Machine tool spindle bearings are subjected to a large range of axial and radial loads due to the machining process. Further the rotating spindle must be extremely stiff to minimize the cutting tool’s deflection. The high spindle stiffness is achieved by applying a mechanical load to the bearings, the preload. In fixed preload spindles the bearing loads tend to increase with increasing spindle speed due to thermal expansion and it is well established that these thermally induced loads can lead to premature bearing failure. A model of thermally induced bearing load in angular contact bearing spindles is developed that includes an axis-symmetric reduced order finite element model of the heat transfer and thermal expansion within the spindle’s housing and shaft and the bearing and shaft dynamics. Nodal reduction is used in the reduced order model to minimize the number of temperature states and the computational load. The reduced order model’s calculated temperature and bearing load values are shown to closely match experimentally measured values over a wide range of spindle speeds. The paper ends with a parameter variation study which predicts a dramatic decrease in the thermally induced bearing load when silicon nitride balls are substituted for steel balls.

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