Caster Testing Standards: What You Need to Know
Should you worry about caster testing standards before selecting a product? Caster "rigs" consist of a wheel, a fork, and a mounting component. They have become essential pieces in equipment used for material handling, medical purposes, the service industry, and office equipment.
There are many available designs when purchasing caster wheels. For example, you must choose between rigid or swivel casters, affecting whether your equipment will move in a straight line (rigid) or be able to complete a 360-degree rotation (swivel). You can also choose between casters with different mounting components, such as stem or top plate casters.
All rigs adhere to ICWM testing standards, including safety regulations that govern aspects like weight or movement capacity. Keep reading for more information from the Caster Central experts.
The Institute of Caster and Wheel Manufacturers: A Brief History
The Institute of Caster and Wheel Manufacturers controls the safety regulations and testing related to caster rigs. It originally formed part of the Caster & Floor Manufacturers Truck Association, founded in 1933, a parent group facilitating open discussion between government agencies and the manufacturers of wheels, casters, and other equipment. The CFMTA regulated safety standards and aimed to provide education about merchandise (such as casters) and safety rules.
When the ICWM split into a separate organization from the CFTMA, it maintained the mission. These common goals led to the development of ICWM's first industrial caster safety standard in 1967, a rule to specifically regulate casters and wheels. However, as regulations and technology evolved, the ICWM realized that an updated guide on caster performance and safety was necessary.
The organization decided to modify the original industrial safety plan for casters to a comprehensive guide in 1996. The new guide enhanced testing standards and safety features of casters and wheels for the following rig categories:
- Furniture and chair
- Institutional and medical equipment
- Industrial applications (with speeds of at or under 2.5 mph and over 2.5 mph)
- Business machine and shopping cart
Examples of Caster Testing Performed by the ICWM
ICWM tests ensure that casters function at 100% loading capacity, won't break under pressure, and can handle the required movement. The ICWM designed these caster testing standards to assess the functionality of rigs used in medical, industrial, and institutional settings, with only one specific test for furniture casters. Though there are many other tests to ensure the safety of caster rigs, we'll break down the following five test examples that ICWM performs:
#1 Rollability Test
How efficiently can a caster swivel or roll at its particular weight capacity? The rollability test will tell you. The ICWM also puts forth the following standards when preparing to run the rollability test:
- The test vehicle must accommodate one or more swivel casters.
- The space where one performs the test must allow the caster to roll parallel to the floor on a level surface (they only use steel floors for testing).
- When applying the maximum weight or load capacity to the caster, a testing center may use dead weights or devices that apply force through hydraulics, electromechanics, or pneumatics.
#2 Wheel Brake and Swivel Lock Efficiency Test
The second test is for the swivel lock and wheel brake. It will establish how well caster brakes and locks function at their given weight capacity. The testing standards for these brakes or locks include the assessment of devices that lock the rolling movement and 360-degree rotation of the wheel.
To perform this test, the ICWM lays out the following standards:
- The vehicle must permit the direct attachment of the caster to its mounting component (whether it features a stem, threaded stem, top plate, and so on).
- The tester should be able to attach the caster to the test vehicle without extra aids before rolling the wheel on a smooth and flat surface.
The tester must also use a calibrated force gauge that measures the friction created by the brakes or lock. They subtract the vehicle's inherent friction from the lock's friction capability to determine the specific locking capacity of the caster’s brake.
The ICWM also uses a fatigue test to check the functionality of caster locks and brakes. The fatigue test assesses a caster rig's entire range of motion, which includes rotation, rolling back and forth in a straight line, switching directions, and more. The assessment also checks how effective the brake or lock will be when a tester switches between locking and unlocking the mechanism.
#3 Static Weight Test
This caster test assesses the weight a caster rig can withstand when it is not in motion. When the ICWM performs the static weight test to determine the load capacity of a caster, the operators use the following caster testing standards:
- The tester can only use a vehicle with the correct mounting attachments.
- One can only test the caster rig on a smooth, even steel floor (no bumps or obstacles).
- The vehicle must test the weight capacity of the caster.
- The testing vehicle must be stable enough that it won't affect the results of the test.
#4 The Impact Test
The ICWM uses the "vertical" impact test for casters with a load rating under 5,000 lbs. It uses a free-falling object (or similar force) to test how much weight could cause the caster to malfunction or break if an object drops on it. When performing this assessment, it must include the following:
- A free-falling object
- A vehicle where the caster attaches that won't affect the test results
- A measuring device to determine the distance of the fall
#5 Chair or Furniture Dynamic Test
How does the ICWM test casters designed for chairs and other pieces of furniture? They lay out the following terms, specifying between hard treads and soft treads:
- For casters with hard treads, testers must conduct the test on a smooth, hard surface.
- For casters with soft treads, testers must affix three obstacles to the test platform.
- The tester must apply a 300-lb load to the chair (the vehicle used for this test) while still allowing the caster rig’s full range of motion (rotation and swiveling).
- The chair must move forwards and backward nine times per minute. Each time the chair moves forwards and backward, the testing standards refer to it as a "cycle."
- Casters with soft treads must complete 36,000 cycles, while casters with hard treads must complete 100,000 cycles without sustaining damage.
Why Caster Safety Regulations Matter
Buying ICWM-approved casters ensures that a third-party expert has approved the use and safety of the rig you choose to purchase. The certification guarantees that when using these caster rigs as intended, injury and accidents will be less likely to occur. If you are a business owner, this could mean the difference between safe, happy customers and employees and costly insurance claims.
These caster testing methods also ensure that your casters do not break under a predetermined load capacity. Your devices will hold up as long as you adhere to the weight standards of your rig.
Where to Buy ICWM-Approved Caster Rigs
At Caster Central, we provide hundreds of product options, all of which have been approved by the caster testing regulations set out by ICWM. We also provide free shipping on orders over the threshold throughout the United States. With us, you can save money on premium brands and rigs and access free advice on the best models for your needs.