An ice resurfacer is a tractor-like vehicle that repairs and restores the surface of the ice in a skating rink. It is often referred to as a "Zamboni" which is a manufacturer's name rather than the proper term for the machine. The ice surface is easily damaged, particularly by figure skating and ice hockey, and after being in use for a while it becomes rough and chipped. An ice resurfacer restores the smooth surface by scraping and washing away imperfections and then putting down a new layer of water to fill any remaining low areas and that freezes into fresh ice.
Developed in the 1940s by Frank Zamboni, the first ice resurfacer available for purchase was called the "Zamboni, Model A" and went on sale in 1950. A few manufacturers currently build the machines; many people still refer to it generically, however, as a Zamboni due to the history and dominance of the Zamboni Company. An ice resurfacer resembles a tractor in appearance, but it is actually a specialized machine that cleans and repairs the surface of an ice rink.
Ice rinks are subjected to a lot of wear and tear, and the ice resurfacer is extremely important. Ice hockey and figure skating are especially hard on the surface, leaving behind grooves, pits, chips, and other irregularities. Maintaining the surface of the ice keeps it safer for individuals who participate in these activities. Once the ice is resurfaced and smooth again, it is much easier to skate on.
As a fairly complex machine, an ice resurfacer is actually able to perform several functions together; most of the work is done by a device called a conditioner. As it moves over the ice, the first thing the machine does is to shave or scrape away a layer of the ice with a very large blade. The ice shavings are then gathered and fed into the center of the conditioner by one auger, then picked up by a second one. The conditioner then washes the surface of the ice by spraying it with water to remove debris, then squeegees and vacuums the water back up for reuse.
Once the ice is cleaned, the ice resurfacer repairs and restores the surface. This is done by spraying the ice with water, which fills in the low spots on the surface and freezes to form a fresh new layer. The water is filtered and cleaned to remove any impurities. Many models use hot water because it melts the surface roughness before refreezing to create a flat, glassy, smooth top layer of ice.