Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sinter Pressed Synthetic Ice Panels

SmartRink Synthetic Ice…how can synthetic ice be so different?

You keep reading about all these synthetic ice products – so what about SmartRink Synthetic Ice? What makes it different? Why do we claim SmartRink Synthetic Ice is unique?  Is it really a better performing product?

The fact is that SmartRink Synthetic Ice is different from all other synthetic ice products. I recently attended a sports trade show in Germany – the biggest show of it’s kind every two years. There were four suppliers of synthetic ice at this show – mine was not on display at this show. For the record none of these suppliers are the actual manufacturer of the material – some suppliers would have their clients believe this is an important factor when it comes to synthetic ice but frankly it’s mostly irrelevant in my opinion. I skated on all four products using the same borrowed skates. I am not going to mention any brands here in this post but one of them was clearly a superior product in terms of it’s glide performance. I am aware of the company who manufactures this product. There was also one product that in my opinion was at the bottom of my list in terms of performance. The other two companies I would say were very close – and also quite good in terms of performance. What was really ironic I thought was that the product on the bottom of my list was also the only one I was familiar with competitively. They are an aggressive, slick marketing company and they appear to be well financed also. But now after skating on this product I can confidently say they do not have the best product, in fact not even close to it. So what was the value in skating on these synthetic ice products? It confirmed to me that SmartRink synthetic ice is in fact different and unique.

So what makes SmartRink synthetic ice so unique?

SmartRink uses sinter pressed synthetic ice panels. I believe that at least two possibly even three of the products I skated on were also sinter pressed. The fourth one may have been but it was so obviously a lower quality material. The tell tale sign of a higher molecular weight sinter pressed material is how much residue comes off the surface and sticks to your skate blades. I used this test on each of the four products. In the case of the “worst” product at this show I wiped off a significant amount of plastic residue off the blades. In the case of the “best” product there was almost none.  The two other products that were fairly close in performance there was minimal residue. In comparison when you skate on SmartRink sinter pressed synthetic ice panels there is also almost no residue to wipe off the skate blade.

So what is so special about sinter pressed synthetic ice panels?

From a North American perspective sinter pressing is practically non existent when it comes to synthetic ice. Of the products I tested at this show the “worst” product may indeed be sinter pressed but if it is the material is almost certainly pressed using a low molecular weight resin. By comparison the SmartRink synthetic ice material has several grades of popular skating material – neither of which sheds residue like the one I skated on in Germany. The vast majority of products offered in North America are extruded material. By the nature of the extrusion process the material used in extruded synthetic ice material is a lower molecular weight as a higher molecular weight resin will not work with this process. Sinter pressing on the other hand is not restricted in this way.

So suffice to say, SmartRink synthetic ice is likely not the only product in the world that uses sinter pressed material. To the best of my knowledge however, it may be the only one offered in North America at the time of writing this – or at very least, the only one using an optimal molecular weight resin that results in a superior skating performance. So performance is certainly important to the skater, but so it abrasion resistance. That means the material will stand up to skating over a longer period of time – it will last longer. North American producers claim that their products are superior. Well I would challenge any North American seller of synthetic ice to take their standard offered panels to a third party lab, and I will do the same and run standard tests that will prove my points on both skating performance and abrasion resistance.

So is there something else that makes SmartRink synthetic ice a unique product? Absolutely. Our ProFast line of engineered material is not off the rack polyethylene sheet simply machined into synthetic ice panels. This trademarked ice-y-blue700 material is unique. This is a Very High Molecular Weight Pe resin mixed with slip additives that improve the overall glide and efficiency of this skating material. We have tested this material to be significantly less effort to skate on verses other popular molecular weights used in synthetic ice skating material such as HDPe as example.

The factory actually developed a standard testing method using a weighted skate. You can see an image of this test on the home page of our SmartRink synthetic ice website. Using a weighted skate test the factory lab measures the force or “skating effort” required to move the weighted skate blade across certain material.

Our competitors do not like this test because most of them use extruded material and this test could make products look bad. From our perspective however, it is the only fair test to measure a products performance. There are standard industry tests for material abrasion resistance, notched impact resistance, and coefficient of friction – but unfortunately these are not as relevant directly to skating performance. These tests were developed for non-skating, standard industrial specifications where this type of material is frequently utilized.

At SmartRink synthetic ice we want our potential customers to understand what it is they are buying and what kind of thought went into our product because we are proud of it. We want people to clearly understand the difference between a sinter pressed product and an extruded product. We want you to be educated. You may still buy someone else’s product, but at least we hope you understand the trade off.

I will end this post on a humorous note from the sport show in Germany. Not knowing who I was, I asked one of my competitors what the material was made of and was told it was “secret”. I chuckled because I knew that response was coming. That’s what they always say.

Good luck in your research, and as always, if you need help with your decision on what product will work best for you please call us toll free at 1-855-461-7465 or send us an email at



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Worlds Largest Synthetic Ice Backyard Rink

What an amazing synthetic hockey rink project this was. We converted a backyard asphalt tennis court into one of the nicest looking synthetic ice rinks in the world. This rink was completely tricked out with blue lines, centre red line, faceoff dots, goal creases and goalines. This family is not only hockey crazy but they also play lacrosse – so at their request we added an additional crease outside the hockey goal crease for lacrosse. This was a first in the world that we are aware of.

This project used our SmartRink Profast1500, the same one that we used in Gladstone, MO, and Tenjin Hikari Square, Japan. This “hybrid” connection system uses a very unique perimeter male and female continuous ridge that is extremely tight fitting. As a result it requires a fair degree of “persuasion” to assemble. We accomplished the task using 3 pound hammers and some solid plastic blocks placed over the joint.

These panels are called “hybrid” though because we can use the above mentioned connection systems as well as the H-Tongue connection system for the areas with solid line markings. This means SmartRink synthetic ice line markings are positively and solidly connected to the panels on either side of the lines – a massive advantage over our competitors who prefer to “loose lay” their lines inside surounding panels.

This rink measured 115ft x 51ft and the almost 6,000 square feet took our crew of 4 the better part of 1.5 days to lay down. There was a lot of downtime from crew having to cart panels into the work space as there was fencing around the entire perimeter.

Then the molded board system was installed over the synthetic ice. There is always the issue of expansion and contraction of the synthetic ice so we had to calculate seasonal temperature variations and determine exactly how the boards should be positioned. We were able to utilize the existing fence posts from the tennis court to secure half of the boards and then we used a new asphalt anchoring system for the other half. The anchors holes were drilled with a hammer drill and then filled with a quick drying mortar before the anchors were inserted. The anchors had a threaded sleeve for the 4 inch hex bolts and they worked like a charm.

The boards and netting took another day and a half but well within four days the rink was completed and ready for the first skate. This video shows the first game played on the surface. Since this was fall and breezy there was some debris on the surface from the overhead trees but otherwise the synthetic ice surface was a huge hit!

Learn how to invest in your own backyard synthetic ice rink!

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Skating on Synthetic Ice is Easy

I’ve heard it all when it comes to skating on synthetic ice. I’ve heard that you can’t move, or turn or stop or pivot. Recently one goalie coach who trained players on synthetic ice insisted that you could not skate backwards on it. Wow was he ever surprised when he tested our product and saw how easy it was to move backwards and pivot and transition.

This is just another example of the mis-information that is out there about synthetic ice material. That is not to say there is not poor products being sold out there, there certainly is! And maybe that is a large part of the problem. Maybe that is why the industry still feels like it’s mired back in 1980 when there was nothing but poor products. That is why SmartRink is so dedicated to educating potential buyers about the differences in synthetic ice skating material. That is why we can safely and confidently say that skating on synthetic ice is easy.

So how can a buyer try to distinguish between a good quality product, a poor quality product, and an exceptional quality product. It starts with the raw material and how that rw materal is manufactured into a synthetic ice sheet.

SmartRink products are sinter pressed sheets. Sintering the sheet makes all the difference. Recently in a head to head trial of our product verses a leading brand of extruded product the overwhelming consensus of the comparison for skating performance was that our product delivered a superior skate. The glide was superior and more realistic. To be fair some skaters preferred the stopping action of the extruded sheet material, probably because the resistance of the product was greater than ours – but that is just speculation. One very noticeable difference was the amount of material residue that was displaced from skating on our competitors panels. It was incredible actually to see the difference first hand. Stopping on their product produced a handful of white dusty powdery residue, whereas stopping on the SmartRink material resulted in producing only a fingertip worth of fibre like material, you could hardly even see it.

So in a nutshell why is our product easier to skate on? Our panels are SINTER pressed. This is a process of applying great pressure under both high temperature and lower temperature conditions. This not only deivers better skating performance but allows us to offer a product that is incredibly abrasion resistant – meaning it will last much longer than an extruded material.

At SmartRink we say that skating on synthetic ice is easy. Really we should be saying that skating on SmartRink synthetic ice is easy!

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Synthetic ice connection systems

One of the single largest myths out there about synthetic ice is that one connection system can do it all. That is absolutely not the case. If it was a perfect world and all installations were on a laser levelled cement surface it would still not suffice for any one system to do it all. A couple products come close but at the end of the day there is no one synthetic ice connection system that does it all.

Almost any company that offers a synthetic ice product for sale carries a “dovetail” or dovetail like product. These product typically go together like puzzle pieces. They are great for home owners or even light duty commercial applications. The achilles heel of this connection system is that they do not have much or in most cases lack vertical pull out strength. Vertical pull out strength is measured as the force required to separate vertically a dovetail synthetic ice panel joint. A couple companies have attempted to improve the system with various degrees of success but the fact remains that most of these products are not well suited to outside environments or even inside environments where the temperature fluctuates widely.

SmartRink sells a dovetail panel like almost every other synthetic ice seller out there. But we also sell an H-Spline system, a flat tongue spline system, a flat tongue and dowel system, and a Hybrid-Lock system. Each of these synthetic ice connection systems have advantages and disadvantages. Some are better suited to certain applications and environments than others. Some offer incredible pull out strength and some offer the ability to easily lock and secure hockey lines and markings. At SmartRink it simply is not acceptable to think that one panel can do it all.

I can tell you first hand about application horror stories where the client was told a certain system would work and how it failed miserably. You just want to ever be in that situation – especially for a commercial synthetic rink where it may be your business that depends on how the synthetic ice connection system performs.

There is no magic here. There is a great deal of marketing and sales BS going on out there. People need to research all the variables. The synthetic ice connection system is one they need to be thinking about.

If you find yourself in this situation, please contact us at SmartRink and see how we can custom fit your application to one of our many type of synthetic ice connection systems.

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Synthetic Ice: Misleading Sales Information

heavy duty synthetic ice

People interested in investing in synthetic ice want a good product. They deserve good value for their money, but they also deserve factual information. I came across very misleading information the other day so I want to write about and set the record straight.

There are several popular connection systems available on the market today. Some of the best systems have been around for decades with minor improvements here and there. By far the most popular connection system is the “dovetail” or interlocking joint system. I came across some misleading information the other day on a product website. Here is what they write on their site as a matter of public information on the internet:

Dovetail Connection: Our Extreme Glide interlocking dovetail style synthetic ice panels, which out-performs the traditional Spline and Square Edge style panels, make installation and removal of the floor very quick and simple. Dovetail panels have quickly become the #1 choice in synthetic ice amongst commercial and residential users. Dovetail panels offer numerous advantages over spline and square edge:

Will not separate during expansion and contraction caused by temperature & humidity changes.
Allow for a variety of floor shapes and installation options resulting in a very strong and durable surface.
Have a very small contact tolerance resulting in the safest & smoothest skating surface.
Can be easily cut to customize your desired skating surface.
Are virtually indestructible and will not break, bend or warp under normal indoor or outdoor usage.
The most popular choice for commercial and residential users.

They are not being very specific here about spline systems but one popular system that is used widely around the world is the H-Spline system. This system is extremely strong. It literally takes thousands of pounds of both vertical and horizontal shear force to tear these joints apart. This has been tested and verified. There are also spline systems out there that also use dowels inserted into the splines that lock the panels together. I’m not sure what the specs are for vertical and horizontal shear strength of this system but I can guarantee it would certainly be far stronger vertically than any dovetail system.

As for square edged style panels – no serious user has built a rink with that system so it’s not worth discussing here.

What is indicated above: “will not separate during expansion and contraction caused by temeprature and humidy changes”. That is absolutely false. Vertical separation due to temperature changes followed by (humidty) rain then freezing temperatures can be absolutely problematic for all dovetail systems. Frankly – single dovetail systems should never be recommended for outside use – especially in Northern climates. You are asking for trouble under winter conditions not to mention risking severe safety hazards due to panel separation.

SmartRink sells dovetail panels, Hybrid-Lock(TM) dovetail panels, H-Spline panels, spline and dowel panels in thicknesses ranging from 6mm to 22mm. We understand there are panels for every application. To suggest that a dovetail panel is the most popular choice for both commercial and residential users is to also suggest that there is likely a lack of understanding of other panel joint systems and their appropriate applications.

Interested buyers and serious buyers of larger more sophisticated commercial synthetic ice systems need to understand and come to appreciate how significant a decision the connection system is to their applications for commercial synthetic ice.

If this is a concern for you, contact us and we can match your application the best product for the job.

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