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All About Pneumatic Rollers

What do you need to know about pneumatic rollers?

  1. How Pneumatic Rollers Work
  2. Characteristics of a Pneumatic Roller
  3. The Purpose of Pneumatic Roller


Road rollers are a staple in the construction and even the agriculture business. They are useful for any sort of compacting from asphalt to soil. They are even used to compact trash in a landfill. However, there are many kinds of road rollers available for use, and it’s not always easy to know which one is best for your purposes.

Pneumatic rollers, in particular, have their own unique attributes in terms of use when compared to the more common kinds of road roller like the classic cylinder roller and its equally popular variation, the vibratory roller. While they are all used for the purpose of compacting, there are some key differences, and knowing these can be crucial in achieving the construction goals you’re aiming for. That being said, here is what you need to know about pneumatic rollers.


How Pneumatic Rollers work

The key to understanding how pneumatic rollers work is knowing their distinguishing features. Aside from the normal features of most compactors such as a diesel engine and a driver canopy, what makes the pneumatic roller unique is its several rows of four to six closely spaced tires that act as the roller instead of a standard drum. This is also why it is also called a ‘rubber tire’ roller.

In terms of how it works, the main advantage of using a pneumatic roller is its ability to provide better static penetration. This means it applies an even and consistent amount of force across the area it is compacting which leads to better particle relocation and compaction density. Aside from that, it has good traction with most materials it is used on, making it popular for the stiffer mixes being used in construction like superpave, a high-performance asphalt mixture.


Characteristics of a Pneumatic Roller

The word pneumatic means involving the use of pressurized gas or air. In the case of a road roller, pneumatic pertains to its tires and its ability to achieve a specific weight. By being able to adjust the pressure or weight of the tires, the ability to conform and adapt to different surfaces and mixes is enabled. Whether it’s asphalt or stone, there would be no issue getting even compression and density.

Factor in that you can have four to six closely spaced, layered tires on the front and back of the roller, then you can possibly create a situation where you not only have vertical pressure on the material (which form ruts), but you’re also coming along and forming counter-ruts that even the material’s compression out. It also makes the material stiff which is always a plus.


The Purpose of Pneumatic Rollers

Given its features, characteristics and unique qualities, the purpose of pneumatic rollers becomes clear. It can be used in compacting cold bituminous mixes, layers of loose soil, and other soft base materials that are course. Pneumatic rollers are also best suited for compacting closely graded sands and fine-grained cohesive soils.

For this reason, contractors employ the use of pneumatic rollers in the middle of a paving sequence. It is used after a breakdown roller in terms of the order. Usually, a vibrating steel drum roller literally breaks down the paving material (e.g. asphalt) which is then resealed and made denser by a pneumatic roller. A normal steel drum roller is then used to ensure the smoothness of the pavement.

Aside from contributing to the construction process, a pneumatic roller can also be used to test the degree of compaction of many different materials. It is not unusual to see a compaction test that involves the roller exerting 50,000 lbs. of force, moving back and forth over a jobsite to see if it deforms or sinks. If it does, then it’s back to the drawing board for the construction team, but if it doesn’t then that means the jobsite is ready for construction.


Key Takeaway

The world of road rollers and compactors is an interesting and diverse one. With so many types of rollers available in the market, it can become confusing to know which one is the best for your situation. In that regard, it is always important to evaluate what is needed for your job before looking for equipment to get it done. Rest assured, all are useful for you and should help you achieve the construction targets that you are setting out for.

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