What is the best synthetic ice? Really…what is it? The market is flooded with options for synthetic ice. Its a tough world for consumers, as you are generally needing to make a costly investment in a surface before trying it out. The below points outline some of the things to look for in a synthetic ice product.
This is the starting point, as there are a lot of synthetic ice surfaces out there that put a black eye on the whole industry. There are still companies selling similar synthetic ice surfaces that we were selling in the mid 1990’s! All of these will need a lubricant spray to achieve any glide. Many companies are currently selling “self-lubricating” surfaces. These are surfaces that achieve glide without any lubricant aids.
This is where it gets tricky…to what degree is the glide comparable to actual ice? Even within the “self-lubricating” category, there will be a vast array of how the glide performs. Synthetic ice is generally made with a resin and a “slip agent”. The slip agent is what makes the synthetic ice glide. The biggest difference in glide among competing companies will be what specific slip agent is used, and how much of it is used.
Cheaper synthetic ice brands tend to use less effective slip agents, or use it at a much lower percentage than the best synthetic ice surfaces. The glide will be much stickier, and may even require a lubricant spray to achieve its true desired effect (many cheap brands won’t tell you that ahead of time). Generally speaking, with an increase in the proper slip agent, comes an increase in the glide (resin dependent). This also will cause an increase in price, as it is more costly to manufacture. The best synthetic ice has a glide in excess of 90% when compared to real ice.
The hardness of the synthetic ice surface is imperative for durability and a natural feel. Many cheap surfaces are much too soft or too hard. These products tend to use a cheaper resin, which softens the surface. Or they use little-to-no slip agent, which hardens the surface (slip agents tend to soften synthetic ice). Durability or performance for these synthetic ice surfaces will be dramatically affected in a negative manner.
Skating on soft surfaces, feels similar to real ice that is too soft. You will dig into the ice and feel like you are skating on a train track. This also adds friction and slows down the glide. On the other-hand, surfaces can be much too hard and dull the blades very fast. These tend to be seen in older surfaces, and surfaces with no slip agent added to the resin. We often refer to these synthetic ice surfaces as, “dead cutting boards”.
Achieving the right balance of hardness in synthetic ice leads to natural ice-like skating surfaces, that are not too hard or too soft on the blades. The best synthetic ice has the perfect hardness balance.
There are two main ways that synthetic ice panels are connected. These two methods are known as the “tongue and groove” and “dovetail” connections.
The tongue and groove connection came first. In fact, this is how we connected our panels back in the late ’90’s. This connection is a lot more work for the end user, and makes it very difficult to install and take apart. This connection can also pose problems in larger spaces, as panels like to pull away from one another and don’t want to connect.
The dovetail connection is what we currently are using. This connection allows for fast and easy installation/tear down. The key to the KwikRink Lock-Rink Dovetail assembly is that the male and female joints have a slight overbite for a snug fit. With proper sub flooring, this connection is seamless and will not trip skaters or stop pucks. The best synthetic ice surfaces are seamless!
Best Synthetic Ice
- The best synthetic ice surfaces have glide in excess of 90% when compared to real ice
- The best synthetic ice surfaces have a natural ice-like feel – not too hard or soft
- The best synthetic ice surfaces have a seamless connection
Searching for the best synthetic ice in today’s market can leave the average consumer with a headache. At KwikRink Synthetic Ice, we invest heavily in R&D, and have been manufacturing our own surfaces for 20 years. It would be much easier for us to purchase pre-made synthetic ice surfaces like most of our competitors, and resell them under our own name. Manufacturing our own synthetic ice allows us to make the best synthetic ice!