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An ice resurfacer is a vehicle or hand-pushed device used to clean and smooth the surface of an ice sheet, usually in an ice rink. The two major manufacturers are Resurfice Corporation, which sells Olympia-brand machines, and Frank J. Zamboni & Company. The first ice resurfacer was developed by Frank Zamboni in 1949 in the city of Paramount, California. Zamboni // is an internationally registered trademark.
The first ice-resurfacer was the brainchild of Frank J. Zamboni, who was originally in the refrigeration business. He provided services to businesses such as dairy farms and produce vendors. Zamboni created a plant for making ice blocks that could be used in refrigeration techniques. As the demand for ice blocks waned, Zamboni looked for another way to capitalize on his expertise with ice.
In 1939, Zamboni created the Iceland Skating Rink in Paramount, California. In order to resurface the skating rink, 3 or 4 workers would have to scrape, wash and squeegee the ice. A thin layer of water would then be added for the fresh ice. This process was extremely time consuming and Zamboni wanted to find a more efficient way to resurface the ice.
From 1942 to 1947 Zamboni tried, fruitlessly, to develop a vehicle that could cut down on resurfacing time. In 1947, Zamboni decided on a machine that would shave, wash and squeegee the ice. This machine was mounted on an army surplus vehicle chassis. A blade was mounted on the machine, which would shave the ice; the ice would then receive a thin layer of water creating a smooth sheet of ice. The prototype had a tank that held the ice shavings, which were carried to the tank via a conveyor belt. This machine was powered by a Jeep engine and transmission. Zamboni abandoned this model in late 1947 because of deficiencies with the blade and handling.
A new machine was developed using another army surplus vehicle chassis. This machine had both four wheel drive as well as front and back wheel steering. By 1949, "'The Model A Zamboni Ice-Resurfacer' became a working reality". Further modification to the Model A included the addition of a wash water tank and a cover for the snow-holding tank. The front and back steering feature was removed in favor of front-wheel steering because the machine constantly got wedged against the boards. The Model A did not have the visual appeal of many of the ice-resurfacers of today. A journalist from the Brantford Expositor observed that "[t]he original [Model A] looks like the offspring of a field tractor and a warehouse crate". The Zamboni ice-resurfacer was patented in 1953.
The Model B was the next ice resurfacer made by Zamboni. This Machine differed significantly from the Model A. Instead of using a Jeep engine and transmission, Zamboni decided to build the necessary parts directly onto a Jeep body. Zamboni model C was also built on a Jeep body but more design changes were applied. The driver's position was raised for better visibility and the capacity of the snow-holding tank was increased. From the late 1950s to 1964 there were minimal changes in how the ice-resurfacers were designed, Model C to Model F changed only slightly. The introduction of the HD series in 1964 saw a shift in the design of the Zamboni ice-resurfacers. Instead of relying on a conveyor belt system to move the ice shavings into the snow-holding tank, a vertical screw conveyor system was installed. Along with the vertical screw conveyor, a new hydraulic snow-dumping system was adopted. This meant that drivers no longer had to shovel the ice shavings out of the holding tank. This design has been the industry standard since it was first adopted.
The Zamboni Company's ice resurfacing machine and Frank Zamboni were honored with a Google Doodle on 16 January 2013, for Frank Zamboni's 112th birthday. Google provided a playable doodle, where you can drive the Zamboni machine around a rink.
It has been noted in "Occupational and Environmental Medicine" that indoor ice-resurfacing can subject people to negative health effects, due to the operation of the vehicle's combustion engine indoors. Indoor ice-resurfacing has resulted in "cases of acute Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide poisoning...resulting from the release of pollutants". Exposure to high concentrations of these gases can cause "acute and chronic illness". Recommendations that have been made with the aim of improving air quality include: regular maintenance of ice resurfacers; utilization of pollution control devices (like a catalytic converter); proper ventilation; wider use of electric ice resurfacers instead of fossil-fuelled machines; and keeping close tabs on air quality within the arena.
Most of these recommendations are the responsibility of the ice resurfacer or arena owner. However, the utilization of electric ice resurfacers is a recommendation that can be, and has been, taken into consideration by most ice-resurfacer manufacturers. In 1959, the Zamboni Company built its first electric powered ice resurfacer which was used for the Squaw Valley Olympic Games in California in 1960. Zamboni has introduced the Model 552 and the Model 560AC ice-resurfacers, both of which are electrically powered. Olympia is another popular brand of ice resurfacers. Olympia machines are used in 5 of the 30 NHL Arenas. The Millennium Cellect is an electrically powered ice-resurfacer that Olympia has introduced. This machine is capable of resurfacing a sheet of ice 20 times on a full charge.
Ice resurfacers are generally composed of a snow container, hot water tanks, a wash water tank, the conditioner, and a board brush. The engine or motor of the vehicle is responsible both for propelling the resurfacer and also powering the hydraulics that control the various functions, such as lowering the conditioner or raising the snow dump.
Most of the actual resurfacing components are contained in a heavy device at the rear of the machine, known as the "conditioner". The conditioner is hydraulically lowered to the ice surface, its weight providing the friction necessary for a large, sharp blade (similar to those used in industrial paper cutters) to shave off the top layer of ice. A horizontal auger collects these ice shavings, or snow, and funnels them to a vertical auger at the center of the conditioner. The shavings are then carried upward and sprayed into a large snow container, which takes up most of the volume of the resurfacer. In early models, a paddle-and-chain conveyor was used instead of a second, vertical auger. The height of the blade can be adjusted by the driver, allowing deeper or shallower cuts. This is useful for keeping the ice sheet level, improving the quality of the cut, and preventing the snow container from overflowing.
Wash water can be used to further improve the quality of the ice by removing debris and snow from deep skate-blade cuts. Located directly in front of the blade, nozzles forcefully spray water into the ice surface, loosening deep debris. Runners on either side of the conditioner contain the spray, while a rubber squeegee at the rear of the conditioner allows a vacuum nozzle to pick up excess water. This water is then filtered through a screen and recirculated.
Finally, a layer of hot water (60 °C to 70 °C, 140 °F to 160 °F) is laid down to fill in the remaining grooves in the ice. The hot water is released through a sprinkler pipe at the rear of the conditioner, which wets the cloth towel that is dragged behind the resurfacer. The towel ensures a smooth, controlled deposition of water. Hot water is used because it slightly melts the layer of ice below it, forming a stronger bond when frozen. This limits chipping and cracking, providing a more enjoyable skating surface. The water used in many rinks is also filtered and treated before being heated to remove any minerals or chemicals in the water. These impurities can otherwise make the ice brittle, soft, give it undesirable odors, or change the color and clarity.
Many ice resurfacers are fitted with a "board brush", a rotary brush powered by a hydraulic motor. The board brush is extended and retracted on the left side of the machine by a hydraulic arm. This allows the operator to collect ice shavings and debris that accumulate along the edge of the rink (along the kick plates below the dasher boards of the rink) where the conditioner cannot easily reach. The brush sweeps the accumulations into the path of the conditioner, which removes them from the ice. The use of a board brush can dramatically reduce the need for edging of the rink.
After resurfacing the entire sheet, also known as an "ice cut" or "flood", the snow container must be emptied. Hydraulics raise one end of the container, causing the snow to spill out.
Smaller, cheaper machines have also been designed to provide a smooth ice surface in a manner similar to a traditional resurfacer. These can be either self-propelled or pushed/pulled by the operator. Self-propelled vehicles typically incorporate the main components of full-size ice resurfacer, including a blade and water tank, but on a smaller scale. These are usually mounted to an ATV or golf cart-like vehicle.
The ice around the edges of a rink has a tendency to build up because the conditioner blade does not extend all the way to the outer edges of the conditioner and it is unwise to "ride" (drive with the conditioner touching) the dasher boards. An ice edger is a small device similar to a rotary lawn mower that is used to shave down the edges of the ice surface that the ice resurfacer cannot cut. An ice edger can not shave ice that has an overall bowl or mushroom shape.
Drivers using latest model ice resurfacing equipment can effectively cut ice edges within millimeters of the dasher board.
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