What’s a Zamboni?

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A Zamboni is a machine used to smooth and clean ice skating rinks. The air conditioner scrapes the ice and collects chips, then sprays wash water and applies clean water with a cloth towel. Ice cutters and plank brushes are used to clean the edges. Newer models have additional features, but they are expensive and not widely used.

A Zamboni is a machine used in ice skating rinks to smooth and clean the surface of the ice. While Zamboni® is a registered trade name, the generic term is “ice regenerator,” the term is typically used to describe any such machine, much like Band-Aid for an adhesive bandage. The first ice remake was created in 1949 by Frank J. Zamboni.
When people skate on an ice rink, the surface becomes rough and harder to skate on, so regular resurfacing can keep the ice rink looking its best. The most important part of the Zamboni® is called the air conditioner and is dragged behind the vehicle. It consists of a large blade that scrapes the surface of the ice and two augers that collect the chips and transport them into the machine.

After scraping the surface, the conditioner sprays the wash water onto the ice, recirculating it through a vacuum hose. Finally, the Zamboni® applies clean water with a cloth towel to make the surface smooth. Typically, hot purified water is used for this step, as it serves to loosen the surface and refreeze, increasing flowability.

The weak point of a Zamboni® is that it is not ideal for cleaning and smoothing the ice at the edges of the track, as it can be dangerous to drive the car against the walls of the track. An ice cutter is an additional tool used to clear excess ice from the edges of the rink and make the surface smooth. Some resurfacers also feature a plank brush, which extends to remove loose ice under the plank surrounding the rink. After a Zamboni® with a cardboard brush, you can still use an ice cutter, but its job will be much easier. Newer models have an additional blade attached to the conditioner to clean the edges of the track along with the main surface.

There are also newer and more sophisticated re-ice technologies, but they are not widely used due to their expense and proper design of the original machine. These additional features include a mist spray as the final resurfacing step, which replaces water and cloth, and a laser-guided blade.

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