Flanged metal wheels can be used for a range of track applications, including lumber kilns, material transfer vehicles, marine tracks, cranes and factory or mining carts.
When properly selected and maintained, industrial cart wheels used with track installations enhance productivity and efficiency – they offer controlled movement of heavy-duty machinery with minimal friction and wear.
Mismatched wheels, or wheels unsuitable for a specific application, have the opposite effect; they risk failure that can damage operating equipment. Selecting the wrong wheel can lead to work slowdowns, stoppages, or even safety hazards.
The following is an overview of essential considerations when selecting wheels for industrial and commercial rail applications.
Application and Material
The primary consideration for wheel selection is the track it will operate on.
Rail and track installations can be installed in many different ways and take many different forms. They can be set on or below the surface; in some cases, tracks are even suspended overhead. Tracks are also installed in various widths and gauges.
Depending on a track's location, age, and frequency of use, some rails will show signs of damage or wear, including uneven surfaces or misalignment. Running speeds, curve design and excessive environmental debris all contribute to rail wear, but so can the material and design of a metal wheel. Proper wheel selection can improve handling and maneuverability while ensuring a longer operational lifespan.
Factors to consider:
- Hard surfaces create wear on softer surfaces.
It's best to select wheels less hard than their tracks. Harder track materials will wear wheels more quickly, but this is more economical than using harder wheels and replacing tracks more frequently.
- Steel is more elastic than iron.
Because it is less brittle, steel is less susceptible to breakage —and is more forgiving when riding along twists, turns and other track variances.
- Single flanged wheels are more maneuverable than double flanged wheels.
They are used more often on trains and trolleys designed to travel at higher speeds. Each flange is located on the inside edge of each wheel—providing guidance without restricting movement.
- Double flanged wheels offer better support to keep vehicles on track.
While they offer more stability, they are typically used at slower speeds. Double flanged wheels are ideal for overhead cranes and trolleys, where they help guide equipment more precisely and result in less side-to-side motion.
- Wheels can be customized to fit your rails.
This includes altering the diameter or the width of each flange. It also includes altering the tread width, which is the surface area between each flange. A tread width should be slightly larger than the track size.
When selecting wheels for use in industrial or commercial settings, it's important to identify and evaluate their intended use and overall operating environment. Factors such as extreme temperatures and caustic environments affect the performance and operating life of industrial wheels.
In some environments, wheels may be subject to extreme temperatures, chemicals or other conditions that may lead to accelerated corrosion and/or wear.
- Caustic environments may require special materials or treatments.
Without them, wheels in caustic environments are subject to corrosion, melting or pitting.
- Various stainless steel alloys offer high resistance to certain types of corrosion.
They can be used when determining specifications for custom wheels.
Weight Capacity and High-impact Loading
All materials have their breaking point. It's important to know the limit of your wheels and to plan accordingly. Consider any high-impact or uneven loading that the wheels will need to tolerate. Working beyond a specified carrying capacity can lead to material failures, which can damage vehicles or other machinery, as well as risk employee harm.
- Weight will be distributed across all wheels on a cart.
To estimate capacity requirements for each individual wheel, identify the maximum loading weight (including the weight of the cart), add an additional 25 percent of the total weight and then divide by the number of wheels.
Wheel carrying capacity = [Max loading weight + (Max loading weight * 0.25)] / Wheels
- Uneven loads may require wheels to carry higher capacities.
Uneven loads put more load on individual wheels, so the carrying capacity of each wheel must increase accordingly.
- High-impact loading can lead to material fatigue over time.
While iron has better fatigue resistance than steel, it is also more brittle and susceptible to fracture. Steel offers better all-around strength for long-term use.
- Ductile iron is more elastic and less brittle than standard cast iron.
It can be a good alternative to steel—offering good balance between hardness and ductility.
- Bushings and bearings can also affect a wheel's load capacity.
High-capacity bushings and bearings can increase capacity and are relatively easy to install.
Heavy loading requires stability for secure transport of valuable materials. Lumber in particular needs to be stacked in a way that promotes airflow, making stable transport critical for maintaining balanced lumber loads.
- Wider wheel dimensions offer better stability.
Wheels can be customized for additional width when required.
- Material elasticity adds stability.
Standard steel wheels offer more elasticity than iron products, and special alloys can be specified for custom products.
- Proper flanges are critical to maintaining track alignment.
Different weights, speeds and other environmental factors will dictate the dimensions for a proper flange.
Ease of Movement
Different modes of propulsion will determine how easily a rail vehicle should move. Machine-powered forces will move a vehicle more effectively than manual labor, so manual vehicles should be designed to offer the least resistance possible to minimize fatigue among handlers.
Wheel bearings and bushings reduce friction and wear, making them a common area for customization.
Bearings are machine elements that reduce friction between moving parts within a restricted field of motion. They can be installed into industrial wheels to ensure free turning on a fixed axle. Low-friction bearings are often ideal for hand-propelled carts, as they offer minimal resistance.
Bushings are metal or nylon linings set into a wheel's bore to limit the size of an opening, resist abrasion or serve as a guide. They can prevent friction and erosion between a wheel and axle.
Standard and Custom Industrial Cart Wheels
Standard in-stock models are usually the most economical and expedient option. Standard wheels are designed and tested to accommodate certain track types and load capacities. They can also be cheaper to customize—on your own or through your provider—than fully custom designs.
Custom manufacturing involves a longer process for consultation and development, but may be better suited when ordering large volumes with precise specifications.
Where to go from here
Reliance Foundry carries a selection of standard, in-stock industrial steel wheels and provides consultation on new custom wheels.
We are able to work with you through any stage of sourcing and development—from working with existing products to developing entirely new wheel concepts. Our sales staff are available at any time to offer guidance and consultation on planning a custom wheel order.
Originally published September 15, 2014. Updates reflect current products.