Polycarbonate versus Acrylic for ice hockey spectator shielding
Acrylic has replaced tempered glass at many hockey rinks for player and spectator safety reasons. Acrylic is much more flexible than the rigid tempered glass and therefore reduces the potential for injuries such as player concussion. Acrylic also has good optical properties which allow spectators to get a good view of the action.
For many years other polymers were not considered as they were unable to match the optical properties of the Acrylic. However, with recent advances in the production process, the polycarbonate produced by HighLine has changed the equation.
For the same thickness of material, polycarbonate is between 20-25% more flexible than acrylic. This increase in flexibility significantly reduces the risk of concussions by players – a key focus of player safety advocates. However, due to the unbreakable nature of the polycarbonate, it is possible to reduce the thickness from 0.545″ in the case of acrylic to 0.39″ or even 0.32″ in the case of polycarbonate. This reduction in thickness further increases the flexibility and reduces the possibility of concussions. These flexibility results have been confirmed by simulating the impact on the shields by a hockey player using a weighted bag, moving at speeds representative of NHL player speeds. The test set up is shown in the attached photograph. Full test data can be provided by contacting HighLine.
Also, as polycarbonate is unbreakable, shattering acrylic shields around the rink can be a thing of the past; increasing both player and spectator safety. It also eliminates downtime to replace shattered shields during games or practices.
With the reduction in thickness, comes the reduction in weight. The much lighter weight reduces the change over time for rink operations management and makes the shields easier and safer to install.
The key area of improvement that allows polycarbonate to displace acrylic as the material of choice for ice hockey spectator shields is the improvement in optical quality of material produced by HighLine Polycarbonate LLC for hockey rinks. The optical appearance of polycarbonate is virtually identical to that of acrylic in an equivalent thickness. However, because polycarbonate can offer greater protection at thinner thicknesses than acrylic, the optical properties of the thinner material can actually exceed those of the acrylic.
Due to the improved player and spectator safety of polycarbonate, it is starting to displace acrylic at European rinks. With the current interest in reducing player concussions to amateurs and NHL professionals alike, HighLine is at the forefront of bringing polycarbonate rink guards to the North American market.
HighLine Polycarbonate representatives will be walking the NARCE 2016 show in Columbus. If you would like to meet with us at the show for a coffee and chat, please give us a call or send us an email.