Contact rollers are one such advancement, especially as they relate to many of today's popular appliances. These steel rollers are covered in grooved rubber, and they're integral to polishing and grinding operations, the former is key for stainless steel refrigerators, ovens and sinks.
Contact rollers' applications aren't limited to appliances, however. Matt Menges, president of Menges Roller Co., Wauconda, Ill., says many steel processors, coil processors and fabricators use contact, or time-saver, rollers in their day-to-day operations, especially in wide-belt polishing and grinding plants.
"There are a lot of different applications," says Menges. "They can be used in fabrication. All the stainless steel countertops you see in McDonald's restaurants or drinking fountains and your [stainless steel] appliances--all those are polished or sanded with one of these rollers prior to becoming that part. The applications are steel coil finishing for some processes."
According to the Menges Roller Web site, contact rollers are the heart of grinding and polishing equipment, and the heart of the contact roller itself is its rubber coating.
Within most of these machines are two contact rollers, which have a belt of abrasive paper between them, creating what looks like a conveyor belt, says Menges.
"They spin really fast, and they grind or sand steel," he says. "[Manufacturers] use the grooved portion of those rollers to get a more aggressive surface underneath the abrasive paper than a flat roller would. They also provide cooling."
Contact rollers are a high-speed application, so they demand critical balance, according to Menges. He likens it to tires on a car.
"They have to be balanced to high specifications so that there's no vibration in the roller," says Menges. "The vibration would transfer to the polishing process and leave an imperfect finish."
Menges Roller offers various sizes of rollers for the wide-belt polishing market, ranging from 5 inches in diameter and about 30 inches long to 14 inches in diameter and about 70 inches long. The company also makes rollers up to 72 inches in diameter by 30 feet long for myriad other industries.
Menges Roller, which has been producing industrial rollers for more than 40 years, makes both new rollers and replacement rubber coatings for current rollers.
The Bartlett, Ill., branch of Main Steel Polishing Co. Inc., Tinton Falls, N.J., has had an ongoing relationship with Menges Roller for more than 20 years.
Tom Buettner, maintenance supervisor at the Bartlett, Ill., branch, says the toll processor uses contact rollers in all of its polishing sets and that it gets about a dozen of them every year from Menges Roller.
"As I need them, I remove them, I move them out of a machine and I send them off to Menges with all the paperwork," says Buettner. "They re-cover them, make them like new and send them back to us."
Main Steel has nine facilities across the country and offers a variety of services to customers, including polishing, slitting and grinding.
The company mainly focuses on stainless and aluminum, but it also deals with nickel and specialty metals, working with customers ranging from mills to individuals.
Buettner says Main Steel will ship contact rollers from Menges Roller to its other facilities to ensure each one meets quality requirements. Additionally, he says the company relies on the contact rollers for product optimization.
"It's an important part of the machinery, and it's a crucial piece of what we do," says Buettner. "Our end use is only as good as the contact roll that we're using." MM