKLASH COMPENSATION VALUES. X-Axis : Z-Axis : .010 mm ~ .040 mm .000 mm ~ .020 mm

TYPICAL THERMAL DRIFT X-Axis : Z-Axis : .003 mm ~ .005 mm / 10 times .005 mm ~ .010 mm / 10 times

3- 5 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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If you are not experienced in operating the machine in automatic mode, have someone assist who is familiar with running the machine. Failure to do so may result in personnel injury or machine damage.

G13 or G14 G90 G94 N10 G0 X100.0 Z100.0 T?? /G01 F2000 X0.0 Z0.0 F2000 G4 F5 Z100.0 X-100.0 X0.0 Z0.0 F2000 G4 F5 Z100.0 X100.0 GOTO N10 M2

( Four axis machines only) ( Absolute Positioning ) ( Set feed per minute mode) ( Rapid mode with block delete ON ) ( Feed mode with block delete OFF ) ( Move to target point A ) ( Move to indicator) ( Dwell for 5 seconds) ( Move off indicator) ( Move to second reference point) ( Move to target point B) ( Move to indicator) ( Dwell for 5 seconds) ( Move off indicator) ( Move to Start Point ) ( Repeat cycle) ( End of Program )


T?? = unused tool offset number.


Example: T32 = Tool Offset #32. No actual tool station is called. No turret indexing should occur.
X-Target Pos.


For X-Axis
Backlash = (Average @ Rapid + Average @ Feed ) In diameter


Fig. 3-3 3- 6 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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G13 or G14 G90 G94 N10 G0 X100.0 Z100.0 T?? /G01 F2000 Z0.0 X0.0 F2000 G4 F5 X100.0 Z-100.0 Z0.0 X0.0 F2000 G4 F5 X100.0 Z100.0 GOTO N10 M2 ( Four axis machines only) ( Absolute Positioning ) ( Set feed per minute mode) ( Rapid mode with block delete ON ) ( Feed mode with block delete OFF ) ( Move to target point A ) ( Move to indicator) ( Dwell for 5 seconds) ( Move off indicator) ( Move to second reference point) ( Move to target point B) ( Move to indicator) ( Dwell for 5 seconds) ( Move off indicator) ( Move to start position ) ( Repeat cycle) ( End of Program)



Z-Target Pos. (A-B)

Fig. 3-4 For Z-Axis Backlash = (Average @ Rapid + Average @ Feed)

3- 7 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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Checking Ball Screw Preload ( Z-Axis )

1. Set up a test type indicator on the saddle for Z-axis or cross-slide for X-axis. 2. Place the indicator point on the side of the ball grove as shown in figures 3-5 thru 3-7. 3. Jog the axis in one direction then the next. and note the total indicator deflection during axis movement. 4. There should be no more than .010 ~ .012 mm (.0004 ~ .0005 ) end-play between the ball screw and ball nut. If there is excess end-play then check the ball nut and housing mounting bolts. 5. If all the mounting bolts are found to be tight , then the ball screw has lost its pre-load and the ball screw will have to be replaced. 6. When the ball screw is removed, stand the ball screw up vertically. If the nut spins freely down the screw, this also indicates lost of preload. Jog Axis Check Bolts

Fig. 3-5


Fig. 3-6

Ball Nut Bracket

Fig. 3-7

Check Bolts

3- 8 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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Checking Thrust Bearing End Play

1. Place a small steel ball bearing in the shaft center hole as shown in Fig. 3-6. Use grease to hold ball in place. 2. Set an Indicator on the end of the ball to measure end-play in the TAC bearings. 3. Jog the axis back and forth and check the amount of end-play. 4. If there is more than .010 mm ( .0004 ), then check the lock-nut, and TAC bearing mounting bolts. 5. Check the GAP between the end cap and bearing housing. You should be able to insert a .025 mm (.001 ) feel gauge between them with bolts tight. 6. If the above items check Ok, then the TAC bearing will have to be replaced.

Check Bolts

0 + 50 50

Fig. 3-6 GAP

Acceptable Deviation 5m ( .0002 )

3- 9 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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Checking Elastic Deformation

Free Ended Ball Screws ( LC-Series, LB-15, LB-25, LNC-8, LNC-10 )
Elastic deformation of Z-Axis ball screw can occur due to poor axis lubrication or mechanical binding. The increased friction between the slideways and guideways causes deviation of the ball screw at the driven end as illustrated in Fig. 3-7. The amount of deviation varies in relationship to the distance between the end of the ball screw and the ball nut. As the nut travels further away from the free end, the exposed length becomes longer allowing increased flexing of the screw. Effects of axial and radial displacement of the ball screw will be increased lost motion, vibration, and poor positioning accuracy.
Fixed End Long Distance Free End

Caused by twisting of the ball screw.


Checking Method


Fig. 3-7

1. Place a ball bearing in the center hole at the driven end of the ball screw using grease. 2. Set up an indicator as shown in Fig. 3-8 to observe the amount of end-play or deflection in the screw while jogging the axis back and forth near the headstock side.
Pulley .010 mm ( .0004 ) Maximum

Free End

Fig. 3-8

Radial Ball Bearings

Rear Bracket
0 + 50

Steel Ball

3. If deviation is as shown in Fig. 3-9, there is possible end-play in the TAC bearings. 4. If deviation is as shown in Fig. 3-10, check axis lubrication and axis gibs. 5. Heavy binding can be also determined by observing the axis load display. 3- 10 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

0 + 50


End-Play Fig. 3-9

Elongation Fig. 3-10

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Checking Ball Screw Alignment. ( Z-Axis )

After a server collision, it is necessary to check possible misalignment of the ball screw. Check the taper pins on the TAC bearing bracket and ball nut mounting bracket. The taper pins may be bent or sheared when a crash occurs. If the pins are found to be damaged, then ball screw alignment must be checked.
Mounting Bolts Taper Pins

TAC Bearing Bracket

1. In order to check alignment you must have a fixture block which locates on the DATUM way as shown in Fig. 3-12. This block is precision ground and hand scraped to have a good bearing. 2. First, position the saddle at its mid-travel. 3. Clean the axis way of all chips, build up, and excess way lube oil. Especially where the ball screw enters each bearing housing. Alignment is checked at each end of the ball screw in both the horizontal and vertical planes. The ball screw must be parallel to the axis way within .010 mm ~ .015 mm ( .0004 ~ .0006 ) full length. Fig. 3-11

Fig. 3-12

4. Before alignment check can continue, you must find and mark the mid-point of total run-out in the ball screw near the thrust bearing end. as shown if Fig. 3-13. This is done to compensate for run-out of the screw shaft over its length.

Run-out Mid-Point
0 + 50 50

Fixture Block Low


Fig. 3-13

3- 11 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

Continued >>
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Checking Alignment ( continued )

5. After rotating the ball screw where the indicator is at the mid-point , set the indicator to ZERO. ( A ) 6. Being very careful not to bump the indicator, move to the other end and take a reading as near as possible to the radial bearings. ( B ) 7. Note the difference in the two readings, ( A - B ). This will be the initial reading. 8. Make a mark on the ball screw in line with the indicator point. 9. Slowly rotate the ball screw shaft and find the mid-point of run-out, Fig. 3-15. 10. If the mid-point is in radial alignment with the mark, then the initial reading is the true misalignment of the two housings. 11. If the mid-point is not at the mark, rotate the screw shaft until the mark is with the indicator. This reading is the misalignment. 12. On older machines, way wear may affect the readings. Try to locate the fixture block on the un-worn portion of the way.

Maximum Allowable Error: .015 mm ( .0006 )

0 + 50 50 50 + 50


Datum Way

Fig. 3-14
Run-out Mid-Point

High Horizontal Alignment Vertical Alignment


Fig. 3- 12 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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Alignment Quick Check

One method of checking alignment is to mount an indicator base on the saddle and place the indicator point on top of the thread lead as show in Fig. 3-16 and 3-17. Starting from the positive stroke-end, jog the axis toward the TAC bearings while noting the overall deviation. The indicator must be set up in the Horizontal plane as shown in Fig. 3-15 on page 12. Total deviation should be less than .015 mm ( .0006 ). Also note total shaft run-out as the indicator is traveling the length of the screw shaft. Maximum allowable run-out is .010 mm ( .0004 ). If excessive deviation is observed, then the ball screw will have to be re-aligned. Excessive run-out also indicates misalignment or even possible bent ball screw.
50 0 + 50

On Top of Ball Groove

Fig. 3-16

0 + 50 50

Jog Fig. 3-17

3- 13 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

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Correcting Misalignment
Correcting misalignment is done in reverse. That is to say, the indicator is set up and zeroed at the driven (free) end first. Then, the TAC bearing position is checked and adjusted in the horizontal plane until alignment is within spec.

Why in reverse?
in most cases the bearing housing at the driven end does not move during a crash. Therefore, its position is usually ok, and can be used as a zero reference. Float Alignment

Taper Pins

Mounting Bolts


Taper Pin

Taper Pins Datum Way

Fig. 3-18

Procedure ( Float Alignment )

1. Loosen TAC bearing housing mounting bolts. 2. Remove housing taper pins and inspect for any damage, ( steps ). Replace with new pins if damaged. Install pins lightly. Do not drive pins tight at this time. 3. Loosen ball nut Bracket mounting bolts, remove and inspect taper pins. 4. Install pins lightly as before. 5. Slowly jog the axis toward the headstock side so the ball nut is as close as possible to the TAC bearing housing. 6. Carefully snug the bearing housing mounting bolts in a cress-cross pattern X. Do not over-tighten at this time. 7. Carefully snug each ball nut bracket mounting bolt in a X pattern. Continued >>
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3- 14 Machine Tool Systems, Inc.

Float Alignment ( Continued )

8. Tighten TAC housing mounting bolts again, but do not torque fully. 9. Do the same with the ball nut housing mounting bolts. 10. Slowly jog the axis to its mid-way position in its total stroke. 11. Set up the indicator as shown in Fig. 3-19 on the driven end and set ZERO. 12. Carefully move to the TAC bearing side and note the difference in readings. Maximum Allowable Error: .015 mm ( .0006 )
0 + 50 50 50 + 50


Zero Reference

Datum Way

Fig. 3-14

13. If alignment is not within allowable range, then adjust the position of the TAC bearing housing as necessary. If readings are ok, skip to step 15. 14. Repeat steps 11 thru 13 until alignment is correct. 15. When alignment is correct, torque each bolt on the TAC and ball nut brackets to 70% of their rated torque. 16. Remove taper pins from TAC and ball nut brackets, and lightly re-ream each hole. 17. Install new pins. They should be taped down tight. However, ensure that they do not cause the TAC or ball nut brackets to move during installation. 18. Re-check alignment. 19. Check axis motion for noise, excessive load, etc. 20. Check overall repeatability and adjust backlash compensation as necessary. 3- 15 Machine Tool Systems, Inc. DONE
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