What is Synthetic Ice? Synthetic Ice is a solid polymer sheet that interlocks with other panels to form an artificial ice surface for ice skating. Regular metal-bladed ice skates can be used or either recreational use or training.
The two standard forms of synthetic ice are HDPE or High Density Polyethylene and UHMWPE or Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. Both surfaces have abrasive-resistant characteristics and are available in many forms and sizes.
How do I Know What Synthetic Ice Product to Buy? There are four basic questions you need to ask yourself before shopping for a synthetic ice surface.
Who is the rink for? Beginner or advanced skater?
What is the purpose for the rink? Recreational use or training to become a stronger skater?
Is there a dedicated space for the rink? If so, you may want to opt for a larger panel with less seams. if not you may want to consider a lighter, more portable panel so the space can be utilized for other things when not in use.
What is your budget? Limit the cost to what you can afford to get your rink project started.
What does "Infused" and "Non-Infused" surface mean? Infused or self-lubricating synthetic ice panels have less surface friction or coefficient of friction and don't require spraying with glide enhancer. However, self-lubricating does not mean self-cleaning as infused surfaces do tend to atract more dirt and require more work in keeping them cleaner over the lifetime of the rink.
Non-Infused surfaces do require a glide enhancer spray to reduce surface friction for ice skating but tend to be easier to keep clean over the long term. This is a great option for heavy foot traffic areas or shooting galleries.
Where Can Synthetic Ice be Installed? Synthetic Ice can be installed in any location indoors or outdoors that has a hard, flat surface such as concrete, wood decking or pavement. The surface will expand and contract with changes in the temperature so so provisions must be made to allow for this to happen.
Expansion gaps along the outside edge must be considered if fencing or boards are being installed around the perimeter. NOTE: When selecting a synthetic ice rink for an outdoor installation make sure the product was manufactured with a UV inhibitor. This will help prevent the surface from breaking down over time from long term sun exposure.
Will Synthetic Ice Damage my Skate Blades? Unlike real ice is that is cold synthetic ice is room temperature with an added friction of about 10 to 15% more than natural ice. This will cause your blade to heat-up quicker as you train. To reduce the amount of wear on your edges make sure to choose a quality blade for your ice skate. The harder the steel on the blade the longer it will hold the edge on your skate. Many times blades that come with new skates are ok for natural ice but not the best choice for synthetic.
Will Synthetic Ice Eventually Wear Out? Every skate blade has an inside and outside edge that will slightly mar the surface while your training. As you break-in and scratch-up the surface the little imperfections give less contact with the skate blade which actually helps to enhance the glide over time..While skating only about 1/16" inch will slice the surface and when you perform a "Hockey Stop" you skim across the surface....there's no gouging
What Type of Maintenance is Required for Synthetic Ice? All synthetic ice surfaces infused or non-infused must be kept clean to obtain optimal performance and glide. Non-Infused surfaces require a light application of glide enhancer to prepare the surface for ice skating. You will know it's time for cleaning when you start seeing discoloration on the surface or dirt build-up.
Infused rinks do not require a glide enhancer spray but do need to be cleaned frequently to prevent dirt build-up on the surface. Simply apply a concentrated cleaner to the surface to help break-up the grout lines and remove the dirt prior to wiping down the rink.
Does Synthetic Ice Feel Like Real Ice? Synthetic Ice technology has come a long way to close the gap and feel of skating on real ice. The transition from natural ice to synthetic happens as soon as you start skating.
You can make all the same manuevers on artificial ice that you can on real ice but not all surfaces are created equal. The most natural feeling ice will always be the one that offers the least amount of surface friction while skating.
Can I Park my Car on my Garage Rink? Garage synthetic ice rinks have become one of the most popular spots for home rink installations. Solid Core, double-sided synthetic ice panels are strong enough to hold the weight of a vehicle but provisions should be made to protect the surface before parking.
Covering your rink with a runner or tarp is recommended to protect it from any fluids or grease that may drip onto your rink.