Synthetic ice, sometimes referred to as artificial ice (though "artificial ice" is a term used to describe the man-made skating surface created by freezing water with refrigeration equipment, as well), is a low-friction, wear-resistant polymer material used for skating with standard metal-bladed ice skates. A typical synthetic ice rink will consist of many panels (usually in typical building material sheet sizes) of thin surface material assembled on top of a sturdy, level and smooth surface to create a large skating area.
Synthetic ice has been around for many decades. It is an excellent alternative to real ice, which requires either cold weather to produce natural ice or expensive refrigeration equipment to freeze water. The first known application of modern plastics as a substitute for ice for the purpose of ice skating was in the 1960's using materials such as polyoxymethylene plastic.
Even now, you will find many synthetic ice products using the same generic polymers that were available in the 1960's. These generic materials have some significant shortcomings. The most obvious being that skaters cannot glide on these surfaces as they can on real ice without the regular application of a silicone compound. This compound builds up on the surface, collects dirt and grime, and is the source of much dissatisfaction among those who have tried synthetic ice skating on rinks using the old technology.
Another shortcoming of early synthetic ice products was the methods used to join the panels. The earliest method was a simple butt joint with one flat panel butted against the next, leaving a joint that skaters could feel, or worse yet that a skate blade could catch in and trip the skater. Using splines on the straight-cut joint was an improvement on this, but variations in temperature could cause these joints to open up. Then variations of a common dovetail joint to really hold the panels together developed, but the panels could move up and down so variations at the seams were common. Some tried welding the panels together but found the other side became useless, the seams could not be done perfectly, it could not be moved and goalie areas wore through creating holes rendering the entire surface unusable.
These shortcomings were enough to give synthetic ice a well-earned bad reputation throughout the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's.
Perry Boskus, a man who has dedicated his life to ice sports, always liked the idea of synthetic ice. He tried the surfaces that were available in the early 1980's and just like everyone else, found them lacking in many ways. He knew there had to be a better way, and he made it his personal goal to find a solution. Through years of research and development with chemical and mechanical engineers, and testing with a wide variety of skaters worldwide, he has succeeded with the invention of Super-Glide®.
The Super-Glide® surface is based on similar materials used in the past, but this proprietary polymer is specifically engineered for skating. Super-Glide® has even developed a unique lubricating product that is applied to the surface to give it that last bit of glide-factor to feel just like ice! This lubricant is specifically designed to work with the characteristics of the Super-Glide® surface so that the surface never feels sticky and does not attract contaminants.
Super-Glide® also uses an innovative patent-pending assembly method that keeps the seams from moving up and down as well as eliminating all problems with expansion and contraction during drastic temperature changes. Now, full size outdoor facilities are possible.
One of the latest developments from Global Synthetic Ice are full-size and mini rinks with embedded hockey lines. The markings are permanent and maintenance-free. Full-size rinks are available with regulation NHL or CHL lines!
The newest Super-Glide synthetic ice product is Super-Glide Ultra. Designed for home use, it uses the same surface material as all Global Synthetic Ice products, along with the patent pending assembly method. The sheets are made thinner and smaller, making them lighter and easier to handle. Super-Glide Ultra is a snap for one person to install!
All of these things; the specially engineered polymer and lubricant, the precise production methods and the innovative assembly method; come together to make Super-Glide® an almost magical synthetic ice surface. All of the problems Perry found with the old-technology synthetic ice have been resolved. Super-Glide® IS the future of synthetic ice.
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Copyright (c) 2012, Global Synthetic Ice, Inc. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".