Pneumatic tires are a popular wheel option in industrial caster applications, but cushion tread wheels are a great alternative, depending on the application. Pneumatic tires are wheels with a metal hub and a rubber tire. Instead of being solid, the tire is filled with air or foam to the desired pressure level to achieve the appropriate load and deflection characteristics.

A cushion tread tire has a soft, heat-resistant rubber core and a tough, durable rubber cover.

Depending on your application, there are many benefits to using a pneumatic wheel or a cushion tread wheel. Let’s first look at the pros and cons of using pneumatic tires:

Pros

Pneumatic tires have many benefits in industrial caster applications. The main benefit is the ability to absorb shock loads from impacts and cushion the load.

  • Excellent shock absorption – Pneumatic wheels are ideal for applications with uneven or bumpy terrain or where the cart contents must not be subjected to sudden shock loads.
  • Utilized for on-pavement/off-road applications – These wheels lend themselves well to applications that require both off-road and on-pavement operation, as they can absorb the unevenness of off-road terrain.
  • Improves working conditions by reducing noise – Pneumatic casters are also quiet because of the soft rubber tread and shock-absorbing ability. They can also reduce loud noises that damage hearing while improving working conditions.
  • Won’t damage the flooring – The nature of the softer wheel also protects floors from scratches and other damage.

Cons

  • Harder to Move – There are factors to consider before determining if a pneumatic wheel is right for your application, such as the amount of push force required to get them moving. Due to the large footprint and deflection of the air-filled tire, the initial push force is higher. This large footprint makes the wheels harder to swivel, and the industrial caster often requires a longer swivel lead.
  • Air pressure must be monitored—Another drawback to pneumatic wheels is the increased maintenance required to monitor air pressure. These types of wheels are easy to puncture, which results in flats. Filling the wheels with polyurethane foam reduces the puncturing and turns them into semi-pneumatic wheels. They won’t go flat because they don’t require air, but this reduces some of the wheel’s cushioning effects.

Pneumatic vs. Cushion Tread

Aerol Cushion tread Wheel

Aerol Cushion Tread Wheel

Adding cushion tread wheels into the mix can be a cost-effective choice under the right circumstances, especially in indoor applications.

Cushion tread wheels offer shock mitigation comparable to pneumatic wheels; they don’t go flat and comply with all dimensional and performance requirements of Specification MIL-W-21985.

Cushion tread wheels also allow for higher loads vs. size when compared to pneumatic. You can go up to a 28-inch tread — double the capacity of pneumatic tires of the same size. However,  for higher speeds, pneumatic wheels are the way to go.

In short, pneumatic tires can provide great benefits such as shock absorption, higher speeds, and the ability to go off-road. The drawbacks are that they are a little harder to get moving, and their extended leads also present an increased chance of flutter. If load capacity is a concern, cushion tread wheels may be the better choice as they can handle heavier loads. Considering these factors when deciding on a pneumatic wheel or a cushion tread wheel greatly increases your chances of success.

If you have any other questions regarding choosing the right wheel for your application, contact us for more information.