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The Functions and Applications of Heavy Duty Pneumatic Rollers

The Functions and Applications of Heavy Duty Pneumatic Rollers

3 orange road rollers parked next to each other

The Functions and Applications of Heavy Duty Pneumatic Rollers

Reading time: 5 min 30 sec

Introduction to Pneumatic Rollers

Pneumatic rollers, often referred to as rubber-tired rollers, are hard to miss on large construction sites. Their importance in the process of laying asphalt and other surfaces makes them especially crucial in the construction of parking lots, driveways and residential streets. 

Designed to compact a wide range of materials such as gravel, soil and asphalt, pneumatic rollers have the ability to evenly distribute weight and pressure over the surface they're working on. This functionality is provided by their rubber tires that can adjust to variations in terrain, making them better suited for certain tasks than their steel-drum rollers.

Pneumatic rollers are also smaller than larger, steel-drum models. Their compact form factor and unique rubber rollers make them a popular choice for filling potholes or compacting surfaces in smaller construction projects.  

In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of pneumatic rollers and the ways they’re used in modern construction. Getting to know these machines will help you determine if a pneumatic roller would make a worthwhile addition to your heavy equipment fleet.

The Anatomy of a Pneumatic Roller

The primary components of a pneumatic roller are its tires, engine, ballast and hydraulic system. Unlike steel-drum rollers, which use long, steel cylinders to compact surfaces, pneumatic rollers use sets of flexible rubber tires to achieve compaction of the target surface. 

Compared to other types of compactors, the tires of a pneumatic roller can adjust more easily to uneven surfaces, resulting in more consistent compaction. This design helps minimize the creation of voids in the material being compacted.

The ballast is a critical feature of pneumatic rollers, allowing extra weight to be added or removed to adjust the level of compaction. Usually, it consists of water, sand or steel. Depending on the surface or material being compacted, the ballast can be adjusted to suit the specific project needs. For softer surfaces, less ballast would be used, while more ballast would be used for harder surfaces that require significant compaction.

Functions of a Pneumatic Roller

Pneumatic rollers are primarily designed to compact soil and finished surfaces, such as asphalt. Sometimes, pneumatic rollers are used as an intermediate step in the compaction process, providing a low level of compaction before heavier compactors are used on the target surface.

When it comes to soil compaction, pneumatic rollers can be used to compact diverse soil types such as clay, silt and sand for subgrade and subbase layers prior to laying asphalt or concrete. The goal here is to expel air from the soil, thereby increasing its density and creating a solid, firm base for construction.

Similarly, pneumatic rollers are also used for asphalt compaction. However, due to their more compact size and limited compaction abilities, pneumatic rollers aren’t typically used for high-intensity projects such as highway construction. Instead, they’re better suited to small-scale asphalt projects that don’t require as much compaction, such as parking lots and driveways.

General Use Cases

Pneumatic rollers find use in a wide range of construction projects, especially projects involving asphalt.

For example, pneumatic rollers can be used in the construction of roads and streets. Here, pneumatic rollers are used in the final stage of pavement construction. After the asphalt mixture is spread, these rollers are driven over the pavement several times. Each pass compacts the asphalt more thoroughly, resulting in a smooth driving surface.

Pneumatic rollers can also be used for soil stabilization, providing ground preparation for foundations, embankments and dams. The roller's features, particularly the ability to adjust the ballast and contact pressure of the pneumatic tires, make them ideal for compacting a range of soil types. The result is a firmer base that provides the necessary support for the new structure.

Pneumatic rollers are also used in runway construction at airports. The compaction level of airport runways needs to be precise as airplane take-off and landing exert immense pressure on the runway. The precise compaction enabled by pneumatic rollers helps prevent the deformation and rutting of the runway, which maintains its safety.

Maintenance and Service of Pneumatic Rollers

Regular maintenance tasks for pneumatic rollers might seem routine, but they're crucial for ensuring operational safety. Fundamental maintenance tasks include checking tire pressure, visual inspections for tire wear and general cleaning. Ignoring these tasks can lead to inefficient operation and result in the need for costly repairs.

Weekly maintenance tasks focus on lubrication and fluid levels. All moving parts should be lubricated to prevent friction that can cause unnecessary wear and lead to component damage. Hydraulic fluid levels must be checked and topped off as necessary. 

Importantly, the ballast should also be inspected weekly, whether it's filled with water, sand or steel. Neglecting these tasks can result in compromised machine performance, leading to suboptimal compaction strained components.

Monthly and quarterly service routines should include tasks like changing engine oil and filters, assessing the cooling system and checking the fuel system. A thorough inspection of the hydraulic system and conducting comprehensive electrical checks also falls into this category.

Finally, on an annual basis, comprehensive service is typically required. This includes tasks such as re-calibration of controls and ensures optimum machine response during operations.

Comparison to Other Types of Rollers

Pneumatic rollers, smooth drum rollers and vibratory rollers share a common purpose: soil and asphalt compaction. However, they have distinct differences in design, operation and application that set them apart.

Smooth drum rollers apply pressure via giant steel drums, providing heavy but static compaction force. On the other hand, vibratory rollers add vibration to this static force, which aids the compaction process. However, both types struggle on uneven surfaces, since rigid drums cannot easily adapt to uneven terrain. 

In comparison, pneumatic rollers make use of multiple flexible rubber tires that evenly distribute the operating weight of the machine. They achieve superior compaction on surfaces made up of uneven substances, like gravel.

Pneumatic rollers, due to their flexibility, prove efficient in the final stages of asphalt compaction, where uniformity is key. They can also work well in conjunction with other rollers. For example, a vibratory roller can be used for coarse compaction, and then a pneumatic roller can follow up to provide the desired finish.

Final Thoughts

From their exceptional adaptability to their superior compaction ability, pneumatic rollers are key players in asphalt and paving projects. 

The EquipmentShare Shop carries a wide selection of OEM and aftermarket parts for large road rollers, so you can maintain the quality of your machine. Get fast shipping on a range of parts for your equipment’s engine, hydraulic system and more. Can’t find the specific component you’re searching for? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts and get personalized assistance.

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