A compaction roller is an item of construction equipment used to compact surfaces such as concrete, soil, gravel or macadam during the construction of foundations and roads. They are also used for landfill compaction, typically with a sheepsfoot roller pattern with the aim to achieve a compacted surface over and above a smooth one.
Compaction rollers operate by using the weight of the vehicle to compress the surface they are driven over. Generally, initial compaction is performed by a roller with air filled tyres, which is better suited to the slightly un-even terrain of a newly laid road. The compaction roller with its smooth metal drum provides the final smooth finish.
The very first compaction rollers were likely to have been horse-drawn and it’s possible that they could have been in use by the Romans who were prolific road builders in the 2nd century BC.
In more modern history mechanised rollers were in use from the time of the invention of the steam roller, approximately 1859 and continued to be in use in the UK until almost a century later when, in the 1960s, they were superseded by internal combustion powered rollers. Some sections of the present M1 motorway were built with the help of steam rollers.
The first motor powered rollers were designed in the early 1900s. Hamm AG, which is now part of the Wirtgen Group GmbH, produced the first diesel powered rollers in 1911. Hamm AG was founded in 1878 by brothers Anton and Franz Hamm, who were both gunsmiths, to build agricultural equipment. In 1928 they took the brave step of abandoning all other product lines to focus solely on compaction rollers.
The gamble paid off and Hamm AG went from strength-to-strength, consistently providing innovative products to meet global demand such as the development of a tandem, all-wheel-drive compaction roller in 1951.
As motor powered rollers became more widely used the challenge was how to improve upon them. On November 5th, 1948 US patent 2677995 was filed by inventor W. W. Wood. The patent described using vibration to increase the mass per metre output of the current generation of compaction rollers.
But it was a newly formed Swedish company, AB Vibro-Betong, which took the initiative in 1953 with the launch of the first vibratory roller. The new compaction roller was quickly joined by similar offerings from competitors including Bomag, who launched their BW60 vibratory roller in 1957. AB Vibro-Betong still exists to this day but is now known as Dynapac and has been part of parent company Atlas Copco since 2007.
The compaction roller continues to be improved and a broad range of products are now available, from small compaction plates and remote walk-behind trench rollers right through to massive ride-on road rollers weighing 20 tonnes and costing more than 150,000 USD. Landfill units can be even bigger weighing up to a colossal 54 tonnes.