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Learn: Machine Skates vs Machine Rollers

When it comes to moving heavy machinery and equipment, there are two common tools used in the industry: Machine Skates and Machine Rollers. Both tools are designed to make moving heavy machinery easier and more efficient, but they operate in slightly different ways.

Machine Rollers are based on the concept of rolling loads on tubes. Instead of taking the tubes that emerge out the back of the load and reintroducing them in front, the tubes are interconnected with links creating an endless loop of tubes revolving around a steel frame. The load hence rolls on a chain of tubes or “rollers”. The loop creates a chain of rollers and hence Machine Rollers are also called Chain Rollers.

Machine Skates in comparison, are built like a dolly with wheels, axles, and bearings. Machine skates became popular in the 1970s when it became possible to manufacture components strong enough to withstand heavy loads.

Machine Rollers Come in Two Varieties:
  1. Non-mounted Machine Rollers that are optimized for short term material handling and machinery relocation applications
  2. Mounted Machine Rollers that are installed under a load for long periods

Machine Skates are not made for long term applications. Machine Skates are also only used for machinery relocation applications. 

Machine Rollers and Machine Skates are not interchangeable. One is not better than the other. However, each has unique characteristics that make each tool better suited for different applications.


The Machine Roller has no axles or bearings. The weight of the load rests on the frame which rests on steel tubes. This simple design provides enormous load bearing capacity that cannot be duplicated by Machine Skates.


Machine Roller tend to be significantly cheaper than Machine Skates compared to the equivalent capacity and similar quality as Machine Rollers are simpler in design and lower in manufacturing cost.  + 


Users have a desire to keep the machinery moving equipment at a low profile for various reasons. Because the rollers on the Machine Rollers are on an endless loop with a brace in the center twice as much space is needed inside the frame, therefore smaller diameter rollers must be used to achieve a lower profile. Hence Machine Rollers roll on small diameters rollers (0.7-2.5 inches) compared to Machine Skates with 3+ inch wheels.  + 

Rolling Resistance

Small diameter wheels have a higher rolling resistance than larger wheels. Machine Rollers rolling on small diameter tubes therefore require more force to push or pull. This is however only an issue when rolling on surfaces such as concrete. When rolled on a steel surface such as an I-beam, this is a non-issue and rollers roll easily.

Machine Skates in comparison have larger diameter wheels and hence will roll much easier. The rolling resistance also affects the ease of turning and therefore Machine Skates turn easily.


Machine Rollers do not have any axle and the tubes, and all components are made from steel. Hence the load rests on compacted steel components. There is nothing to sag over time, nothing to fail. Hence the correct Machine Rollers (matching the application), if it wasn’t for rust, can last forever. In fact, Machine Rollers left alone under weight will roll 50 years later like on the first day.

Machine Skates can be outfitted with steel wheels; however, most users buy a more floor protective material such as polyurethane, composite or nylon. This material will not last as long. It will also sag under load over time and crack. Plus, the axles will potentially sag over time.

This means that Machine Rollers under load will last a long time while Machine Skates are only intended for short-term loading and use.

The problem with Machine Rollers is oxidation, causing rust which in turn can lead to a failure to roll. Stainless steel is too soft to carry heavy loads and for the Machine Rollers to have the capacity they have, cylinder tubes must be made from steel. The body of the Machine Roller can be coated against corrosion. However, the cylinders are in motion during rolling and hence any coating would wear off. Hence the tubes are always blank steel. And blank steel is subject to rust.

The rust does not lead to the frame or tubes breaking, but rather the problem is that the cylinders get rusted together with the links, preventing them from rolling.


Machine Rollers are not made to turn. The devices are primarily used for straight-line applications. If a turn is required, the Machine Rollers are pried under the load with a long handle that acts like a crowbar, to realign the Rollers into a new direction. This can only be achieved at a standstill.

Machine Skates in comparison are generally designed for turning, allowing the wheels to turn along a radius instead of being pried on their own footprint. Machine Skates can also most often be turned while the load is in motion. Of course, this applies only to steerable Machine Skates as straight-line Skates are only designed for that purpose or will follow the turn as the rear axle of a tractor trailer would.

Rolling on Concrete

Turning multiple steel tubes in place with lots of weight on it causes the floor to scratch.

Additionally, the problem of scratching the floor can also arise when the rollers are not in alignment. Aligning multiple rollers will be impossible so one must expect that Machine Rollers are always out of alignment and hence risk damaging the floors.

In addition, the cylinders are linked closely together. Concrete floors often have small debris. This debris is picked up by the cylinders and is then squeezed into the gap between any two cylinders. This can then cause the chain to lock up and cause the chain to break.

Machine Rollers today have a bad reputation because of these problems. However, the Rollers are not intended to be rolled on sensitive floors.

Intended Applications

Machine Rollers and Machine Skates each have their respected advantages and disadvantages. Once must choose the right tool for the job. Choosing the wrong tool simply leads to problems.

Machine Rollers can endure long periods of standing still while loaded, making these tools ideal for applications where the load will sit on the rollers for a long time. These tools have higher capacity. These are also less expensive compared to Machine Skates, so these tools are a good, compromised choice for a one-time inexpensive move.

Machine Skates can be steered and will protect the floors. Machine Skates are hence better suited for machinery relocation jobs.