Looking for a gift for the person who has everything? How about a fiber-optic rug? Better yet, how about one with moving pictures?
Fiber-optic technology has revolutionized telecommunications and medicine. Now, in the spirit of entrepreneurship, Kerry Mayden has adapted the technology to carpeting.
Mayden, who lives and works in St. Charles, weaves fiber-optic filaments that refract light into custom-made rugs. He believes that he is the first person to use the technology to create lighted images that move.
When he is not making rugs, Mayden installs a carpet for a company that distributes Mohawk carpeting. After Mayden returned from a seminar on rug-making, his boss challenged him to make a rug in which Tommy Mohawk, a company logo, walked across the floor in fiber optics.
A year and six months later, Mayden finished the rug, which measures about 8 feet by 10 feet.
It took him 200 hours to make the rug and the sequencing projector used to light it. Brian Seltzer, a friend who specializes in electronics, helped him develop the sequencer, which projects 10 synchronized lights through the fiber-optic filaments in the rug.
"When you hold the fiber-optic cables up to the light, the light travels through the filaments and comes out the end," Mayden explained. The lighted ends create the picture that you see when the rug is plugged in.
Mayden began his rug as a cartoonist might, by drawing several frames of the Tommy character on the back of the rug, each in a slightly different position to represent movement. Then he poked individual filaments through designated holes in the patterns he had drawn, glued them down and put felt backing on the rug to hold the filaments in place. When everything was secure, he sheared the filaments even with the nap of the rug.
The rug looks ordinary until the projector is activated. Then the character frames are lighted in sequence, and Tommy Mohawk appears to walk across the rug. The effect is akin to that of the chasing, twinkle lights that people put up at Christmas. …