Custom Fit For Every Size

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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013Excerpt from the article “Custom Fit For Every Size” published in Machines Italia Magazine Volume VIII 

When it comes to Italian machinery and equipment, there’s no telling where in North America a piece of Italian ingenuity and durability will turn up, from a small machine shop in Pennsylvania, to an automotive supplier in Massachusetts, to a paper plant in Canada.

In fact, it’s not just the Lockheed Martins and the TRWs of North America that have embraced Italian-made tools and machinery. Equipment designed and built in Italy is just as popular with small or midsize enterprises of all kinds.

The reasons are plenty clear. Despite many of these companies not being huge multinational firms, they nonetheless find themselves in competition on the same global stage with the big boys. Similar to their larger counterparts, they face all manners of competitors, including low-cost players from China. Thus, as a matter of sheer survival and competitiveness, it’s essential for them to search out and find the most innovative tools and equipment offering the highest quality, greatest precision, and most durability.

Clearly, the Italian machinery manufacturers have built their name in this market on both their responsiveness to customers – particularly in providing custom solutions – and the innovative nature of their tools and equipment. In solutions as far-reaching and diverse as the papermaking industry to the sports equipment business, Italian firms are leading the charge for customization and innovation. At the same time, the solutions Italian machinery manufacturers have developed save energy, pollute less, and offer superior safety features and greater reliability.

Innovation on the Ice
Italian-manufactured equipment typically gets a workout in almost every possible venue, from the air to the land to the sea. But in this case, Italian machinery is making a splash—er, clean sweep—on the ice.

Hockey ice, that is. Although the U.S. and Canada compete together with professional hockey teams and the Stanley Cup, for Canadians, ice hockey is more like America’s baseball—the national sport. In fact, Canadians get downright feverish when you talk hockey. One of the essentials for a successful competitive ice hockey match is a smooth icy surface that is divot-free and without piles of icy snow left here and there where players’ skates have carved up the surface. The divots, of course, are caused by players stopping quickly or pivoting and abruptly changing direction, digging a hole in the ice. The divots can be hazardous for the next skater whose skate could catch in one, causing him to lose his footing. At the same time, piles of ice churned up on the surface turn into snow and can impede players’ speed and agility of movement.

Enter the ice resurfacing machine. Although these machines have been around for some time, traditionally they have been fossil-fuel driven, usually by a rear-mounted propane or natural gas tank on the resurfacing machine, which is operator driven. The drawback is that the exhaust from one or two of these propane-driven machines cleaning up the ice for 10 or 15 minutes can leave an arena smelling pretty badly, not to mention the unhealthy aspects of breathing all that carbon monoxide from the exhaust. Worsening matters, the exhaust gas is heavier than air and tends to congregate near the surface of the ice, where players, often hunched over low as they speed skate, breathe in the exhaust gases.

Blade Changing a Safety Issue
Another problem with many ice machines is that the blade that scrapes the ice flat, a 78-inch-wide, razor-edged piece of steel, usually requires two people to change and can be dangerous. Numerous serious injuries have been incurred by ice resurfacing machine operators over the years while trying to swap out the blades.
At the 2012 Shawinigan Memorial Cup hockey tournament in Shawinigan, Quebec, in May, 2012, the tournament operators solved both problems at once. The solution was to use an electric Engo Ice Resurfacer from Engo Ltd., Terento, Italy ( Steve Dawe, Arena Ice Products & Services Manager at distributor Joe Johnson Equipment of Innisfil, Ontario, says he was asked by the company owner to find the best ice resurfacing equipment available.

The equipment distributor markets a variety of industrial vehicles to municipalities and commercial enterprises, including street sweepers, snow plows, sewer suckers, and other heavy equipment.

“Joe Johnson wanted an ice division, and he asked me to find him the best ice resurfacer in the world,” explains Dawe, who had patented a couple of his own ice resurfacing innovations and was the most knowledgeable individual for the assignment. “I found it in Italy. In my 25 years’ experience in this business, I had never seen a machine like this. It was easy to see it was a top quality machine with an advanced design for maximum productivity, safety, and comfort.” The machine was an Engo Electric Ice Resurfacer.

Instead of running on fossil fuel, the Engo ice resurfacer runs on electric battery power. The Engo comes in two models, a 500-ampere-hour machine, and an 875-ampere-hour unit, both with 80-volt battery units. The Engo Ice Resurfacer Joe Johnson Equipment sells comes with batteries and a zero-emission charging system.

The cell refilling is done via a wall-based unit that refills any cell with no emissions. Nor is the battery running down a problem for Engo, despite the need to resurface the ice several times during a hockey game. The reason is that each time the Engo machine comes off the ice, the operator plugs it in, and within 10 to 15 minutes it can be recharged to 80% of capacity, giving it plenty of juice to continue its appointed rounds to the end of the night, when it can be fully recharged. The distributor designs the battery charger, either a 480- or 600-volt unit, and mounts it on the arena wall. “JJE is now distributing these ice resurfacers throughout the North American market,” Dawe says.

“The Engo machines exceed fossil fuel machines in performance, reducing facilities’ overall operational expenses while producing a safe operating environment.” The blade changeover on a traditional propane machine typically takes two operators 30 minutes to carefully remove 10 bolts holding the old blade, which they then drop down and pull out. By contrast, the Engo machine is designed for safety, enabling a lone operator to change the blade in half a minute or less. The operator simply slides the old blade out, then places the new blade into a groove in the machine, which raises it hydraulically into cutting position.

With 10 branches in North America, representatives from Joe Johnson Equipment’s Quebec office met with the 2012 Mastercard Memorial Cup committee in Shawinigan, which agreed to use the Engo Ice Resurfacers for the tournament. “The president of the Memorial Cup couldn’t believe that we were bringing the ice back to such pristine condition throughout the tournament,” says Dawe.

“These powerful Electric Ice Resurfacers worked brilliantly through the duration of the event,” adds Daniel Milot, General Manager of the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup. “The superior technology of these Ice Resurfacers has been instrumental in resurfacing and rebuilding the ice by the precise control of the amount of water deployed and the blade depth adjustments through a touch screen. Also the quick blade change system does not require any bolts to fasten, making it safe for all to use.”

“The superior technology of these Ice Resurfacers has been instrumental in resurfacing and rebuilding the ice by the precise control of the amount of water deployed and the blade depth adjustments through a touch screen. Also, the quick blade change system does not require any bolts to fasten, making it safe for all to use.” — Daniel Milot, General Manager, 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup

Some ice rink operators replace their resurfacing machines every five to seven years, often because of rust or due to parts wearing out. Because the electric motor and battery powered units are simpler and have fewer moving parts than a combustion engine, they tend to require less maintenance and provide longer service, Dawe says. “I’ve seen Engo Ice Resurfacers with over 10,000 hours on them, and they didn’t look a year old. The metal parts are made with hot-dipped galvanized steel and steel hydraulic lines, with fiberglass body parts that can’t rust.”
Ice rink operators and hockey teams in Quebec have purchased seven machines; two more were purchased for hockey rinks in Calgary, and another half a dozen machines are on order. “Ice hockey rink managers are looking to lower their emissions,” Dawe says.

In addition to its line of electric ice resurfacing machines, Engo also manufactures a zero environmental impact zero environmental impact electric ice edger, the Minengo. Hockey teams and ice rink operators use these machines to remove the ice buildup around the boards at the perimeter of the rink. The 24-volt, battery-driven machine looks like a little lawnmower, except with a more vertical profile and a whole lot sleeker design. Powering the device is a 2.0 kilowatt, 3,000 RPM electric motor. The motor has an electromagnetic brake and a flange that immediately stops the cutters for safety.

Custom machinery. An innovative and flexible solution. A pollution-free, safety-conscious response to a market need. These examples demonstrate the willingness and the capability of Italian machinery firms to deliver the solutions that North America’s small and midsize organizations look for when purchasing new equipment.

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