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Load Moving Casters: They’re More Important Than You Think

Load Moving Casters: They’re More Important Than You Think

If you drive a car, you know how important tires are in getting you moving, allowing you to stop, and maneuver, all while keeping your vehicle in contact with the road. Casters on carts and dollies in industrial settings are no different, they facilitate the fundamental method of movement – rolling.

While caster wheels aren’t the most exciting topic, their importance shouldn’t be overlooked. Taking a little time to understand casters could save you money, time and help reduce safety issues for staff.

For loads mounted on casters, they are the single point of the load in contact with the floor – making them a crucial part of your cart. This means they play a large part in dictating how easy it is to start a load moving, maneuver or steer it, and bring it to a stop – all while supporting your load weight!

Caster wheels are a key factor to consider when it comes to how a load is moved, particularly when using material handling equipment like electric tuggers.

Caster wheel types and materials

There are two predominant types of caster wheels:

Fixed Cart Caster

Fixed Casters

As the name suggests, they are fixed and facilitate a forward/backwards movement only. Generally, loads with fixed casters are installed in combination with swivel caster wheels to allow maneuverability with handling aids like electric tuggers or electric tow tugs.

Swivel Cart Caster

Swivel Casters

The caster rotates in a 360-degree motion, allowing steering and maneuverability. Swivel casters can be equipped with a directional lock, which turns them from a swivel caster to a fixed one using a simple locking mechanism – allowing you to move the load differently depending on the application.

When using an electric tugger, this allows you to position the tugger to correspond with your caster set-up, allowing maximum maneuverability.

In industrial settings, the most common types of caster wheel materials include nylon, polyurethane, rubber, and steel.

Each caster material type has specific attributes which in turn, influence the rolling resistance of the caster. For example, steel casters running on rails have a very low rolling resistance which means less force is required to start the load moving and stop it.

Rolling Resistance Definition:

The force resisting the motion when a caster rolls on a surface.

There are several variables which can influence rolling resistance in addition to caster material, including:

  • Caster condition
  • Caster orientation
  • Slopes
  • Floor material and condition,
  • Presence of debris
  • Weather conditions

When it comes to material handling equipment, specifically electric tow tuggers, reputable suppliers will use the information on your environment and casters to calculate the rolling resistance and in turn, the force required to move and slow down a load.

From this, they’ll then be able to specify a suitably equipped tugger or tow to move your load. This may sound like a ‘dark art’, but a credible tow tugger supplier will use basic physics to outline what your estimated rolling resistance is, the force needed to move the load and then the capabilities of the solution specified.

3 Common Caster Wheel Configurations

Loads can come with a variety of weird and wonderful caster wheel configurations, but 3 of the most common set-ups seen in industrial settings are:

4 Fixed Casters

4 Fixed Casters

This is used only for straight-line operations (often on rails or recessed tracks). With 4 fixed wheels you cannot steer or turn the load.

2 Fixed and 2 Swivel Casters

2 Fixed & 2 Swivel Casters

The most common configuration across many industries, this setup facilitates easy-to-control movements – and is best suited for use with handling aids like electric tuggers.

4 Swivel Casters

4 Swivel Casters

A set-up that is generally fitted to lighter equipment or where flexibility of movement is required. An all-swivel set up makes it tricky to steer and position a load with handling aids. When moving an all-swiveling load with electric tuggers, there are two options to provide the controlled movement – either a machine equipped with a fixed point or to utilize two machines. This setup can also feature directional locks in which case it operates in the same way as a 2 fixed, 2 swivel set-up but with the added flexibility to change configurations as required.

Of course, countless other configurations exist, ranging from a mixture of casters and support legs to swivel caster set-ups with central fixed casters. The caster configuration you choose, or already have will influence the range of movement available to you so it’s important to consider this.

5 Things to keep in mind

Now you have an overview of the different styles and configurations of casters, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking to buy new casters, or assessing the suitability of your current casters:

Weight Capacity

1. Load Weight Capacity

Make sure any casters you select are rated to the weight you need to move (or even offer scope for future heavier requirements). Heavy loads will require different types of caster and may need twin wheel casters.

Caster Condition

2. Caster Condition

Loads with worn or damaged caster wheels will increase rolling resistance and in turn require significantly more force to move, in some cases up to 20% more force!  If you’re looking into using a handling aid like an electric tow, this will increase the machine specification needed to cope with the high rolling resistance. (Tip: new casters help, a lot!)

Caster Quantity

3. Caster Quantity

The number of casters can also have an impact on rolling resistance. It’s important to speak with a reputable caster supplier to ensure that your load weight, specific point loading and application are considered when deciding on the number and position of casters.

Caster Material

4. Caster Material

As touched upon above, different caster materials have different attributes. If you have specific environmental needs (i.e., food manufacturing and pharmaceutical environments), make sure to speak to a reputable caster supplier.

Your floor will also influence which caster material you may select as you might need casters that are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. Hard tread wheels tend to be better on soft or smooth floors, while softer tread wheels are preferable for rougher conditions.

Castor quality

5. Purchase Quality

As with anything, you get what you pay for, and the final point to keep in mind when buying casters is quality. High-quality casters designed for industrial settings are a worthwhile investment in ensuring rolling resistance is kept as low as possible and guarantees the longevity of your equipment and flooring.

Safely move your wheeled loads

We have an extensive range of electric tuggers and tow tugs specifically designed to improve the safety and efficiency of moving heavy-wheeled loads.

With these tips on caster specification and set-up, all you need now is an electric tugger or electric tow to deliver powerful, safe movements of your wheeled equipment.

As experts in moving heavy-wheeled loads, we can advise you on casters, carts, tow tugs, and everything in between.

For applications where you’d like a cart designed and manufactured alongside our electric tuggers – we can do that too, delivering a turnkey package that’s ready to work right out of the box.

If you have an application you’d like to discuss, or you’d like to explore our range of electric tuggers and electric tows, get in touch with one of our experts.

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