The Rainbow of Rubber Rollers: All Kinds of Cogs that Keep Things Moving

by Rebekah Fuller, IQS editor

The concept is this: rubber in all its various elastomeric forms and alternatives offers different levels of friction – or, simply put, grip or give – when bonded to a cylindrical core, creating rollers that can take on then apply substances (like ink or hot stamp foils, heat transfers or labels), collect unwanted particles, move objects along a conveyor, or offer necessary movement within various machinery and automated systems. From soft, spongy paint rollers to hard roller skate wheels, the consistency of rubber rollers varies depending on application: Does it need to be smooth or grooved, slick or sticky?

The best way to get an idea of what rubber rollers can be is to simply read a list and look at pictures. So, here we go: photocopy rollers, laser printer rollers, photographic imaging rollers, printing rollers, currency dispensing rollers, film and microfilm rollers, magnetic tape capstans, medical chart recorder rollers, high-speed mail sorting rollers, cleaning (sticky) rollers, medical imaging rollers, automated labeling and packaging system rollers, etc. Now, let’s take a look at some colors of the roller rainbow:

Urethane Rollers from American Urethane, Inc.

Contoured and Grooved Rollers from Harwood Rubber Products, Inc.

Did you know that rubber rolls are essential in the making of paper? The thought had never crossed my mind, but it makes so much sense now. The process is called calendaring and occurs at the end of the papermaking line. The paper is passed through a series of hard pressure rollers to smooth and polish it, making the surface ready to be printed and written on. Rollers are also used within printers to keep the paper in check and moving through and out efficiently.

Rollers are also used in highly sensitive equipment, like medical imaging systems, laser etching, and automated systems used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards, credit cards and photographic film. This kind of roller is referred to as a cleaning roller, removing dust and particulate with its tacky surface. Keeping contaminants away at critical internal points means quality product production and longer operating life.

Rubber roller manufacturers continue to make advancements, such as custom linerless label guide rollers by Hiawatha Rubber Co. These molded silicone polymer rollers have crepe configured surfaces with a special coating that allows for the use of label strips without liner backing. This simpler, more effective design saves material and time.

Urethane rollers are a popular alternative to rubber. Urethane offers the necessary traction for continuous operation within high-speed machines, such as paper, mail, tape and currency moving machines, with a higher resiliency to wear. Urethane roller applications include bowling machinery parts, power transmission parts, elevator and escalator wheels, industrial cleaning equipment wheels, skate wheels and food processing rollers. “V” shaped urethane rollers are used to convey and store industrial plumbing and pipe.


Urethane Pipe Rollers from American Urethane, Inc.

With so many roller materials to choose from, the most advanced roller manufacturers have staff chemists ready to devise the best elastomeric compound for each application. They know how to work with neoprene, nitrile, silicone, EPDM, polyurethane, Hypalon®, Viton® and more. Just ask!

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