General information on rubber track manufacturing;
There are three major components to most rubber tracks:
- STEEL CLEATS
- STEEL CABLES
- RUBBER COMPOUND
First the steel cleats are individually cut from a single piece of steel bar they are then press forged in to shape.
Cheaper tracks cleats are made out of cast iron.
The forged cleats are then heat treated through an OEM approved heating oven. It only takes 1 faulty cleat to ruin a track by being to soft and bending or too hard and cracking in half.
Cheaper tracks cleats are placed in a hot oil vat and heated to a specific temperature the problem with this type of manufacturing is the hardness is inconsistent from the oil being warmer at the base and being cooler towards the top giving a mixture of hardness types.
The cleats are then individually checked electrically for any cracking and defects, they are then sand blasted and placed in a bath of rubber compounds and chemicals to coat them fully to aid in the vulcanizing process.
Unfortunately this process is often missed out by the cheaper track manufacturers or the cleat simply is splashed with a rubber compound from a paint brush to keep the price down. About 70 percent of track failures I see are from cleats being pulled out of the track with no bonding of rubber present.
The multi stranded high tensile stainless steel wire is made up by 52 single pieces of wire, each piece of wire has been coated with copper which aids in the adhesion process during bonding. The copper coating gives the appearance of a mustard colour to the wire. The wire is then spun into 3.6 mm wire cable. Every batch of wire is tested for tensile strength at this stage. The wire is then coated in the same rubber compound as the steel cleats to further enhance cable protection from corrosion and enhance the adhesive properties to meet and exceed the stringent OEM standards needed to produce top quality tracks demanded by OEM companies. This process is also missed out by most manufacturers.
Raw stock rubber is used in rubber tracks, it is blended, mixed and calendared to different compounds, thicknesses and hardness depending on the track for which it’s intended. Some synthetics are mixed here into the rubber for hardness and carbon is also used which gives the black color to the white virgin rubber and the green synthetics the carbon also aids in the wearing process of the rubber tracks and rubber pads.The mixing of the the rubber is called candering.
Once all components are ready the steel wire, cleats and rubber are placed in the vulcanizing press and go through a series of heating and pressure procedures to combine all three components producing a high quality rubber track this procedure can take up to 5 hours per track.
The track is then trimmed and inspected for any defects before being shipped worldwide.