Road Building Essentials: The Roller

3 January, 2024
By Al Marwan
Road Building Essentials: The Roller

Originating as a fundamental agricultural tool, the roller was initially powered by animals like horses and oxen, primarily used to flatten land and break up large soil clumps after plowing or disc harrowing. This simplicity laid the foundation for what would become a cornerstone in modern road construction. Today, these machines have evolved into complex, mechanized giants, essential for creating smooth, compact surfaces in road building and other construction projects.

Understanding the Mechanism of Modern Rollers

The primary function of drum rollers, vibratory soil compactors, or plainly, road rollers is to compact and level surfaces, including soil, gravel, and asphalt, preparing them for construction or agricultural use. Different weights and designs are used for various purposes. Some rollers, for instance, have heavy steel cylinders, or drums, while others might contain water, allowing for adjustable weight – a handy feature in diverse construction scenarios.

Main Types of Rollers

1. Single Drum Rollers

These rollers, featuring a large drum at the front and tires at the rear, excel in maneuverability and are excellent at traversing rough surfaces. The versatility of single drum rollers makes them suitable for a wide range of construction projects, from leveling grounds for sidewalks to compacting the topsoil before laying highways. They're particularly effective in preparing surfaces before constructing buildings, structures, or sports fields as well.

REDLINE by Dynapac DRS120D single drum roller
REDLINE by Dynapac DRS120D single drum roller

2. Double Drum Roller

Also known as tandem rollers, these have two large drums, front and rear, enabling them to compact surfaces ahead and behind simultaneously. This design grants them greater efficiency and power, especially in heavy asphalt applications like highway paving. Their dual-drum design covers twice the area in a single pass, significantly speeding up project completion.

A Bomag tandem roller can operate forwards and backwards
A Bomag tandem roller can operate forwards and backwards

3. Pneumatic Tyre Rollers (PTRs)

PTRs are similar to tandem rollers in that they can also operate in both forward and reverse directions. The difference is, however, that PTRs aren’t equipped with rigid drums, they rather have four rubber tyres front and rear. These rubber tires cover approximately 80% of the surface area, ensuring even pressure distribution across the compaction width. Pneumatic tyre rollers are commonly used to finish freshly laid and compacted asphalt. Additionally, they are highly suitable for use with cold-laid bituminous surfaces or cold-mixed pavements, as well as for compacting layers of loose soil.

HAMM GRW-18 pneumatic tyre roller (PTR)
HAMM GRW-18 pneumatic tyre roller (PTR)

4. Ride-On Tandem Rollers

Sometimes referred to as “babyrollers”, these ride-on rollers are miniature double-drum rollers, as they are designed to do the same job, but at a smaller rate. Babyrollers excel at compacting soil or finishing asphalt in narrower spaces, such as parkways, driveways, or even utility trenches.

A Dynapac Atlas Copco babyroller
A Dynapac Atlas Copco babyroller

5. Walk-Behind Rollers

This type of roller is the lightest in this category. Walk-behind rollers are even more compact than baby-rollers and much more lightweight. They are ideally used in compacting small patches of land, especially when preparing the site for laying utility lines or landscaping.

Dynapac DTR walk-behind tandem roller
Dynapac DTR75 walk-behind tandem roller

Selecting the Right Road Roller for Your Project

Choosing between any type of roller depends on several factors:

- Project Scope

Large-scale projects like highway paving, which require efficiency and speed, are best served by heavyweight single and double drum rollers. Their ability to flatten heavy objects like subgrade and subbase layers on roads is unparalleled.

- Terrain Type and Space Constraints

Single drum rollers, with their large size and huge rear tires offer excellent traction, and are ideal for projects requiring extra mobility and power. They are usually the first compaction machines to enter the site to prepare it after being dozed and graded.

A vibratory soil compactor or single drum roller follows the grader as a first phase in compaction
A vibratory soil compactor or single drum roller follows the grader as a first phase in compaction

- Surface Type and Compaction Depth

Each project has unique requirements regarding the type of surface and the desired compaction depth. The width and power of the drum roller must be chosen accordingly to ensure optimal compaction.

Advantages of Renting over Buying

For many projects, renting heavy equipment can be more cost-effective and flexible than purchasing machines outright. Renting allows for selecting the most suitable machine for each job without a long-term commitment. Maintenance and repair costs are typically covered by the rental company, ensuring that the equipment is always in top working condition.

At Al Marwan Heavy Machinery, we offer a diverse range of rollers to meet every construction need. Whether you're tackling a large-scale road building project or a more nuanced task requiring precision, our collection of drum rollers is tailored to fit. We understand the critical role these machines play in construction, and we are committed to providing high-quality, reliable equipment. Click here to view our full lineup of rollers and find the ideal match for your next project.

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