Rubber casters vs polyurethane casters

Rubber casters vs polyurethane casters

Caster wheels come in a wide variety of materials, sizes, and hardness. The most common materials used to make wheels are rubber and polyurethane. But what’s the difference?

When it comes to determining the best wheel or tread for your specific caster or wheel application, it helps to understand the relative pros and cons of each material.

Here are the main criteria you need to consider:


Load capacity/maximum weight

Perhaps one of the most important considerations of caster selection is determining the maximum load. Polyurethane casters can usually carry heavier weights than rubber casters because of the hardness of the material. Also, polyurethane casters can have very thin threads compared to rubber casters, which increases their load capacity. Polyurethane casters are also more resistant to splitting and tearing.


Floor conditions

Soft rubber casters are manufactured using carbon black filler which can mark floors. Hard rubber casters tend to be grey in color and are produced in a material which will not leave marks on the floor. However, as wheel tread is relatively hard, it can sometimes dent and scratch floor materials and therefore would not be recommended for soft flooring surface, such as hard wood, linoleum or terrazzo.

Where floor protection is a concern, polyurethane wheels are often most suitable. Although polyurethane casters come in a variety of colors, the basic chemistry used in their production does not allow any color transference. So if your floors are expensive and/or critical to your operation, a polyurethane wheel may be the best choice for your application.


Roll resistance

Roll resistance is a vital characteristic for ease of use. The lower the roll resistance, the easier it is to manoeuvre the equipment. This reduces operator fatigue and increases the efficiency of the equipment. When it comes to reducing roll resistance, it’s the consistency and the hardness of the material that counts.

Because of the synthetic nature of polyurethane casters, they are more uniform than natural rubber. The highly consistent nature of the material gives consistent levels of rolling friction which creates lower roll resistance. Polyurethane casters tend to be manufactured in harder compounds than rubber. Because harder materials create a lower roll resistance, this also makes polyurethane wheels easier to manoeuvre than rubber wheels.


Cushioning and resilience

The comfort or smoothness of the ride is governed by the cushioning and resilience factor of a caster wheel. Cushioning levels are determined by the stiffness of the wheel. The softer the material, the more it will deform when it moves over an obstacle. And the more it deforms to absorb the shock, the smoother the ride. Rubber casters tends to be softer than polyurethane casters and therefore usually provide better cushioning.

Bear in mind that higher cushioning tends to mean higher the roll resistance. Therefore, you need to decide which is more important to you – smoothness or manoeuvrability –before deciding on which material would be best for your application.


Wear and tear

Although rubber casters offer a softer ride, they will not wear as well as polyurethane. As rubber casters are used, they will lose pieces of tread over time, whereas polyurethane casters tend to have much higher levels of resistance to wear and abrasion. Under controlled tests, polyurethane caster wheels can last up to three times longer than rubber caster wheels. Depending upon the formulation, polyurethane casters also tend to outperform rubber when it comes to resisting oil, grease and chemicals.


Download free CADs and try before you buy

Free CADs are available for most solutions, which you can download. You can also request free samples to make sure you’ve chosen exactly what you need. If you’re not quite sure which solution will work best for your application, our experts are always happy to advise you.

Whatever your requirements, you can depend on fast despatch. Request your free samples or download free CADs now.


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