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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

4 Common Caster Types

Casters are small wheels designed to make large objects easier to move. Their numerous applications include shopping carts, office chairs and tables, and material handling equipment. Heavy duty casters are common on platform trucks, assemblies, and tow lines. Casters work best on smooth, flat surfaces.

Casters come in several different sizes and materials. They are usually made of aluminum, nylon, plastic, rubber or stainless steel. Some are attached to roll along a straight path, while others pivot to align themselves to the direction of travel. Casters come in four basic types: rigid, swivel, braking and locking casters.

Rigid Casters

Rigid casters represent the most basic caster type. They are mounted to a stationary fork that is fixed based on an object’s orientation and travel direction. In North America, the rear wheels of a shopping cart are usually rigid casters. They restrict the cart’s motion so it travels along a straight line.

Swivel Casters

Like rigid casters, swivel casters are also mounted to a fork that is fixed to an object. However, a swivel joint allows the fork to rotate 360 degrees. This makes the object easy to move in any direction without a change in orientation.

Swivel casters usually have a small amount of distance between the center axis of both the vertical shaft and the caster wheel. If the wheel does not face the right direction, the offset causes the wheel to rotate until it faces the right direction of movement. Without the offset, the wheel could drag across the floor or prevent motion.

Braking Casters

Even inexpensive casters often include a braking feature. A braking caster prevents a wheel from turning. It accomplishes this with a simple brake cam that presses against the wheel. Even in this position, the wheel may continue to swivel in a small circle around the offset distance.

Locking Casters

More complex casters include a rotational lock so neither the shaft or wheel can rotate or turn. Sometimes called a total lock caster, this type of caster provides rigid support. Some caster systems have a central lock mechanism that enables all casters to brake and lock at the same time.

Access Casters Inc. is an example of a North American company that sells rigid, swivel, braking and locking casters. Companies like this one sell casters that are suitable for schools, libraries, offices, hospitals, furniture stores and the food service industry. Many of the world’s top brands are available through these companies.