Hard Vs Soft Castor Wheels - The Pros And Cons Of Both

22 April 2022
When choosing castors, you'll want to ensure that the mountable rollers you pick are the best match for their job. One crucial factor to consider before getting your new wheels is material toughness. 

Wheel performance and behaviour hinge on what makes up your selected castors. Hardness or softness heavily influences each wheel's floor wear, manoeuvrability, movement speed, temperature resistance, and overall noisiness. Certain types might prove incompatible with more demanding or vulnerable loads, too. Here's our guide.

Hard Wheels

Hard-tread castors are the durable, efficient, heavy-duty answer to tough industrial challenges. Hard-tread castors include metal, nylon, phenolic (carbolic oil coated), and polypropylene composite (PLP plastic) variants. Designed for continuous use within high and low-temperature spaces, strenuous wear-and-tear routines (e.g. short-distance unloading transit, kitchen racking, warehouse crating), and high-traction surfaces, hard castors keep going - whatever happens.

Thick nylon and plastic types boast good chemical, chip, and crack resistance and excellent load capacity at the cost of a slightly lower temperature tolerance range (-20-80 °C). Metal and phenolic wheels are ideal for use with ambient heat around kilns and forges in use, operating safely up to 300 °C. They're chemical-proof, too, helping boost lifespan.

High downforce from the castor's heavier weights also substantially lowers any traction-push resistance. Their strength makes heavy-wheeled trolleys much easier to move by hand. However, this advantage comes at a small price. Hard castors are typically noisier and cause more noticeable floor indentations, which can scratch sensitive surfaces (e.g. marble, hardwood floors, painted concrete). 

Hard castors may also struggle to cross uneven, ridged surfaces (e.g. rough concrete, lawns, sloped paths). It might be better to use lighter, slower-moving castors on tracks where bumps, cornering, and sudden stops are present.

Soft Wheels

Soft wheels come in many varieties suited to a spectrum of light-to-heavy commercial and industrial tasks. While mostly lacking the extreme temperature durability and traction control of heavier units, softer castors make up the difference through their low profile, versatility, and ability to take on storage and transfer work in unusual industrial environments.

Most soft castors use composite plastic or rubber for wheels (with an added micro-weave pattern for traction). While less firm, they'll happily run at indoor storage temperatures (typically -10-60 °C) while depressing and scratching surfaces far less. The lighter weight of soft castors also makes them unobtrusive. Cushioned wheels make little to no noise and offer a smooth ride while in motion. 

With electrostatic proofing, pneumatic inflation, and thermoplastic flexibility variants available, soft wheels are ideal for use in high-sensitivity, ultra-clean environments (e.g. electronic labs, food factories, hospital wards) where sensitivity and damage limitation are critical. 

Elastic rubber and polyurethane-coated (PUE) models can easily take heavy loads. Other standard-issue soft types (e.g. PVC, pneumatic, pure rubber) might not be sturdy enough to cope. Check the ratings with your manufacturer or supplier before buying.

Hard And Soft Castors From Rolltek

Rolltek are international manufacturers of specialist castors and fittings to meet any need. We supply to industry and commerce worldwide. Please browse our latest catalogue to learn more.

Image source: Unsplash
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