No matter your application, and no matter the size of the wheel or the material used, there are primarily two types of caster mountings – rigid plate, and swivel plate. The question this article will answer is which is the best for your specific application?
First off, what are the differences between rigid top-plate casters and swivel top plate casters?
Rigid Top Plate Casters
The top plate is what affixes the caster to the item it’s transporting. The stem of the caster is the part of the caster that the wheel is attached to. The stem and top plate are sometimes attached separately, but most of the time the stem and top plate are molded in one piece out of the same material.
The top plate is usually square. It has four small holes drilled into it – one at each corner, for the screws. In a typical application holes are drilled into the item for which casters are required, and the rigid top plate is screwed into the appliance.
This kind of top plate does not move – hence the reason why it’s referred to as ‘rigid’!
Swivel Top Plate Casters
The basic set up of a swivel plate caster is identical to a rigid top-plate caster aside from one important aspect – the caster mounting and the top plate are never molded from one piece – they are two separate pieces that are constructed in such a way that they can move independently of one another.
With a light-weight swivel plate caster the caster housing is simply affixed below the top plate. A pin is inserted between the two, thus allowing 360o rotation.
For applications in which casters are expected to bear greater loads, a heavy-duty swivel top-plate caster will be required. In such cases the caster mounting has its own affixed top plate, which is then secured to a separate top plate with a more substantial pin or assembly that again allows 360o rotation.
Rigid Top-Plate Casters, the Benefits and Suitable Applications
The main advantage of rigid top-plate casters is safety. If you have an item with a rigid top-plate caster affixed to each corner, you will find that maneuverability is a problem – such items can usually only be moved in straight lines.
This is of course only a problem if you require your items to be more maneuverable. Casters of course are used to move items from point A to point B, so if your caster-mounted items only ever make short journeys, or from specific points in your warehouse, then rigid top-plate casters will do the job just fine.
Also, items with rigid top-plate casters are much easier to control than items with swivel top-plate casters. This is ideal if safety is of paramount importance (as it should be, anyway).
Additionally, rigid top-plate casters are cheaper than swivel top-plate casters as the manufacturing process is much simpler. Maintenance is also much cheaper (often an uncooperative caster can be fixed with the simple application of a little amount of lubrication), and of course if your rigid top-plate caster becomes damaged it is often cheaper to simply replace it than repair it. This is not so easily achieved with swivel top-plate casters.
Swivel Top-Plate Casters, the Benefits and Suitable Applications
As you ought to have guessed by now, the number one benefit of swivel top-plate casters is maneuverability. For items that spend a large part of their day in motion, or travel to multiple points within your warehouse facility, swivel top-plate casters are a must. If you need to move your items around on a continual basis, then rigid top-plate casters simply will not get the job done.
There are a few issues you need to consider before you place a bulk order of swivel top-plate casters:
- Swivel top-plate casters are always more expensive than their rigid top-plate counterparts.
- Items that are mounted on swivel top-plate casters are easier to maneuver than items mounted on rigid top-plate casters, but they are more difficult to keep in one place. This issue though can be easily fixed by investing in swivel plate casters that have a brake. You do not need to invest in four brake-mounted swivel plate casters for each item, though – as long as two of the casters have brakes then you will be fine.
- Maintenance of swivel-mounted top plate casters can be an issue, as they sometimes need a little more than just a simple lubrication job in order to remain functional. Remember, swivel top-plate casters have more moving parts than fixed top plate casters.
The Best of Both Worlds – Mixing and Matching Both Types of Casters
Sometimes you want maneuverability and safety, and sometimes (in fact, most of the time) you want to keep costs down. In order to do this when it comes to the choice of swivel top plate casters or fixed top plate casters you can ‘mix and match’.
If – for example – you were to put swivel plate casters on the front of your item, and fixed plate casters on the back of your item, then you would still have maneuverability without having to worry as much about safety. Note that your item will still be difficult to move in lines that are other than straight or slightly curved, but will be much easier to control than an item with four swivel plate mounted casters.
Advice is Always AvailableFrom the Caster Experts at Douglas Equipment
Here at Douglas Equipment we are always willing to discuss all types of casters with new and old customers, as well as the optimal applications of swivel and rigid top plate casters. All you have to do is pick up the phone, and a member of our expert team will be available to answer any questions you might have.
Just give us a call at 1-800-451-0030 or contact us through our online form. If you reach out to us via email, we’ll reach back out to you as soon as we can!