Ok so you have made the decision that you are going to buy some residential synthetic ice and you turn your attention to doing some research. It seems that everyone has “the best”, “the fastest”, “the cheapest” or some combination. There are a few very basic questions that you may want to consider and ask those suppliers you are researching.
Almost all synthetic ice brands are made of polyethylene – with 1 or 2 exceptions. Those exceptions are not even worth discussing because they don’t work. In very general terms the lower quality, lower priced, lower durability products are extruded polyethylene sheet material. Also in very general terms the higher quality, higher priced, better durability, superior glide products are sinter pressed (sometimes referred to as compression molded).
To be fair to the industry – both extruded and sinter pressed material has their place. Since we sell both we try to be very fair in our description and opinions of each.
The telltale sign of an extruded material is the amount of plastic residue or shavings that shear off the product when being skated on. We make sure we tell people what to expect about that. If you don’t mind cleaning that up on a regular basis then you may want to consider an extruded material as generally they are less expensive. If you are thinking a smaller size surface, and if the main goal is to take shots with skates on then an extruded option might be the right one for you. Kids who are young and therefore still don’t weigh very much will likely do well on this type of surface.
Sinter pressed material is amazingly durable. You will notice very little displacement of plastic with brands that are made with a higher molecular weight polyethylene resin. These materials are really known for their superior glide ability as well – which is what also makes this material more expensive. That being said there are “mid-grade” sinter pressed products that are priced very competitively with extruded material and will also seriously outperform it in terms of glide and durability.
Like anything there are trade-offs. If you have a reasonable budget and prefer higher quality materials with less maintenance then likely sinter pressed material is a better option. If price if your main concern, then shop around for the best extruded option.