Polyurethane. It’s kind of amazing. Chances are, you’re probably standing or sitting on polyurethane as you read this right now. Used in thousands of applications across dozens of industries, this powerful polymer is championed for its resilience and versatility.
It’s also a star player in many a Hamilton wheel. So to give polyurethane its due, we caught up with Hamilton Sales Engineer Joe Ford to chat about the pros and cons of these gifted performance wizards.
Hamilton: So how did polyurethane get its start?
Joe: It was actually invented in the 30s, but it really hit its stride in World War II. The Germans used it, among other things, as a replacement for rubber wheels on their tanks. In the 50s, Hamilton was one of the first companies to market poly treaded wheels for industrial use.
Hamilton: Hamilton offers 12 different polyurethane wheels. Why so many?
Joe: Our poly wheel offering has evolved over time, based on customer needs. The first poly wheel Hamilton ever introduced was Duralast. It’s still the strongest and has the highest tensile strength. It’s the standard 95a material, very much the industry workhorse today. It's very tough yet affordable.
But over time, as ergonomics became more important in manufacturing, customers started asking for wheels that roll quieter and easier on floors. So we introduced the Ergo-Glide—it’s a perfect balance of ergonomics and durability, but it can’t handle as much capacity. Ergo-Tech is our easiest rolling wheel, but it’s not recommended for tough environments.
Hamilton: It’s like they each have their own personality, with benefits and tradeoffs.
Joe: It’s really true. We have a poly for just about every application. All a customer has to do is tell us what they want and we provide the perfect match. I guess you could call us matchmakers (laughs).
So then we started thinking about wheels that were both ergo-friendly and could handle a lot of weight. Enter our Duralast XC wheels, which offer 30 percent more capacity. Duralast XC also rolls easier because it’s harder. But that extra hardness means it’s not as quiet, so we only recommend it for very smooth floors.
Soon customers starting asking for our best performing poly that can withstand tough conditions 24/7. So we invented the Ultralast, which is a super high-performance poly with great dynamics and abrasion resistance. It’s used on applications like rollercoasters, for example. Super Ultralast is our Ultralast on steroids—even thicker for extreme conditions. But that kind of performance comes at a price. So we introduced DuraGlide, which is great for AGVs, for example. It’s the same as Ultralast, but it can also work outdoors and doesn’t cost as much.
Then there’s our Swivel-EAZ wheels. These are twin wheels with smaller contact surfaces, so they produce less friction. Consequently, they turn easier.
Finally, you’ve got our Poly-Tech wheels. These are your standard 95A for the beautiful crowd. You want these when you’re going for pure aesthetics.
Hamilton: What about tread thickness?
Joe: The thicker the wheel, the stronger it is. More poly allows you to carry more capacity. For extra tough jobs requiring protective polyurethane treads, we manufacture extra-thick one-inch treads that are liquid cast and chemically bonded to drop forged steel casters. So for extra-heavy loads, the Ergo-Glide’s big brother is the Ergo-Glide XT. Duralast’s big brother is the Superlast XC. And Ultralast’s big brother is the Super Ultralast wheel—that’s the highest performing urethane we’ve ever offered.
Hamilton: What’s the significance of tread color?
Joe: It’s an identification system. The colors are unique to Hamilton. We picked each of them for their cool factor, you could say. But there’s no industry standard when it comes to color.
Hamilton: Which poly would you recommend for general use?
Joe: The Duralast is your best all-around performer.
Hamilton: Which has the best ergonomic performance?
Joe: That would be Ergo-Tech. It’s one of our best rolling wheels. The startup force alone a 600-pound capacity is approximately 5.5 pounds. That’s pretty awesome.
Hamilton: Last question. Let’s do a quick word association. I’m going to name a poly wheel and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind:
Joe: He’s a closer. Your ace pitcher.
Joe: She’s a beauty...
Joe: Marathon runner.
Joe: Your go-to.
Joe: A great problem solver.