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Polyurethane Wheels vs Rubber Wheels: Which Material is Better?

Jun 6 read

When trying to choose the perfect castor material for the office or home chair people often have to choose between polyurethane casters vs rubber. Whereas a person has never dealt with these materials before and is not well aware of the differences between them, it will be very difficult for him/her to make the right choice. Get acquainted with the basic peculiarities.

Polyurethane is a versatile polymer material used in various industries, construction, and everyday life. This material has high strength characteristics, dielectric constant, and also lends itself well to mechanical processing. In addition, polyurethane casters are characterized by resistance to aggressive environments and atmospheric phenomena, wear resistance, and durability. It has become a great alternative to the traditional rubber casters due to all the advantages of polyurethane. They have greater durability, resistance to wear and abrasion, so their service life is long.

Polyurethane or rubber – which is better?

To understand how rubber differs from polyurethane, It’s important to compare polyurethane vs rubber casters and consider their main physical, mechanical, and operational characteristics. We summarize all the data below for ease of comparison.

Index  Polyurethane  Rubber
Shore hardness (A scale)  40 – 98 65 – 95
Tensile strength, kg/cm² 312 115
Elongation at break, % 500 – 600  300
Tear resistance, kg/cm² 58 20
Shrinkage, % 33.5 35 – 40
Elasticity, % 40 30
Abrasion resistance (H22) 10 2
Temperature limit of brittleness, ℃ -77 -70
Operating temperature range, ℃ -70…+120 -30…+50
Frost resistance coefficient 58 20
Abrasion, m³/t  11.25 – 26.6 45 – 80

Rubber is a product of the caoutchouc vulcanization. Such material is characterized by a low cost, which led to its frequent use in many areas. However, the abovementioned table shows that rubber is inferior to polyurethane in terms of strength and elasticity and also has a smaller operating temperature range. In addition, rubber is less resistant to moisture, chemicals, and is largely subject to wear during operation.

What are PU wheels? PU wheels’ meaning is really simple as these products can cope with the high load capacity and are able to serve for a long time due to their high abrasion resistance. These PU wheels are resistant to aggressive environments, including gasoline, solvents, salts, acids, and alkalis. Moreover, poly casters are resistant to cuts, tears, dirt, and other debris. It is possible to use warehouse equipment with polyurethane wheels on all types of road and floor coverings, which means that they are universal.

The master inserts rubber wheels into the office chair.

How is polyurethane different from rubber?

Polyurethanes are chemical compounds obtained as a result of a polymerization reaction. It’s about two components, which belong to different groups of compounds, mixing in a heated state. The temperature maintains the components in a liquid state with low viscosity. Elastomeric polyurethanes do not contain additional mineral compounds and the mixture is poured into a heated mold containing a metal and plastic disk. The presence of a wide range of chemical compounds allows the creation of various forms.

The possibility of programming physical and mechanical parameters should be indicated (in addition to wearing resistance and resistance to aggressive environments) by considering how polyurethane differs from rubber. One or another quality of the polymer can be planned without compromising other characteristics during the production process. Such a situation differs from rubber. For example, increasing the elasticity of rubber by adding natural modifiers leads to a marked reduction in the service life of solid rubber casters. Due to the special structure and UV resistance, polyurethane products “age” several times slower, so the polyurethane vs rubber caster wheels comparison leads to obvious conclusions.

The tensile strength of synthetic elastomers is 1.5–3 times higher than that of natural counterparts. The ability of the elastomer to more quickly restore its original shape after loading without permanent deformation is also a significant difference between rubber vs polyurethane casters. The only point in which polymer-based parts can be inferior is cost but our Stealtho Company does its best to keep prices at an acceptable level and delight customers with high-quality and affordable products. Rubber casters are in most cases cheaper than polyurethane. However, in order not to pay twice, as the well-known saying says, we recommend purchasing products from a more durable and wear-resistant material, which is polyurethane. This will be much more profitable in the long run.

Emphasized polyurethane wheels’ advantages 

  1. Polyurethane caster wheels are highly resistant to heavy loads and do not deform.
  2. Do not damage the flooring and do not leave marks.
  3. Resistant to abrasion.
  4. They are noiseless. 
  5. Polyurethane casters do not need periodic pressure testing and pumping with compressed air. All maintenance is reduced to decontamination or sanitization. 
  6. Such wheels are resistant to corrosion and slightly aggressive substances.
  7. Polyurethane is not a conductor of electricity and has low thermal conductivity.

It is easy to say that when comparing polyurethane wheels vs rubber, special attention is paid to the polyurethane, which is objectively much better. It is necessary to purchase polyurethane wheels for operation on flat surfaces, where there are no sharp changes in heights, pits, and other defects.

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