Types of Rollers and How They Are Used

Types of Rollers and How They Are Used

Rollers are widely used components that serve the simple yet surprisingly diverse functions of facilitating and processing material and product movements in manufacturing and/or industrial settings.  While standard rollers are rollers actually touching the material, there are also conveyor rollers available that are employed in conveyor applications.  No matter the industrial application, there is probably a roller system that is a perfect fit.

The primary differentiator between rollers is the roller material at the point of contact with the material or product because this dictates the function, geometry, and available features of the rollers.  To put it simply, rollers are available in three material classifications. 1) Urethane/Rubber, 2) Metallic, and 3) Resin.

Metallic rollers: These rollers are explicitly designed for sustaining heavy component movement because they can carry a large bearing load with a medium touch.  Metallic rollers, the workforce of rollers, are employed to move higher loads where workpieces can tolerate a bit of a rough handling touch.  These rollers are available in straight or crowned geometry across a wide range of sizes with bearing, set screw, or mounting methods.

Urethane/Rubber rollers:  In general these types of rollers are found in applications that necessitate large contact and holding friction forces.  They're also found in more delicate operations such as processing/smoothing wrinkles in paper and/or plastic films.  These kinds of rollers are employed where pieces cannot sustain damage on the surface or the part as a whole.  Similarly, rubber rollers are employed in material processing applications where a light material is required, such as paper, textile, or sheet metal manufacturing or processing.  In this fashion, they are even employed in the sheet metal industry where low gauge sheet metal is coiled up into large rolls and the surface finish integrity of the sheet metal is vitally important.  These rollers can be specified with a variety of hardware choices, such as Bearings, set screws, bushing, bolts, keyways or shafts.  They are also available in straight or crowned geometry with grooved or knurled heard to add friction and increase the grip strength of the roller system.

Resin Rollers: Resin rollers are similar in function as rubber/urethane rollers, but resin rollers are actually metallic core base rollers that have undergone a surface application of resin coating.  These rollers are used in applications similar to urethane or rubber rollers, for applications that require a soft touch or instances where ink or resin coatings are to be applied.  Outside of industrial material movement applications, they are also typically used in industry for packaging and/or polymer material storage applications.  These rollers only available in straight shape but can be specified with bearings or side mounted bolt hardware.

The next critical differentiator among rollers is the actual roller geometry which can be generally classified into the following categories:

Rollers:  Solid Rollers can be specified with many different mounting components such as integrated such as shafts, bearings.  They are also available in many different shapes- straight profile, crowned profile or a barrel-shaped rolled profile.  These rollers are not available with an integrated driveshaft because the solid rollers are typically robust enough to sustain substantial workloads.

These rollers actually can be specified for some metallic alloys as hollow cylinders with slots for bearing and other hardware mounts on the ends of the rollers.  Size availability: Outer Diameter (OD) sizes ranging from 8mm to 100mm and lengths of 50-1000mm.

Pipe Rollers: Pipe rollers are similar to the solid rollers, but instead are actually hollow pipes.  They typically are specified with integrated roller bearings at the mounting ends of the roller.  This makes the pipe roller lighter than the solid metal rollers, and as such, they are easier to physically man-handle and remove for maintenance intervals.  However, because these rollers are hollow, they are not able to sustain the same load-bearing capacity that the solid rollers are able to sustain. Pipe rollers are available with a variety of mounting methods in both urethane and metal rollers. Size Availability: OD sizes ranging from 18mm to 100mm and lengths of 50-1000mm.

Conveyor Rollers: Conveyer rollers are metallic rollers because of the high bearing loads present in conveyor belts.  These rollers are smaller by nature. Conveyor rollers do not carry products directly but rather serve as drive shafts for belt-driven conveyor systems.  These rollers are typically robust carbon/hardened tool steel because they must be capable of transferring torque loads as a result of the conveyor payload.  They can be specified with or without a chrome surface finish for harsher industrial applications, and they are even available with integrated motors and drive shafts to ease the creation of custom-built belt drive systems. Size Availability OD sizes ranging from 12mm to 121mm with widths ranging from 2mm to 1000mm

Rollers Across the Industries of Today

Probably one of the most recognizable examples of industrial roller use, from the vantage point of the consumer, is within the vast postage/package sorting industry of which large retailers would probably be the most widely known consumer application.  These package fulfillment warehouses are packed with miles of metallic rollers designed to move packages of all sizes and weights.  Industrial rollers play an indispensable part in bringing products to the front door of the consumer.
Rubber and/or Urethane rollers are employed extensively in the paper and plastic production industries.  Plastic industries, in particular, utilize the excellent heat resistance of rubber rollers for plastic thermosetting and thermoforming.  The rollers are almost exclusively employed in the graphics printing industry and are especially useful for ink applications on curved surfaces.  Even within ordinary office printers, it’s almost impossible to open up a door, and not encounter a rubber roller or two.

By Chris Higgins
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