Monorail guidance systems for Robots

Monorail Guidance Systems for Robots

by Kevin Sweeney
10 June, 2024
14 min read

INA Monorail guidance systems provide a stable and precise linear motion mechanism, enabling accurate positioning and movement. The INA monorail systems are designed to withstand high loads while maintaining smooth and frictionless movement.  

Fig. 1 INA monorail guidance systems

Monorail as implied by its name is a single track or rail with a carriage mounted upon it. INA Monorail guidance systems consist of a rigid rail and a carriage assembly that moves along the rail with minimal friction. The INA rail, typically manufactured from high-strength materials such as hardened steel, stainless steel, or other alloys is engineered for smooth operation and exacting performance.

The production process involves precision machining followed by heat treatment for hardness and strength. Surface finishing processes, such as grinding and polishing, ensure a smooth, low-friction surface.

The INA carriage is usually made from aluminum or steel. Aluminum is preferred in applications where weight reduction is critical, while steel is used for its strength and rigidity.

Generally for all brands the carriage contains ball bearings or cylindrical rollers which can be made from high-grade steel or ceramic. Ceramic rolling elements are prized for their hardness, low friction, and resistance to thermal expansion.

Carriage bodies are precision-machined to tight tolerances to ensure exact fits with the rail. 

Acceleration and Velocity

INA Linear recirculating roller bearing and guideway assemblies RUE.-E permit accelerations up to 100 m/s2 and velocities up to 4 m/s.

INA  Operating limits
DesignationAcceleration**up toTravel velocity**up to
**The values apply, within each size, for all available carriages

Performance for load and life

Load carrying capacity and Life: The size of a monorail guidance system is based on the load required in the application and then sized accordingly.

The load carrying capacity consists of the basic dynamic load rating C, the basic static load rating C0, and the static moment ratings M0x, M0y, and M0z.

Fig. 2 INA cross sectional view of blocks and rail

Visit the INA site for extensive engineering calculations and a more detailed explanation.

Monorail guidance systems key performance chart. 

Performance DescriptionTypical Values
Load capacityThe ratio of energy consumption to work performed.Up to 2000 kg
PrecisionAccuracy of the linear movement of the carriage.±0.005 mm
SpeedMaximum speed at which the system can operate efficiently.Up to 10 m/s
Operational efficiencyRatio of energy consumption to work performed.90-95%
DurabilityExpected lifespan under continuous operation.> 30,000 km or 20,000 hours
Maintenance intervalRecommended period between maintenance checks.Every 12 months
Chart: Types of monorail guidance systems

Different types of monorail systems are designed to meet specific needs, each offering different features and advantages. In this article, I will discuss the types of monorail guidance systems, particularly those offered by INA, a leading manufacturer in this field. You can order these high-quality INA products directly from PIB Sales.

INA linear ball bearing and guideway assemblies

Linear ball bearing and guideway assemblies are designed for applications requiring high precision and smooth movement. These systems consist of a rail and a carriage with ball bearings that run along the rail. The ball bearings minimize friction and provide smooth linear motion. The use of hardened steel for the rail and high-quality materials for the ball bearings increases life. INA linear guides are frequently specified for use in CNC machinery, medical devices, and high-precision automation including robotics.

Fig. 3. INA Standard Linear ball bearing  guide with carriage

Ina linear recirculating ball bearing units

Linear recirculating ball bearing units are similar to the standard linear ball bearing assemblies but are designed for continuous motion over extended distances. The balls circulate within a closed loop, which allows for continuous and smooth motion along the entire length of the rail. This design reduces wear and extends the life of the system, even under heavy loads. These units are suitable for applications in manufacturing lines and other industrial environments where consistent, long-distance movement is required.

INA Linear recirculating roller bearing and guideway assemblies are built for applications requiring higher load capacities and greater rigidity. Instead of ball bearings, these systems use cylindrical rollers, which provide a larger contact area and can support heavier loads. The rollers circulate within the carriage, ensuring continuous contact with the rail for smooth and stable motion. These assemblies are ideal for heavy-duty applications such as industrial robots, large machinery, and automation systems that demand both high load capacity and precision.

Fig. 4 INA Linear Recirculating ball Bearing and Guideway Assemblies showing two types 

Miniature linear ball bearing and guideway assemblies

Miniature linear ball bearing and guideway assemblies are designed for applications where space is limited, and high precision is required. INA miniature linear systems feature smaller components that maintain the high performance of larger assemblies but in a compact form. INA miniature linear bearings ensure smooth and precise motion, making them suitable for applications such as semiconductor manufacturing, medical instruments, and small-scale automation systems.

Fig. 5 INA Miniature Linear Ball bearing guide

Applications for Monorail Linear Guidance

Industrial automation

For industrial automation, monorail guidance systems are needed to enable the precision and efficiency of automated processes. They are widely used in CNC machinery, robotic arms, and assembly lines, where accurate positioning and repeatability are important.

  • CNC machinery

Monorail systems ensure smooth and precise movement of cutting tools, enhancing the accuracy of machined parts. The rigidity and stability of these systems minimize vibration, leading to better surface finish and tighter tolerances.

  • Robotic arms

In robotic arms, monorail guidance systems facilitate precise and repeatable movements, essential for tasks such as welding, painting, and material handling. The high load capacity of these systems allows robotic arms to handle heavier workpieces with ease.

  • Assembly lines

Monorail systems improve the efficiency of assembly lines by enabling fast and accurate transfer of components between different stages of production including the 7th axis. This reduces cycle times and increases overall productivity.

Logistics and material handling

INA Monorail guidance systems play a significant role in the logistics and material handling industry, particularly in automated warehouses and distribution centers. They are integral to the operation of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and robotic storage and retrieval systems.

  • Automated guided vehicles

Monorail systems guide AGVs along predefined paths with high precision, ensuring efficient and reliable transport of goods within a warehouse. The durability of these systems supports continuous operation, minimizing downtime and maintenance requirements.

  • Robotic storage and retrieval systems

In automated storage and retrieval systems, monorail guidance systems enable fast and accurate movement of robotic arms that retrieve and store items. This increases the efficiency of inventory management and reduces the time required to fulfill orders.

Medical and surgical robotics

The medical field has seen significant advancements with the integration of monorail guidance systems in surgical robotics. These systems provide the precision and stability necessary for complex surgical procedures.

  • Surgical robots

INA Monorail systems ensure precise and stable movement of surgical instruments, allowing for minimally invasive procedures with high accuracy. The reduced friction and smooth motion of these systems enhance the control surgeons have over the instruments, improving patient outcomes.

  • Medical imaging devices

INA Monorail guidance systems are also used in medical imaging devices such as CT scanners and MRI machines. They ensure the accurate positioning of imaging components, leading to clearer and more detailed images.

Semiconductor manufacturing

In semiconductor manufacturing, precision and cleanliness are critical. Monorail guidance systems are used in various stages of semiconductor fabrication, ensuring the precise handling and processing of delicate wafers.

  • Wafer handling equipment

Monorail systems guide the movement of robotic arms that handle silicon wafers, ensuring precise placement and minimizing the risk of damage. The high precision and low friction of these systems are essential for maintaining the integrity of the wafers.

Aerospace and defense

The aerospace and defense industries require robust and reliable guidance systems for various applications, from manufacturing to maintenance.

  • Aircraft manufacturing

Monorail guidance systems are used in the assembly of aircraft components, ensuring precise alignment and positioning. This enhances the quality and safety of the final product.

  • Maintenance and inspection robots

In maintenance and inspection robots, INA monorail systems enable precise and stable movement, allowing for thorough and accurate inspections of aircraft and other critical infrastructure.

In industrial settings, monorail guidance systems contribute to increased productivity and accuracy, reducing cycle times and improving product quality. In the logistics sector, they enable efficient material handling and inventory management, ensuring smooth operations in automated warehouses. The medical field benefits from the precision and stability of monorail systems, allowing for minimally invasive procedures and accurate medical imaging. Semiconductor manufacturing relies on the high precision and cleanliness of these systems to produce high-quality microchips, while the aerospace and defense industries use them for precise assembly and maintenance tasks.

At PIB Sales, we are proud to offer a comprehensive range of monorail guidance systems.  In addition to INA, we offer name brands like NB and IKO. Our commitment to quality and innovation ensures that our customers receive top-tier components tailored to their specific needs. Whether you are involved in industrial automation, medical robotics, or any other application requiring high-performance guidance systems, PIB Sales provides the solutions you need to stay at the forefront of technology.

For more information or to place an order, please contact us at [email protected]. We look forward to supporting your projects with our top-quality products and expert service.

Found this useful? Share with:

Written by

Kevin Sweeney

Founder and CEO at Pacific International Bearing Sales Inc (PIB)
Education: BS Business and Economics California State University Hayward Ca
CBS (Certified Bearing Specialist)

My role with Pacific International Bearings (PIB) is currently CEO. Since 1976, I have been deeply involved in the bearing industry, working in manufacturing sales at NTN Bearing and subsequently in Bearing Distribution. Before establishing PIB in 1990, I gathered valuable experience in bearing manufacturing and distribution. The last 45 + years in the bearing industry have been both rewarding and challenging, assisting customers across a large number of diverse bearing applications.
Outside of the bearing industry, my interests are family, woodworking, motorcycling, cars, gardening, and golf.
Clear All