After 15 patents and two-and-a-half years of development, the collaboration between flooring company Desso and technology giant Philips has come to fruition. Well… almost. Together they have created carpets with embedded LED technology that will allow architects and designers to light up floors with anything from direction arrows and room numbers to entire screens showing the news. The product is being installed at pilot projects in the UK, France and the Netherlands to get feedback for final tweaks before it is launched on a broader scale later this year.
Final touches are important for such a pioneering bit of kit, as it could be the difference between a dead end and a global success, says Ed Huibers from Philips. “It’s a completely new concept, and patented, but there is competition. Other companies have tried to weave fibre optics into carpet, but it’s been on the market ten years and you’ve probably never seen it, because I don’t think it’s a realistic, scalable idea. Putting wires into carpet tiles will make production much more complicated; if you want to disturb that process, from a cost and scalability point of view, you’ll get nowhere.”
So Philips and Desso’s solution is to keep them separate, with two units developed hand in hand. The carpet has a specially adapted version of Desso’s recyclable EcoBase backing that allows light to pass through clearly, while the super-thin LED panels are built to be walked on, enclosed enough to protect against coffee spillages (without overheating), while still producing bright, sharp light. Between both company’s factories, the entire manufacturing chain is in-house.
Also, unlike the LED strips you see on aeroplanes, once the lights are off, they’re hidden. “In the end, we want to people to be surprised, inspired, guided – they see the effect without knowing what the technology is,” says Desso’s Stef van Ham. “Plus, if the interior is redesigned, the carpet can be changed without having to invest in new LED units, so the product has a longer life.”
Desso and Philips see the flooring being used in four ways: information, for example logos or branding images; inspiration, with decorative patterns and video; direction, with arrows or room numbers; and safety, with emergency signage for evacuations.
It has been produced as a modular system, each module differing in complexity (and presumably cost) to be combined depending on the application. The simpler options are a symbol – a directional arrow, for example – or a backlit film, for a sharp logo image. It gets more complicated if you want a light kit, comprising lines and curves to create whatever shape you want, or a matrix, which is basically a screen under the floor to display the news, or the stock exchange perhaps.
Since the project began, LED technology has improved so dramatically that the project continues to evolve, and the exact details are not set in stone. “The LEDs we used when we started are not the ones we use now,” says Huibers. “They are becoming more efficient every year: the cost is going down and the power and brightness is increasing. If you gave us an order today for use in a year, we wouldn’t tell you what LEDs we’re going to use because they don’t exist yet.”
Tech Treads: Four more examples of hi-tech flooring
The pattern of Papilio’s Hexa rug is made from phosphorescent yarn, which works like other glow-in-the-dark substances by absorbing light during the day and re-emitting it at night (the glow lasts for six to eight hours). The Belgian brand is known for its unusual materials – it also supplies rugs made from recycled tents, sweet wrappers, fan belts and bike inner tubes.
The ASB GlassFloor uses LEDs underneath custom-made glass panels (supported by a metal structure), meaning the entire floor can potentially be used as a giant screen. In a sports arena, the light-up court markings can be changed according to the sport being played, and display the score. In a contract setting, it could be used for directional signage, branding and mood lighting.
Bolon started using jacquard weaving techniques on its PVC flooring a couple of years back, launching the Create tile in 2012. Further developments with the process have now come to fruition with the Silence collection, which made its debut at Stockholm Furniture Fair in February. The way the material is woven allows its designers to play with the structure of the flooring to create 3D effects and reflect light.
Forbo invested heavily in its factories last year, with one major result being the Back to the Floor scheme, a closed-loop manufacturing chain where it collects old Forbo flooring and recycles it into new products. Also, many of its products (such as Coral Welcome, pictured) are made from a 100% regenerated yarn called Econyl, made from reprocessed industrial and consumer waste such as fishing nets, and have a backing made from recycled plastic bottles, making it BREEAM A/A+ rated.
Obranch from D SIGNED BY is a combination of a classically designed chandelier and the latest technology. Wanting to implement and make use of the high-tech OLED lighting tiles in an unexpected way, the tiles thinness and transparency is obvious, even though they are used in a three-dimensional structure. This new generation chandelier is meant for home use as well as hospitality, and with its movable lighting surface, its appearance can easily be changed, as well as adjusting the lighting intensity and direction.
The ninth annual Worktech London conference takes place at the British Library on 14-15 November, exploring the convergence of technology, real estate and the workplace.
A range of masterclasses on day one will cover topics such as Psychological Wellbeing at Work and Living Stages: What Can Workplaces Learn From Theatre Design? On day two, a programme of talks chaired by Jeremy Myerson of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, features keynote speakers Chris Waugh, director at IDEO, Cisco director Peter Escery Merrens and authors Alan Moore and John Williams.
For more information visit unwired.eu.com
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Designed by Broome Jenkins using 3D modelling and rapid prototyping, the Meet-U meeting table system includes simple features and modern technology to encourage agile working. A variety of top shapes including rectangles, squares, triangles and quadrants combine to form the perfect layout for any meeting room space. The full range can be further complemented by bridging units, minimising the number of table legs required for support and so allowing more people to sit in comfort around the meeting table layout.
The adaptable functionality of Coordinate Series 2 has been launched to the market by Quadrant Carpets. Three designs inspired by the works of Bridget Riley, one of the foremost proponents of the Op Art movement, come together in nine matching colourways to deliver a series of products that coordinate perfectly within any space. Abstraction, Rhythm and Perspective utilise the latest in highly complex, long creel production technology to produce large-scale patterns.
German technology specialist, Jung, has combined its KNX expertise in building control systems, design-led wiring accessories and card key switches and displays to provide a complete, co-ordinated hotel sector offer, now available through its exclusive UK distributor, The Wandsworth Group. KNX room controllers can be installed to control and display individual elements such as room temperature, blinds and music, allowing guests to customise their room environment. The range includes a variety of switches and sockets for all international socket systems.
The Flo screen arm floats effortlessly from one position to another. The innovative use of an arc enables the monitor to tilt further, through +/- 40°, so it can be used as a touch screen. Designed with future technologies in mind, providing ergonomic solutions for the use of iPad and other tablets within the working environment. Flo is powered by an environmentally friendly spring mechanism, concealed within its cylindrical form. Flo was recognised by the recent Red Dot Design Award.
George Simionopoulos and Erica Pescoskie have created an agile design/build studio called Group Two Design. Their collaborative talents, which are rooted in a belief in the craft and quality of production, are evident in the LED Chandelier- pictured. The malleable nature of the LED linear lighting strip enables it to be cast into the translucent resin. The fixture itself is a series of five identical pieces that were fabricated using laser-cutting technology.
Grafiklight is a lamp series by Leuchtstoff, the idea for which came from combining lighting and graphic images to provide an art piece that also looks spectacular at night. Grafiklight uses the latest LED technology and only consumes 3-8 watts. The lamps come in several different styles and colours, and range from 56 to 100cm in length.