With more than 20,000 types of casters on the market today, picking the right one for your application can take some time and research. Matching the appropriate caster to the environment may prevent potentially costly downtime and maintenance later on.
A caster (a wheeled device affixed to a larger object that facilitates rolling and movement) refers to both the wheel and the mounting components in which the wheel is held. Casters range in size and weight-holding capacity. They are found in everything from office chairs and hospital beds to industrial machinery at food-processing plants and automotive factories.
The Type of Material
Some of the materials used to make casters include cast iron, plastic, rubber, polyurethane, stainless steel and aluminum. Stainless steel casters are generally used in environments where frequent washings are necessary. They are relatively impervious to high temperatures and rust. Typical applications for stainless steel casters are in institutional and industrial settings.
Plastic casters, meanwhile, are typically used in office and residential furniture such as chairs and beds. They can be moved with relative ease on the carpet and may be safe to use on hardwood floors too.
Rollability and Movement
Casters with larger, harder wheels tend to be easier to push and pull. A swivel caster allows for movement in all directions and has the capacity to turn or spin 360 degrees. Rigid, or fixed, casters tend to be stronger than swivels casters, but only allow for forward and backward movement.
Load capacity refers to the maximum amount of weight a caster can hold. A larger, denser wheel is generally required for a heavy load weight. Casters with larger wheels tend to distribute weight and roll more easily over obstructions on the floor.
Where the casters will be used may be worth considering. Manufacturers produce quiet-rolling wheels for environments in which noise is an issue. Extremely hot, cold or humid conditions may require stainless steel casters. Thermoplastic rubber and certain types of polyurethane tend to be softer than regular rubber and may be a good choice for delicate tile floors.
Floor type, condition and cleanliness all determine what type of caster should be used. Very hard wheels made from cast iron, for example, roll easily but may damage concrete floors over time, while floors in poor condition may break certain casters.
While there are many factors to consider when choosing a caster, choosing the right one for your application may prevent costly equipment damage and repair down the line.