Monthly Archives: August 2013

What is synthetic ice

When people ask what is synthetic ice it can be a challenge to answer in a way that they can truly understand and grasp the both the concept and the product capability. So in this post I am going to do my best to give you a brief education and overview on what is synthetic ice.

Synthetic ice is a plastic

Yes, in it’s most basic form synthetic ice is plastic. To be sure there are a lot of different kinds of plastic. There are also various ways that plastic is made. So what is synthetic ice made of? Generally speaking it’s made of polyethylene although there are a few that appear to be made from other material as well.

Polyethylene and synthetic ice

There are various grades of polyethylene. I have written about this before so check out some of our earlier posts about that topic. Typically though what is synthetic ice polyethylene? We generally see products in the HDPe – VHMWPe classifications and even within these there can be quite a variety of molecular weights. For example HDPe can range from 300,000 g/mole to 500,000 g/mole.

What is synthetic ice manufacturing methods

Typically any product we see being made in North America is extruded. Extruded polyethylene does can have a molecular weight that is over 500,000 g./mole. This is a limiting factor for this method. The result is a decent sheet suitable for skating on but it won’t be the best material. Some companies claim to use a higher molecular weight and also claim they extrude the material. The only explanation for this is that they mix materials such that it will work in the extruder. The other method of manufacture is sinter pressing. This process uses extreme pressure along with heating and cooling of the material. This is advantageous because it de-stresses the material. Sinter pressing also allows for a much higher molecular weight material to be used and will produce a superior glide and far superior durability over the long term of the product. There are standard industry tests such as the sand slurry test that will demonstrate how much better sinter pressed material with higher molecular weight is to abrasion resistance than standard extruded material. That test shows how durable a product will be over time.

Ask questions about synthetic ice

So when people ask “what is synthetic ice” it is important to understand that there can be vast differences between suppliers. Clients tell me that other suppliers they talk to are reluctant to share very much product information with them. That’s unfortunate, but in order to do a proper analysis between products it’s essential to understand more about material, glide enhancers and connection systems. Then once you have all the basic information you can be better armed to make some legitimate price comparisons. Otherwise you are potentially relying on some companies marketing or sales pitch and that could lead to disappointment. Hopefully that is never the case.

What is a synthetic ice Free Trial?

It is understood that this can be a complicated and confusing purchase. SmartRink offers a Free Trial to assist you in making an informed intelligent decision. On our website just enter the Synthetic ice Free Trial button and you’ll be on your way to skating at home or anywhere, whenever you like.

Learn more about what it is like skating on synthetic ice.

 

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Skating on Synthetic Ice by SmartRink

Players face off on SmartRink Synthetic Ice

Players face off on SmartRink Synthetic Ice

Is there an adjustment period to skating on synthetic ice? 

With any training product there is always an adjustment while you learn how to use it and become comfortable with it so you can improve your skills.  Synthetic ice is no different! Skating on synthetic ice will force your body and muscles to practice proper skating techniques so that when you transition to real ice, you will be that much quicker and have increased agility.  You will see an improvement in your stride and you will develop quick feet that gives you an competitive edge amongst other skaters.

How long does it take to adjust to skating on synthetic ice?

Depending on your skating ability and how sharp your skates are, your adjustment period could be anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes for skating on synthetic ice.  Keeping your feet moving will give you the best experience, which is no different than on real ice. If you don’t move your feet, you won’t be able to glide.  Start out with something simple such as a T-push or long strides.

 What’s it like to skate on synthetic ice?

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve been skating for over 25 years and have played hockey for the majority of those years.  When it came to skating on synthetic ice at first, it was a bit different. But after about 5 minutes of skating around and getting the “feel” for skating on synthetic ice, there was nothing I couldn’t do on synthetic ice that I can do on real ice.  I can tell you with 100% confidence that if you or your child were using our synthetic ice product regularly, not only will they have no trouble skating on synthetic ice, but you WILL see an improvement in their skating ability on real ice and watch how their confidence increases along with it.

Is synthetic ice good for beginners or those learning how to skate?

Using synthetic ice for those just learning to skate is a phenomenal training tool. It helps them keep their balance more so than real ice because there is a bit more resistance.  This will help improve their confidence and encourage them to keep pushing forward whether they be hockey players or figure skaters.  Having the resistance also helps them stand up longer which gives them a better opportunity to take their hands off of the sides and skate all by themselves.  It might still hurt when they fall down, but at least it’s not as cold!

If you would like more information on skating on synthetic ice, check out our website or contact one of our representatives and they would be happy to help answer your questions.

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Synthetic ice reviews

A lot of folks are interested in synthetic ice reviews simply because there is not a great volume of credible information being published in this industry. Synthetic ice reviews can not only assist you in making an informed decision but it can help you to make a wise long term investment in your child’s skating and playing future.

So what is important to know about synthetic ice?

A lot of people focus on the price of synthetic ice, and there is no doubt that price is important. But you’ve purchased enough things in your life to know that low price almost will never buy you the best product. Right? That’s just common sense. But you should understand a few other important aspects as well when you do your synthetic ice reviews. The material for example needs to be considered. Is it HDPe or HMWPe or VHMWPe of UHMWPe? Then how is it made? Is the sheet sinter pressed or extruded? There is a huge difference there. Did you know for example that every sheet made in North America is extruded? This process reduces a sheet that is less durable and has a reduced glide than sinter pressed sheets. Your thorough synthetic ice reviews will reveal that of course. Another important consideration is the connection system. Every producer makes a dovetail joint connection system. There are a few variations of it but in the end they all have an Achilles heel. And that is that they can be vertically separated when there is a vertical force at the joint. This type of synthetic ice joint connection really should never be used outside where there is a great chance of vertical separation due to temperature variations such as heat and extreme cold along with ice and snow. Your synthetic ice reviews must make these determinations.

So how do you really know what synthetic ice is best for you?

You really need to set a realistic budget for yourself based on the size you want. When you conduct your synthetic ice reviews please ensure that you understand there are different performance levels with the various price categories. A lower price level and therefore a lower performance level will run you about $8 per square foot. A decent mid-range price level and therefore a medium performance level will cost around $12 psf. Then depending on the material and the joint connection system you can pay between $16 and $23 psf. The higher priced products will not only be superior material but they will also likely be sinter pressed sheets so they will be much more durable and abrasion resistant.

So realistically how different is one synthetic ice material over another?

The easy answer is the larger the surface area, the more relevant this questions becomes. If you only want a 10ft x 10ft surface in your basement then by all means it makes sense to go for a lower end product. The reality is that you can only skate a minimal amount anyway so a size like this is more appropriate for shooting pucks. On the other hand a larger surface should demand a superior material and potentially a stronger connection system because you will notice a difference in glide and speed and ease of movement with a larger surface. The differences are vast but they are even more significant with a larger surface. A good rule of thumb – the larger the surface the more you should be prepared to spend per square foot – The skaters will definitely notice.

Talk to several synthetic ice companies

Through the process of completing your synthetic ice reviews ensure that you speak live to several reputable companies and ask the same series of questions and then compare the answers you receive. Synthetic ice can become a significant investment. If you still aren’t certain then take advantage of our synthetic ice Free Trial so that then you will really know what to expect prior to spending a lot of money.

Learn more about SmartRink synthetic ice.

 

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Synthetic ice rink

So what’s it like skating on a synthetic ice rink?

Potential buyers can be reluctant to seriously consider a synthetic ice rink because they really just don’t understand the product. Maybe they had a negative experience where there kid fell flat on his face the first time they tried out a synthetic ice rink. Or maybe it was grossly oversold by a company who really didn’t understand it themselves and created super unrealistic expectations. perhaps they “heard” from a hockey coach who tried it once and hated it because he couldn’t skate backwards on it. At SmartRink we have heard all of these reasons and many, many more.

Just how realistic is it?

Some companies suggest that their brand of synthetic ice is just like ice, or 97% the same as real ice or some ridiculous claim or another. So here’s the real scoop. In tests that we have done with our product verses real ice we have found that with a single “T-push” from a dead stop that we can travel around 35 to 40 feet on a SmartRink synthetic ice rink. So is that good? Well maybe that’s a matter of opinion. When we compare that real ice and using the same skater doing a similar “T-push” then they can take that distance up to 60 feet. The other test we have on the SmartRink synthetic ice rink is we have done a speed test where a skater goes from a dead stop and is timed over a fifty foot distance. The same test was then completed over multiple trials on real ice. The average times between our synthetic ice rink and the real ice were virtually identical. So what does that really tell us? From a practical point of view it would suggest that as long as you are working on synthetic (moving your feet) then you will move. When you stop moving your feet you will stop more quickly than on real ice.

Synthetic ice coefficient of friction is a poor indicator of performance for skating

Some synthetic ice rink sellers use the coefficient of friction (COF) to suggest that their synthetic ice rink material is very similar to that of real ice. This is irresponsible,  and frankly misleading marketing in our opinion. Synthetic ice material is often rated at a 97% or 98% COF. This should not be ever mistaken to mean that a synthetic ice rink will perform at 97% or 98% as well as real ice. COF is a standard test with most sheet manufacturers where a polished steel disc is pulled along the material and the resistance is measured. This is a far cry from a sharp steel skate blade under significant weight.

So what can I expect with my synthetic ice rink?

What you can expect with products that have higher molecular weight material with a good glide enhancer is a favorable skating experience. You won’t be able to glide as far but you should be able to skate as fast as long as your feet are moving. You can stop, turn, pivot, skate forward, backward, jump, spin, use pucks, shoot and pretty well anything else that you would normally do on real ice.

How can you really be sure that your synthetic ice rink will be good?

Can you ever really know if anything you buy will be as good as advertised? Well think about it. When you buy a house you walk through it and you inspect it. When you buy a car you test drive it. Well at SmartRink we also believe in trying your synthetic ice rink before you have to buy it. So we pioneered the Free Trial of our synthetic ice rink products. You simply go to www.smartrink.com and fill out our Free Synthetic Ice Rink Trial program form and we will do the rest. Doing business should be easy and worry free and with SmartRink is it. So if you are thinking about buying a synthetic ice rink then consider SmartRink.

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Synthetic Ice Pricing

Have you ever wondered about synthetic ice pricing? There is no doubt that the majority of requests we receive inevitably are about product pricing. What I would like to do is walk you through the type of information that can affect synthetic ice pricing so you can make more informed decisions. After all if you are going to spend a good chunk of your hard earned dollars then you need to be properly informed on synthetic ice. Understanding factors that go into synthetic ice pricing will help you make a better decision.

Synthetic ice material

First you have to understand that not all material is the same. There are several categories of materials used and they typically differ by the molecular weight and also by the way its actually manufactured. Molecular weight categories can be LDPe (low density polyethylene), HDPe (high density polyethylene), HMWPe (high molecular weight polyethylene), VHMWPe (very high molecular weight polyethylene) and UHMWPe (ultra high molecular weight polyethylene). Puck board or arena board is typically LDPe for example.

Molecular weight of synthetic ice material

Generally speaking the synthetic ice pricing will be greater per panel where the material is VHMWPe or UHMWPe. The vast majority of products we have come across on the market are HDPe grade material. The reason we know this is because the vast majority of panels produced are extruded sheet material. Extruded sheets are going to be LDPe or HDPe. Molecular weight is typically measure in grams/mole.

Extruded or Sinter Pressed synthetic ice material

Extruded sheets can also be problematic in terms of stresses due to expansion and contraction forces. Extruded sheets are not de-stressed to the degree that sinter pressed sheets are simply because of how they are manufactured. During the sintering process the sheets are heated under enormous pressure, then cooled, then heated again. This takes stress out of the material and the result is a sintered sheet will not only be machined more accurately but it will lay flat whereas an extruded sheet can curl up on the edges and react poorly to temperature variables such as warping or coming apart at the joint connections. The process of sintering the material is more capital intensive and typically will affect the synthetic ice pricing. The result however is a much superior wearing and higher performance material. That means better quality skating over the long term.

Synthetic ice pricing…what effects the price?

So to summarize the effect on synthetic ice pricing, the two main drivers are the manufacturing process itself and the raw material resin or more specifically the molecular weight of the resin. The higher the molecular weight of the resin the more expensive it will be as the main cost input when determining the synthetic ice pricing.

So how would a consumer compare synthetic ice pricing?

Admittedly, it can be difficult for a consumer to determine these things on their own. Unfortunately this industry does a poor job in communicating these topics in a way that consumers understand enough to compare products. Personally, I believe consumers need to get to the heart of the matter when it comes to synthetic ice pricing. Intuitively consumers are smart enough to know that every company can’t be the best, the fastest, and the cheapest. Sorry life doesn’t work that way. We understand the dilemma and so we have taken steps for consumers to test our product before they ever have to buy it.  We have essentially removed any buying risk from the purchase. Obviously we have to be competitive price wise and so our approach is that we offer multiple products and different price points and we explain the differences then based on the consumers budget they select the best product for their budget.

Synthetic ice is usually not a “spur of the moment” purchase decision. Generally buyers do their research and consider various options such as material, connection systems, application, supplier location, pricing, and customer service. Just be careful of the marketing hype and boastful claims from a lot of companies. Make sure you call and talk to a representative. Ask for references and testimonials, and call them or email them to see what their experience has been.

Synthetic ice peace of mind

So it’s the moment of truth and you want to feel good about dropping thousands of dollars on the right product. If you still are not really sure and 2 or 3 suppliers seem like the right fit, then think about going with the company that offers the free trial of our synthetic ice so that you can use the product before making a decision. It’s the “easy button”. If you like it you keep it, if you don’t you send it back.  Before you know it your kids will be skating around at home and having a ball. Make a smart decision, with SmartRink synthetic ice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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