Which Synthetic Ice Rink Surface is Best?
Every synthetic ice rink company makes a claim to fame - 'most used',
'best', etc. Are they all the best? We'll show you what kind of
synthetic ice to look for, and you can decide which is best for you.
First: Determine Your Needs and How You Will Use Your Synthetic Ice Rink
Select Ultra-High Density (UHMWPE- Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly Ethylene) synthetic panels for:
- Commercial Use. The heavier the molecular weight,
the more durable the product. The highest density polymers have
molecular weights in the range of 5-6 million.
Look for the heaviest weight per square foot, and when comparing, be
sure you're comparing products with equal thicknesses (3/8, 1/2, 3/4,
1"). The heaviest panel is the most dense and durable.
- Figure skating, or frequent, high level
figure-skating practice. This is because the toe pick can create deep
scratches in medium to high density polymers. The synthetic surface in
this case will last longer and serve you better if ultra-high density
polymers are installed.
The densest panels have the lowest coefficient of friction (COF),
meaning you'll be able to glide with less effort, and attain greater
speed for practicing spins and jumps.
- Hockey practice. Ultra-dense synthetic surfaces are
as excellent for hockey as they are for other uses. The cost per square
foot is greater, which is why for most home applications, we think the
high-density synthetic ice rink panels will be very suitable.
Nevertheless, there may be some great reasons why you would choose an
ultra-high density polymer for your synthetic practice rink - less
shavings, greater durability, less maintenance, to name a few.
The extreme hardness of the ultra-high density synthetic surface does
tend to dull a hockey blade more quickly than a high-density surface.
You might wish to also buy a blade sharpener while you're at it. Some
experts think that the decreased friction of the ultra-dense surface may
offset some of the dulling effects of the hard surface.
Select High-Density (HMWPE-High Molecular Weight Poly Ethylene) synthetic panels for:
- Home or backyard ice rink skating entertainment
- Home ice hockey games and practice.
High Density synthetic ice panels have a beaded surface when they're
new. This makes it easier to skate on when the surface is new, as the
beading reduces the friction so you will glide better.
Then, as the skate blades begin to nick the surface and scrape off the
beaded heads, the scratches and imperfections themselves act as friction
reducers, enhancing the skate glide.
High density panels always require the use of a glide enhancer, and may
scatter more plastic shavings than do ultra-high density panels.
The very best and most advanced panels are ultra-dense and
have beads of oil actually engineered into the polymer itself. You'll
get constant and even lubrication, and the lowest COF. These panels are
also very pricey, being a new technology. Depending on your needs, they
may be overkill, unless you have money to burn or are Olympic or NHL
Second: The Synthetic Panels You Choose Should Offer a Rock-Bottom Coefficient of Friction (COF) - the Lower the Better
The densest polymers have the lowest COF - 10% or lower. A COF of
over 20% means it will not be fun to skate - you'll feel like you're
'walking' more than skating.
Very low friction results in:
- High gliding ability - as close to ice as possible. This makes for
ideal training and skating sessions. Plus, muscle development and memory
is reinforced correctly.
- Reduced dulling of skate blades. Medium to lower density synthetic
has increased friction which wears your blades more rapidly,
necessitating more frequent sharpening.
- Low wear on the panels. The better the quality, the less abrasion,
or shaving off of the panels, or deep scratches. This means increased
longevity and less littering of shavings around the rink that can stick
to clothes and increase friction.
Third: Look for Tight/Seamless Fitting of the Panels
You don't want the blade catching on edges or ankles breaking. Snug
tongue-in-groove and dovetail fittings help control the fluctuations
caused by temperature changes.
Fourth: The Manufacturer Should Not Have to Recommend Glide Enhancers, Ideally
High-tech oil embedded polymers eliminate the need for lubricants.
But the truth is - nearly every synthetic panel on the market
today does require at least an occasional application of lubrication, some more than others. This is because polyethylene panels, even the very dense ones, are dry, requiring a glide enhancer.
Engineered specialty polymers with embedded oils release those oils
when the heat of the blade makes contact with the surface. These oils
reduce the amount of friction and therefore the amount of wear and tear.
These ideal synthetic surfaces are also more expensive, due to the
engineering required to embed the oil. But, if you obtain the best,
you'll also save on maintenance over the long haul. There will be fewer
shavings to sweep up, less enhancer to wash out of your clothes after
falling, and you'll enjoy your practice sessions and skating even more.
In the meantime...
Fifth: Choose Water-Soluble Glide Enhancers
Avoid silicone or glycerin solutions. See Synthetic Ice Information for more detail on glide enhancers.
Practice Your Skills on a Synthetic Ice Rink
Do you enjoy hockey? Do you play hockey competitively? Ice skate? Figure
skate? All these skills can be enjoyed and practiced on a synthetic ice
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