Algood Blog: Wheels Revealed: Lights, Cameras, Casters

Lights, Cameras, and Casters

Everyone has their favourite scene from a movie and many of them likely involve some kind of movement – whether the camera follows a person or a car or something else. But here’s something you may not know. Some of the best movie scenes ever filmed would not have been possible without casters. In this edition of Wheels Revealed, we look at how casters are used in the motion picture industry.

The most recognizable use of casters in Hollywood comes with what are referred to as tracking shots. A tracking shot is any shot where the camera follows backward, forward or moves alongside the subject being recorded.

This is often accomplished by mounting a camera on a specially constructed dolly that can be rolled on a surface or placed on rails like a railroad track to create smooth horizontal camera movements. Depending on its size, the camera dolly is moved by the camera operator or by a dedicated technician trained to operate the dolly by manually pushing it back and forth.

Camera dollies have several steering mechanisms. The typical mode is rear-wheel steering, where the front wheels remain fixed, while the wheels closest to the operating handle are used to turn. A second mode, round steering, causes the front wheels to turn in the opposite direction from the rear wheels. This mode allows the dolly to move in smooth circles and is frequently used when the dolly is on curved track.

A third mode, called crab steering, is when the front wheels steer in the same direction as the rear wheels. This allows the dolly to move in a direction diagonal to the front end of the dolly.

Casters used on camera dollies most often include pneumatic wheels to allow for a smooth ride. The tread on the wheels also helps grip the surface and eliminate any vibration. As noted above, a combination of rigid and swivel casters provide for different types of movement. The casters are also equipped with foot operated brakes to allow for secure positioning. In some cases the required smooth movement is achieved with casters that feature crowned rubber wheels. Dollies that are used on a track will often be equipped with a grooved wheel.

Behind the scenes, specially equipped studio carts are essential to any production. These carts are designed to hold an incredible array of equipment including stands, telescopic pull out ladder holders, detachable baskets and half milk crates. Carts can handle up to 1,000 lbs. of equipment and need to manoeuvre smoothly. They are equipped with a combination of 10” swivel and rigid casters featuring treaded wheels.

In some cases two additional rigid casters are added to accommodate additional weight. The casters are equipped with foot operated brakes to keep the cart stable when necessary.

So the next time you’re watching a great action scene, you might want to think about the casters that made it possible. But, who are we kidding. No one is ever going to do that. Just enjoy the movie.

Algood Blog: Wheels Revealed: Robots, Wheels, Casters

Robots Rolling Into The Future

Robotics seems to be at the forefront of every field these days – medicine, education and caster manufacturing to name a few. Even house cleaning is being reinvented by floor-cleaning robots. Despite the many applications, shapes and sizes, what almost all robots – even the famous R2-D2 – have in common is that they have to move. And that requires wheels and casters. In this issue of Wheels Revealed, we look at robots, wheels and casters.

The type of wheel to be used on a robot has a lot to do with the way it will be steered. There are two ways of doing that. The most common is skid steering. That’s when each wheel is attached to it’s own motor. By having one wheel propelled forward while the other is reversed, robots can be turned. It’s actually the method that is used to steer tanks and many tractors.

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All that back and forth needed to steer the robot creates a lot of wear and tear, necessitating a tread material that is durable but will grip the surface. Polyurethane wheels have the right combination of hardness and resilience. Algood’s ProTech and Prothane™ wheels are good choices.

The other steering method uses a drive train, similar to what you would find in cars. In those cases, the criteria for wheel choice would be more about the surface and the environment. If the robot is travelling on wood, concrete or ceramic floors, tread material with a lot of grip is the answer. Rubber and polyurethane are ideal. Robots traveling on rugged or outdoor surfaces, will require varying degrees of tread.

There are complicated formulas that can be used to calculate the ideal wheel size for a robot. Essentially they combine the speed at which the robot will travel, with the weight it will carry and the incline, if any, it will traverse. 

Not all wheels on robots are connected to motors or drive trains. Some are used to guide or stabilize the robot and in those cases, rigid or swivel casters are the best choice. A great example is robotic, computer guided chassis with top mounted carts used in hospitals to delivery food and linens to various locations. The devices have a number of drive wheels for propulsion and four Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) casters with an auto align function.

Algood was proud to have built the casters that are being used in Canada’s first fully computerized hospital. In that case, the robotic cart used a specially constructed 6″ X 1-1/4″ stainless steel caster, equipped with our Envirothane™ wheels.

With all the amazing things that robots can do, it’s easy to take their wheels and casters for granted. But it’s also very clear that those wheels and casters are what’s necessary to keep robots rolling into the future of manufacturing… caster manufacturing.

Algood Blog: Wheels Revealed: We're Not Clucking Around

We’re Not Clucking Around

In this issue of Wheels Revealed, as we continue our quest to find unusual and little-known caster applications, we have arrived at chickens. Yes, chickens.

When you think of a chicken farm or chicken eggs being hatched, you might conjure up a quaint image of hens clucking cheerfully in a coup as they sit on their eggs, waiting patiently for chicks to hatch.

That’s not the way it works in the multi-billion dollar food processing industry. Modern food processing plants require steady, consistent and extremely plentiful sources of chickens. To accommodate that, sophisticated equipment is used to provide the perfect environment and conditions to allow eggs to hatch in 21 days. Temperature and humidity are carefully controlled in a sterile environment. Eggs are loaded in trays and trays are assembled on racks that are wheeled into the equipment. The racks are outfitted with wiring that allows each tray to be turned (or really pivoted) to facilitate the hatching process. Some racks are also equipped with water lines to assist with humidity. Once the chicks have hatched, both the racks and the incubator have to be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.

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All of this requires casters to facilitate the movement of the racks. In addition, customized casters are often required. For example, we have created custom top plates with holes to accommodate the wiring and plumbing lines needed to reach each tray. We have also custom matched smaller wheel sizes to particular rigs in order to reduce overall height but maintain the needed capacity. In some cases, a channel system is used to move racks into the incubator and ensure that the racks are consistently spaced. That requires grooved wheels to match the channel. In all cases, casters and wheels have to be manufactured using materials that can be washed down and disinfected as is the case with our NSF approved products.

When someone looks at highly sophisticated incubating equipment, it’s almost certain they won’t notice the casters and yet, without the casters, the whole process would literally come to a halt.

In some of these plants, those casters are allowing as many as one million chicks being hatched each week. So, when it comes to casters and hatching chickens, we are clearly not clucking around.

Algood Blog: Wheels Revealed: Introduction

Introducing Wheels Revealed

Tell someone you’re in the caster business and more times than not, the first question is, “What’s a Caster?” Once you explain, the inevitable response is something like, “Oh yeah! I see those everywhere.” The truth is that casters are one of those products that are absolutely everywhere – and absolutely essential – but are seemingly invisible. So, we thought it would be interesting – and fun – to create a series of e-newsletters that detail some of the more unusual, unoticed and unheard-of uses for casters. 

At the start … and at the finish line.

When Algood president Craig Guttmann gets asked the question above – “What’s a caster?” – he answers by saying, “You come into this world on casters and you’ll leave this world on casters!” We thought that was a great topic for our very first issue of Wheels Revealed.

Bassinets in hospital maternity wards get moved all the time. Babies are taken to and from their moms, put under lights to prevent jaundice, transported to specialty departments and placed in the nursery so that friends and family can ooh and ah. Imagine the lives of those who work in maternity departments if babies had to be walked from area to area. Even with all that, who has ever noticed the casters on a bassinet cart? The answer is no one, other than caster geeks.

And, on the other end of life’s journey … Anyone who has ever served as a pallbearer will tell you how surprised they were at the weight of the casket. The average coffin weighs about 200lbs. empty. Adding a body to that creates a significant amount of weight. Coffins are moved to and from areas within funeral homes, to separate venues for memorial services and on to cemeteries or mausoleums.

It’s no wonder then that the coffin cart was developed. Without them, funeral directors, undertakers and morticians would be spending more time visiting the chiropractor than tending to the deceased. And, without casters, that coffin cart would be absolutely useless. Does anyone ever notice the casters on a coffin cart? Nope. Well, maybe Craig does.

So, there you have it. Wheels revealed – from delivery to demise, casters are part of our lives.

1 (800) 254-6633
service@algood.com

Algood Casters has manufactured, designed and developed industrial and specialty casters, brakes and wheels since 1969, in capacities from 25 to 65,000 lbs.

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