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      • Published 9 Feb 2024
      • Last Modified 9 Feb 2024
    • 10 min

    Rolling with Castor Wheels: Types, Uses, and Heavy-Duty Options

    Our guide will help you understand what castor wheels are, their uses, how they work, and the types available.

    What are Castor Wheels?

    Castor wheels, sometimes referred to simply as “castors,” are specially designed wheels that are mounted to a frame, often called a caster, allowing for smooth and controlled movement. These wheels come in a variety of sizes, materials, and designs, making them versatile for a wide range of applications.

    Generally, all castor wheels come in either a single wheel, double wheel, or compound wheel configuration. Double wheel castors align two separate wheels side by side to improve stability, while compound castors are two-piece single wheels, made from fixed concentric discs that rotate around an axis offering greater load bearing capacity. 

    Castor wheels are employed in a wide range of industries and applications, including manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and furniture. Their ability to facilitate the movement of heavy objects with ease makes them an essential tool in many different professions. 

    In the following sections we’ll dive deeper into the uses of castor wheels, their weight ratings, compatible surface types, and more.

    How do Castor Wheels Work?

    Castor wheels may appear deceptively simple, but their inner workings are actually more complex. At the heart of a castor wheel’s operation is the rotation of the wheel itself. When force is applied the wheel turns, allowing the attached equipment or furniture to move smoothly. 

    Castor wheels feature an axle that runs through the centre of the wheel, equipped with bearings to reduce friction. Ball bearings are commonly used in castor wheels, ensuring minimal resistance as the wheel rotates. 

    The wheel is attached to a mounting frame, commonly referred to as the caster. The design of this frame can vary, with options including swivel castors that enable the wheel to rotate freely and fixed castors that restrict wheel movement to a straight line. The choice between fixed and swivel castors is made based on the specific requirements of the application.

    As a load is placed on a castor wheel, it transfers the weight to the bearing and the axle, which then distributes the load to the mounting frame and the rest of the structure. This transfer of weight ensures stability and safety when moving heavy objects, preventing overloading and maintaining structural integrity.

    What are Castor Wheels Used for?

    Generally speaking, castor wheels are used to make heavy objects more mobile, making them useful in almost any professional, residential, or industrial setting. Attaching these small unobtrusive wheels to the bottom of a heavy or bulky object is an effective way to improve the mobility of these kinds of objects.  We’ll cover a few of the common examples of uses for castor wheels below: 

    Industrial Equipment: Castor wheels are commonly used in industrial settings to manoeuvre heavy machinery and equipment in an easier manner. They can also be used to transport material and other heavy objects within the factory, making them a useful tool in industrial settings. 

    Logistics: Castor wheels are often integrated into carts, trollies, and dollies to transport goods within factories, distribution centres, or retail stores, making them an essential tool for the logistics industry. 

    Furniture: When used in the case of furniture, castors are sometimes simply called “furniture wheels”. Furniture wheels are commonly seen on the legs of various types of furniture, such as office chairs, tables, or cabinets. They allow for easier re-arrangement of furniture without the need for heavy lifting making them invaluable components for homeowners as well as in industrial and professional settings. 

    Medical Care: Surprisingly, castor wheels also play an important role in the medical care industry. Castor wheels are often used on hospital beds, medical carts, and medical equipment to ensure swift and precise mobility. Swivel castors on hospital beds for instance allow healthcare professionals to move patients smoothly and with minimal effort. 

    Types of Castor Wheels

    Castor wheels come in various types, each designed to meet specific needs and preferences. Understanding the different types of castor wheels will help you to make the right choices based on your specific requirements. Let's explore the common types of castor wheels in more detail below:

    Heavy Duty Castor Wheels

    Heavy-duty castor wheels are workhorses engineered to handle substantial loads with ease. They are known for their robust construction, often featuring larger wheels and sturdy materials. Most heavy-duty castor wheels use the compound wheel configuration that we mentioned previously for improved stability and load bearing capacity. Heavy duty castor wheels usually come in different load-bearing capacities, but typically support weights of over 141 kg.

    Heavy-duty castors are commonly found in industrial and commercial settings, where they play a vital role in supporting heavy machinery, equipment, and materials. Whether in manufacturing plants, warehouses, or construction sites, heavy-duty castor wheels are essential for tasks demanding durability and exceptional load-bearing capacity.

    Swivel Castors and Fixed Castor Wheels

    Swivel castor wheels are designed to rotate a full 360 degrees, allowing for excellent mobility and precise movement and making them perfect for applications requiring tight turns and agile navigation. 

    In contrast, fixed castor wheels do not swivel and move only in a straight line. These capabilities make both fixed and swivel castor wheels highly practical in various scenarios, from material handling in warehouses to the operation of medical equipment.

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    Castor Wheels with Brakes

    Castor wheels with brakes, otherwise known as lockable castors, provide an additional layer of control and safety.These castors feature a built-in braking mechanism that allows you to secure the wheel in place, preventing any unintended movement.The ability to lock the wheels in place is one reason why these are often called lockable castors. 

    They are often utilised on equipment where stability is paramount, such as medical carts, industrial machinery, or office chairs. The ability to lock the wheels ensures that the equipment remains stationary when needed, enhancing safety and preventing accidents.

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    Small Castor Wheels

    Small castor wheels, despite their diminutive size, offer mobility solutions for lighter loads and more compact applications. They are commonly used on furniture, office chairs, and smaller carts, providing the convenience of mobility without dominating the visual profile. 

    Small castor wheels are adept at making everyday objects more manoeuvrable, from rolling office chairs in a workspace to effortlessly moving lightweight furniture.

    Each type of castor wheel has distinct advantages and is best suited for particular applications. By considering these factors, you can select the right castor wheels to ensure your equipment or furniture functions optimally, safely, and efficiently.

    Key Considerations when Selecting Castor Wheels

    Selecting the right castor wheels for your specific needs is crucial to ensure smooth and efficient mobility. Several key considerations should guide your decision when choosing castors for your equipment or furniture. Here are the primary factors to keep in mind:

    What Size Castor Do I Need? - Castor Size & Load Bearing Capacity

    One of the first questions that comes to mind when selecting castor wheels is what size castors do I need? Castor wheels come in a variety of different weight ratings determining their maximum load bearing capacity. A key consideration in selecting castor wheels is to determine the weight of the item being supported by the wheels. Each castor comes with an individual weight rating that you will need to consider before making your selection. The total load bearing capacity is equal to the sum of the capacity of each individual castor wheel. 

    The total load bearing capacity should be at least 30% higher than the total weight of the item to give sufficient safety margin. Some common weight ratings for castor wheels are: 

    Light Duty Castors: Typically support weights of up to 75 kg

    Medium Duty Castors: Typically support weights of between 76 kg to 140 kg 

    Heavy Duty Castors: typically can support weights of over 141 kg. They also come in extra heavy duty configurations for more extreme weights. 

    Castor wheels also come in a range of sizes independent from their load-bearing capacity. Choosing the right size castor is important as it has a direct impact on how smooth the object will be able to move once the castors have been attached. 

    Typically large castor wheels are easier to roll as compared to smaller ones, but it can also depend on the surface you intend to roll it on. For hard surfaces or carpet, consider smaller wheels as they should still be able to roll smoothly despite their size with these surfaces. For uneven surfaces, or larger objects it’s often better to choose larger castors to ensure smoother manoeuvring.

    Castor Material & Surface Compatibility

    One important thing to consider when selecting castor wheels is the surface that you intend for the wheels to roll on and the material that they are made from. For example, small castor wheels are typically only useful on flat and smooth surfaces such as hard floors. For uneven surfaces typically larger wheels will be required to handle the terrain more comfortably. Some wheels are also designed for specific surfaces such as hard floors or carpets. 

    This also impacts what type of material the castors should be made from as certain materials perform better with certain surfaces, like rubber wheels which tend to perform better with hard floors and carpet. Common materials for castors include rubber, polyurethane, nylon, and metal. Select castors made of materials that are compatible with your environment to ensure smooth and efficient movement.

    Brake & Locking Castor Mechanisms

    For equipment that requires stability and control, castor wheels with built-in brakes are essential. The braking mechanism allows you to lock the wheel in place, preventing unintended movement. 

    This feature is particularly useful in healthcare, industrial, and office settings. If you are looking to add castors to items that you only move occasionally, finding castors with brakes is likely the right choice to prevent the item from moving unintentionally.

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    How do you attach Castor Wheels?

    Attaching castor wheels to your equipment or furniture is a relatively straightforward process. Here’s a step by step guide on how to properly attach castor wheels to your items. 

    First you will need to identify where you want to attach the castor wheels. Most castors come with pre-drilled holes in their mounting plates for easy installation. Ensure that the mounting points are strong and capable of supporting the weight of the equipment or furniture. For large bulky items the standard is to use at least 4 castors at each corner of the object. Larger objects may require more and smaller objects can sometimes work with less. 

    Next you will need to align the wheels at the chosen mounting points to ensure the wheels are able to rotate freely without obstruction. Once you’ve aligned the castors you should mark the locations where you will be installing or inserting screws with a pencil if there are no pre-made holes for the mounting screws. If needed, create holes with a drill for your screws and attach the castors to their designated locations. 

    Once the wheels are attached double check the alignment to ensure the wheels can rotate freely. Finally test the stability of the equipment or furniture with the newly attached wheels to ensure that the wheels can support the load without wobbling or causing instability. 

    Whether it's the ease of rearranging furniture, the precision required in industrial settings, or the convenience of everyday tasks, castor wheels simplify movement and provide practical solutions. By considering factors like load capacity, wheel material, and surface compatibility, you can choose the right castor wheels to meet your specific needs. Attaching castor wheels is a straightforward process, making them a valuable addition to your equipment or furniture.