Guide Mechanisms for Precision Positioning Stages

Most stages employ three primary types of guide mechanism for their precision positioning stages. Dovetail, Linear Ball, and Cross Roller guides compose most of the MISUMI product line. Each mechanism has advantages and choosing the best stage for your application can be made easier by understanding the basic differences.

Dovetail Guide

A dovetail type of motion guide. The surface slides across the base.

The dovetail guide is a basic, economical design that provides smooth motion. Stages that use the dovetail guide are often low cost, slim in the direction of motion, and range in weight depending on the production material.

Most dovetail stages are made out of lightweight aluminum alloy or low cadmium brass. The MISUMI series (XWGSR) is made of steel to handle heavier loads.

If high accuracy and high rigidity are not a priority, but if cost and smooth motion are, the dovetail guide provides the most cost-effective solution for your application.

Cross Roller Guide

Crossed Roller guide types of stages use orthogonal cylindrical rollers.

Crossed Roller guides are widely seen in applications that require a high level of accuracy with great rigidity. They are composed of cylindrical rollers, placed orthogonally in a roller cage, that contact the rails at two points in what is often called a “V-groove”. The V-groove configuration allows greater contact with the rails, which results in typically higher load capacity, higher rigidity, and resistance to sticking and slip.

MISUMI cross roller guide type stages are all made with an aluminum body to ensure a lighter weight for its size. The guide rails and rollers themselves are the appropriate grades of steel needed for such an application. In addition, the rollers are pre-loaded to ensure high accuracy and quality.

If accuracy and weight are your primary concerns, cross roller guide options will fit your needs.

Linear Ball Guide

Linear Ball guide type stages use free rolling balls to allow motion.

Linear Ball Guides come in a variety of configurations. One configuration is the Gothic-arch raceway type of linear ball guide. The Gothic-arch raceway enables four points of contact between the rails and the preloaded steel balls. Having four points of contact increases rigidity in the system and maintains a high level of accuracy.

MISUMI linear ball guide stages are especially rigid. The stage rails are milled with the base or surface out of one solid piece of stainless steel using a proprietary manufacturing technique to achieve very high rigidity, high accuracy, and a low price.

If rigidity and cost are on your mind, but accuracy also needs to be on point, linear ball guide stages are highly recommended.

Each type of guide mechanism has its unique advantages.  Of course, in the end, the best type to choose depends on your application. Understanding the advantages and limitations of each type is an advantage when considering the right stage for your needs.

Be sure to read our other blog post in stage selection. If you need help in sizing your stage, please view our product spotlight page on Manual Positioning Stages or email our engineering experts at

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