Rubber rollers, also known as rubber rolls, are cylindrical tubes that are composed of natural rubber or synthetic rubber cover bonded to a metal core. They are not to be confused with rubber roll flooring.
In their most basic form, rubber rollers press materials, substances or qualities onto another surface. They serve as basic and essential components of many different machines, systems and processes.
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The History of Rubber Rollers
The first rollers, sans rubber, were used as far back as Ancient Egyptian society. There, they used wooden log rollers to perform tasks like moving building stones.
Rubber rollers came to be during the Industrial Revolution, after manufacturers learned how to cure and use rubber. Once they knew how to do this, they began coating steel shafts with rubber in order to perform tasks that were too delicate or generally unsuitable for hard steel surfaces. Before rubber rollers, manufacturers used steel shafts wrapped in rope or animal skins.
Since the 1920’s, rubber rollers have been used heavily in printing because they are the most efficient tools for applying inks to plates, spreading glue and applying thin coatings. The structure of rubber rollers have not changed much since then, but they have become more durable, strong and long lasting. They are also now made with many types of elastomers, which they make usable through curing and grinding of raw materials. That’s why, today, you may also see them with names like "urethane roller," "polyurethane roller" and "silicone roller."
Advantages of Rubber Rollers
There are many reasons to love rubber rollers. First, they’re excellent performers. For example, after they’re distorted, they return quickly to their original shape. They also handle pressure very well. In addition, the rubber layer is resistant to harsh chemicals and protects the metal component from scratching, bumping, corrosion, abrasion and general wear and tear. Finally, rubber rollers are versatile, durable, long-lasting and effective.
Design of Rubber Rollers
Manufacturers typically make the roll cover of rubber rollers using molding or casting processes. For example, to make solid rubber rollers, manufacturers usually turn to molding processes such as injection or compression molding. To make an industrial rubber roller using injection molding, manufacturers heat the elastomeric material and then inject it into the cavity of a split die chamber or mold. After that, they clamp it shut and, eventually, let it cool to form the part. During compression molding, they place the rubber compound into a mold, where, in order to achieve the desired shape, they apply heat and pressure. Thus, the industrial roller is made.
Manufacturers can also make rollers using extrusion processes. If they want to extrude the rubber rollers, they take elastomeric materials, heat them until they’re molten and then squeeze them through a die that has a pin attached to the center, which creates the hollow part of the tube.
When making rubber rollers with metallic cores, manufacturers typically form cores via a metal machining process such as stamping.
In order to form a rubber coating over the metal core, manufacturers use a rubber-to-metal bonding process. During a process such as this, they adhere rubber to a metal substrate with a bonding agent. Usually, this bonding agent consists of polymer-solvent solutions, a primer coat based on phenolic-style resins, and a top layer that is a mix of polymers and other materials.
Fabricated using a wide variety of elastomeric materials, rubber rollers can be composed of virtually any rubber product. This includes silicone, EPDM, nitrile rubber, butyl rubber, polyurethane (sometimes referred to as urethane), neoprene, silicone rubber, hard rubber and many other elastomer compounds. Rubber rollers are often manufactured with metal cores. Typical roller core materials include aluminum, steel and stainless steel.
There are many ways that you can customize your rubber roller to suit your purposes. For example, you can have it cut to length, you can get speciality coatings and finishes, or you can select customized grooving patterns, tapers, contours and materials.
Rubber Roller Features
How a rubber roll works depends on its application. However, in general, it works by rolling over a substrate or material like paper. When it does so, it may apply ink, it may smooth wrinkles or it may help convey items down a line.
Rollers are powered by the mechanisms of the system of which they are a part. This includes mechanical, electrical, inertial and automated mechanisms.
One of the features that make rubber rollers most unique is their ability to quickly return to their original shape after they’ve been depressed or deformed.
Rubber Rollers Types
- Cleaning Rollers
- Used in countless applications to clean varying surfaces. Clean rollers are highly specialized and are especially useful for removing dust and particulates. You can use cleaning rollers to clean a variety of surfaces through the removal of dust and other contaminating particulates.
- Conveyor Rollers
- Integral components of roller conveyor systems. Conveyor rollers, which form roller beds, transport materials along the conveyor from one location to another. Conveyor rollers can be made from a variety of rubber materials and are among the most common roller varieties.
- Dead Shaft Rollers
- Have internal bearings at the location of the spinning roll body that rotate around a stationary, or dead, shaft.
- Distribution Rollers
- Rubber-coated rollers used in the printing process to distribute ink from the fountain to the ink drum.
- Drive Rollers
- Have integral shafts with a keyway for sprockets or gears in order to run the roller. Drive rollers are unique in that they have integral shafts that feature a keyway intended for sprockets or gears used to run the roller. Their main goal is to facilitate the movement of various machine parts, which is why this type of rubber roll is often used for machinery such as web machines and converters.
- Grooved Rollers
- Cylindrical rubber tubes with patterns engraved into their outer-facing surface area. Grooved rollers are often grooved in a V, U or spiral pattern. Grooved rollers are commonly used in applications such as belt driven conveyor systems and laminating machinery. More obscure rubber roller types are, for the most part, used only for specified applications. Examples of less common rubber rollers include the cleaning roller, the aforementioned laminating roller, live shaft roller, dead shaft roller, stinger roller and spreader roller (also known as an expander roller).
- Guide Rollers
- Also called "idler rollers," provide support to the roller system. However, idler rolls do not convey power or make changes in direction like process rolls. Guide rolls do not have the ability to convey power or to make directional changes like drive rollers.
- Industrial Rollers
- Cylindrical rolls that either have an elastomer bonded to a metal core or are formed as solid rubber.
- Ink Rollers
- Also referred to as printing rollers, are rubber rollers that either contain ink within the roller itself or are engraved with the pattern desired to be printed. Ink rollers, or printing rollers, may either contain ink within the roller itself or simply be engraved with a pattern. Ink rollers and similar roller types, such as laminating rollers and the press roller, are used for the application of one material onto another material. They can be used as a part of machinery sized anywhere from small office equipment to large printing presses.
- Laminating Rollers
- Also referred to as printing rollers, often interchangeable with pull rollers, are rubber cylindrical tubes used to pull or drive materials in the heated process of lamination. Laminating rollers are a type of heated rubber roll designed for applications that require heat in order to work. As a result, laminating rollers are fabricated from such heat-resistant materials as silicone, which can perform well at temperatures as high as 500º F (260° C).
- Live Shaft Rolls
- Rolls containing external bearings in which both the roll shaft and the roll rotate. These rollers work best under high loads and rough environmental conditions, such as high temperatures. Well-suited for high load quantities and rough environments, live shaft rollers contain external bearings in which both the roller shaft and the rubber roll itself rotates.
- Polyurethane Rollers
- Strong and abrasion resistant. Although urethane rolls have a low resistance to acids, they maintain good resistance to chemicals and oils.
- Natural Rubber Rolls
- Perform well in low temperatures and maintain good strength and elastomeric properties. However, natural rubber rolls have a low heat and oil resistance.
- Neoprene Rollers
- Have great weather and heat resistance and maintain a moderate resistance to most chemicals.
- Cylinders used in industrial equipment to move machine components and products.
- Rubber Rolls
- Rubber tubes that facilitate movement of materials through machinery.
- Silicone Rollers
- While often more costly than other types of rubber rollers, perform well under temperatures as high as 500º F (260º C). Silicone rolls also have great resistance to ozone and chemicals but are not typically used in situations requiring great strength. Stinger rollers rotate around a stationary shaft and have internal bearings.
- Stinger Rollers
- Used in applications such as offshore pipe-lay vessels, stinger rollers are very similar to dead shaft rollers except that stinger rollers are designed to function specifically in marine applications.
- Spreader Rollers
- Used in many spreading applications, spreader rollers are commonly used in webs spreading machinery in order to prevent web wrinkling and to fix wrinkles by stretching and spreading the web. Manufacturers often machine spreader rollers with grooves in designs such as herringbone, spiral, lateral-fluted or circumferential.
- Urethane Rollers
- Made of a thermoplastic polymer and are used in printing presses, labeling machines, and as ink rollers.
- V Rollers
- Hourglass-shaped rollers that may or may not have outside or integral bearings. "V" rollers are used for conveying pipe longitudinally.
- Web Spreader Rolls
- Used to prevent web wrinkling and to fix wrinkles by stretching and spreading the web.
Applications of Rubber Rollers
Rollers have a broad range of uses, such as the application of one material onto another material. They can also be used to facilitate movement of various machine parts, as is the case with drive rollers. Another very common use of rollers is as tools that provide support and transportation to materials moving through process equipment.
Rubber rollers are also used in circuit board printing, laser printing, photographic imaging, medical chart recording, newspaper printing, bulk material handling, packaging, metal processing, commercial printing and paper converting. Other rubber roller applications include coating, heat treating, drying, annealing, calendaring and embossing.
Rubber Roller Installation
Because rubber rollers and their applications are so diverse, the processes for installing them are also diverse. Some you can do on your own, but others require the assistance of your supplier. To find out just exactly what it will take to install your rollers, talk to your roller manufacturer.
Standards and Specifications for Rubber Rollers
Many rubber rollers must be kept up to standards that are specific to their industry, whether that be food, medicine or packaging.
To make sure your roller is of the highest quality, though, we recommend that, in addition to industry standards, you stick to both ASTM and ISO standards. Also, if you have workers involved, also research any and all OSHA requirements.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Rubber Rollers
When getting ready to make a rubber roller purchase, you have a number of factors to consider.
These include: the nature of your application (pressure, frequency of use, materials conveyed, heat, environment, etc), industry standards and the size of your operation. Considering these will help you pick the right roller type and design.
To find the best manufacturer for you, you need to think about your needs. Do they provide value-adding services like in-house packing? Are they willing to work within your budget and timeframe? Do they do their best to meet all of your specifications and requirements? All of these considerations are just as important as whether or not they’re skilled and experienced.
Find a manufacturer that has what it takes by browsing the sites of and speaking with the companies listed towards the top of this page.
Proper Care for Rubber Rollers
Care for rubber rollers involves more than cleaning, although that is certainly part of it. Rather, to maintain quality, there are a few common pitfalls you must avoid or correct. These are: dynamic balancing, glaze, piling and wrinkling.
Dynamic balancing is a state of imbalance that leads to an unintended degree of rotation. To return your rubber roll to a rotation-free state of balance (static balancing), simply use a balancing machine.
Glaze is the name for build-up on an ink rubber roll or the blanket of a printing press. Buildup like this will negatively affect the uniformity of ink distribution. Similarly, "piling" refers to the buildup of ink on the rollers, blankets and/or plates of a printing press. Avoid these states by, one, regularly cleaning your machine, and two, considering an accessory like a doctor.
Finally, the term "wrinkling" refers to the appearance of folds, creases and other deformations of the surface of a roll. Avoid wrinkling by making sure that you don’t put more stress on your rubber roll than it is designed to handle. Also make sure that it is properly supported.
Improve your rubber rollers by focusing on quality control during design and manufacturing. Opt for high performance rubber compounds, uniform hardness and sufficient bonding. Insist upon these things, and your rollers will serve you well.
Rubber Roller Accessories
Depending on the application of your rubber roll, there are many accessories out there in which you may want to invest. Some of these include bearings, solid trackings, flange gaskets, balls, ball retainers, doctors and web.
Bearings, for example, are rotary support mechanisms. In other words, they provide your rubber roll with stability and abrasion resistance. In addition, they help your roller move more easily and smoothly. They are a great accessory to have for virtually any application.
A flange gasket is a type of gasket that is designed to fit between two pipe sections and provide a greater surface area. You can use flange gaskets with rollers in order to help join assemblies.
Doctors are a blade-like accessory that, when installed, remove buildup from your roller at a near constant pace. They’re great to have when you are working with materials that, if allowed to dry or accumulate, would be hard to remove.
Web is a paper type used in printing. Purchase this accessory for high-speed, high volume printing applications like print media.
Rubber Rollers Terms
- Balance Correction
- A process used to correct roller imbalance and associated rotation by either lessening roll weight through drilling or increasing roll weight by adding weights to the roll interior.
- Balance Toleration
- The amount of imbalance that a roller can tolerate while still working properly.
- The bearing mechanism placed between roll races that keeps the internal race motionless, while permitting the rotation of the external race.
- Ball Retainer
- The mechanism that facilitates high roller speed through the separation of the bearing balls.
- A rotary support mechanism placed either on the interior or exterior of a roll to facilitate roll movement.
- A process by which paper is made by passing it between two rollers, smoothing and polishing the surface.
- Coil Coating
- A process in which a series of rubber rollers deposit a thin film of paint coating on a continuous metal or plastic web.
- A blade-like device that removes foreign matter from a roll. The doctor rests on the running surface of the roll.
- Dynamic Balancing
- Balancing in which a certain degree of rotation occurs due to imbalance. Dynamic balancing is corrected in a balancing machine.
- An apparatus used for measuring the hardness of rubber.
- A material, such as rubber, capable of returning to its initial length after being stretched at room temperature to twice its original length.
- A build-up on rubber rollers or the blanket of a printing press that negatively affects uniform ink distribution.
- The building up of ink on the rollers, plates or blankets of a printing press.
- Using a bar or roller to gather the full width of stretch film to create a "rope" that is nearly unbreakable.
- Static Balancing
- Balancing, often occurring in low-speed applications, in which the roll is properly balanced so that no rotation occurs.
- Paper used in print media, insert cards and in other applications; it is sold in a roll for high volume, high-speed printing.
- Web Handling
- The industry involved in processing continuous material strips called webs that will be used in future processing operations. Common web materials include plastic, metal and paper.
- A deformation in a rubber roll in which folds and creases form on the surface of the roll.