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Category: Innovation Bonds

Polyurethane Wheels Help Give Roller Coasters their Wild Ride

With their heart-pounding speeds, sharp corners and colossal peaks, roller coasters are designed to heighten our adrenaline levels and maximize fun. As you dip, dive and fly through the air on one, it may never occur to you that polyurethane is likely part of what is making your death-defying ride possible.

Meeting the Needs of Today

The biggest roller coasters can travel at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour. They plunge downhills of more than 400 feet, and they can subject riders to forces that are more than six times that of gravity. Because of this, the importance of wheels in delivering a safe ride cannot be overlooked.

Today, regardless of whether the roller coaster is steel or aluminum, the makeup of the wheels is almost always the same: an aluminum hub sits in the middle of the wheel and a polyurethane tire is bonded to its outside.

Roller Coaster Wheel Systems

Almost all roller coasters around the world operate using a wheel system consisting of three separate parts: top wheels, side wheels and bottom wheels. Top wheels bear the weight of the train on top of the track. Side wheels keep the roller coaster from flying off the rails as it travels through sharp corners at high speeds. Bottom wheels, which hug the tracks from below, keep the rollercoaster from becoming airborne as it barrels up a hill.

Polyurethane Stands Up to Punishment

To maximize the effectiveness of a ride, engineers look for four qualities in tires. They want low rolling resistance, high load endurance, smooth ride performance and high durability. In almost all of these facets, polyurethane performs better than any other material.

Coasters of the FutureOne of the biggest obstacles facing engineers in their quest to build ever bigger and faster rollercoasters is in the limitations of wheels. As designers look toward the future of roller coaster innovation, breakthroughs in polyurethane wheel advancements will likely help make these record-breaking coasters of the future possible.