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UHMW panel where the skater lost control while turning.

What is UHMW?

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Polymer: UHMW - Ultra High Molecular Weight

This product is available from Ice Rink Engineering and Manufacturing, LLC and others. It is a poor choice as a synthetic ice skating surface for several reasons!

UHMW is a very good product when used as intended. As an example, UHMW is commonly used to line dump beds of mining trucks because UHMW is very hard, smooth and does not scar easily. It is, by nature, difficult to keep flat. Waving and warping of sheet material is common; therefore, it is typically installed with heavy-duty nuts and bolts passing through drill holes in the UHMW sheet and the subsurface framework to reduce warping. This forces the sheets to lie flat and restrict the warping characteristics of the product.

Why does UHMW not work for skating if it is hard and smooth?

Facts regarding UHMW:
  1. UHMW is much too hard to allow a skate blade to penetrate the surface sufficiently. Light weight skaters will not penetrate the surface to any degree.

    UHMW has a very smooth surface and because of its hardness factor a skate blade will pass across the surface, if in a straight line, very fast; however, if the skate blades are traveling in a radius turn, even to the slightest degree, the blades slip sideways. As the tightness of the turn increases so does the amount of slippage, even to the point of being very dangerous since sudden and unexpected falls for the skater can occur. Most skating consists of constant changes in direction with the skater using both increasing and decreasing radius turns.

  2. UHMW, by comparison to other polymers, is not flat and under some conditions warping and waving of the panel is common and difficult to control.

  3. One of the most important considerations to be understood by a skater is this: Due to the hardness and the ultra high density of the product, the material dulls the edges of skate blades at a rapid rate; therefore, repeated blade sharpening should be expected to be very frequent with UHMW. Even when tests are conducted in simple, repetitive straight line passes back and forth across the UHMW surface, over-heating and dulling of the blades prove to be severe.

  4. Other skating tests performed conclude that normal stroking by a skater (pushing forward using the edge of the skate blade) results in severe side slippage of the blade.

  5. UHMW is intentionally manufactured to be very hard and smooth for use in industries where a shield against wear from abrasion and friction is needed; it is not a good choice for skating.

The components used in UHMW and the manufacturing process itself are far more expensive when compared to acceptable synthetic ice material. The significant additional expense incurred from the production of UHMW is another reason it is a poor choice as a synthetic ice skating surface.