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What is a steamroller?

This type of flattening machine has a significant weight and size that enables compacting soils, asphalts, or gravels under its own weight. This vehicle consists of a tractor that drives it and a cylinder, or very heavy roller, usually located at its front; this roller acts like a front wheel for flattening a given pavement. 

The steamroller is usually one of the main machines used when it comes to building roads and flattening virtually any type of terrain, making it one of the most indispensable vehicles in the field of civil engineering.

What are the main features of a steamroller?

  • A steamroller can crush, knead, and vibrate so that the materials dispersed in the soil can be compacted by means of the direct pressure exerted by the machine. 
  • Inside the steamroller’s cylinder is a vibrating element that facilitates soil compaction through its own weight.
  • There are smaller, lighter pieces of equipment, and others that are larger and heavier; these are chosen depending on the working area. 
  • The vibrating effect of a steamroller’s cylinder makes it possible to reduce air bubbles, which is necessary to densify soils that are granulated. 
  • While its most common use is in construction, steamrollers are also used in the agricultural sector and in landfills.

How does a steamroller work?

The central steel cylinder or roller that every steamroller has rotates on its central axis with the energy supplied by the engine. This allows undulating traction, and that force is transferred to the ground to be compacted. 

As the cylinder is spinning, it agitates soil particles and causes them to be rearranged to reach maximum density and, thus, compaction. Through the strength of the vibration, the cylindrical plate applies pressure to the ground, compresses the substrate, and eliminates air pockets between elements, thus creating a firm, compact layer of soil. 

What types of steamrollers are there?

There are different types of steamrollers on the market; these depend on the characteristics and functions of their cylinder or roller:

  1. Smooth roller: this type of flattening machine consists of a steel cylinder that compacts material under pressure. The cylinder is supported and carried by a tractor, although there are also self-propelled models, which is the most common type.
  2. Pneumatic wheel rollers: these consist of a row of tires separated from each other and located in the front and back of the machine. It is typically used on surfaces that are not sticky and are made of non-granulated materials.
  3. Vibrating roller: consists of one or two smooth-surfaced drums that exert vibrations through an eccentric shaft on the inner part. 
  4. Tamping rollers:  these steamrollers have tamping rollers that consist of many rectangular lugs, which is ideal for compacting clay soil for building roads. This type of roller can improve areas previously compacted by a pneumatic roller. 
  5. Mesh or grating roller: a kind of roller made by a net of steel bars with a grid-shaped pattern on the steel drum. Its design allows for high contact pressure on soils with little kneading action for compaction. They are ideal for coarse soils and weathered rocks.

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