In response to feedback from security industry stakeholders to the effect that the landscaping mesh containing the SecureMat® optical fibre needed to be covered in some way, and especially for indoor systems, over the past six months PSI has been researching commercially available floor mats or floor matting material that can be used to manufacture a sensor mat product for various indoor and outdoor situations.
PSI CEO Ian Bergman said, “We have been through a quite protracted process of trial and error. Many mats that are readily available off the shelf have looked promising initially but when we tried to put the optical fibre into them without using heat – given that it virtually melts at temperatures above 70 degrees – it seems like an impossible task. I’ll give you an example. A mat made of cross-threaded rubber tubing – what I call a ‘licorice’ mat – looked very promising. Dave Bowman our Manufacturing Manager ran some experiments that involved threading the fibre through the mat by hand. While it worked okay as a sensor mat, unfortunately we weren’t able to find a sustainable large-scale manufacturing process for this type of mat.”
Another experiment involved encasing the plastic mesh of optical fibre in a sleeve of polypropylene, a material generally marketed as weed matting. This resulted in a long, relatively lightweight sensor mat that could be rolled out and placed under mulch in garden beds, under pebbles on paths, or under real or artificial grass in areas that needed to be protected. “Once again, production of this type of mat was all done by hand. Unfortunately, in the time we had available with the funding we had available to employ Dr Bowman we weren’t able to find a sustainable, large-scale manufacturing process for this type of mat either.”
By far the most promising trial we did was of a yellow-edged, ruggedised industrial floor mat that had an upper surface of heavy-duty PVC and a lightweight vinyl backing that was glued on by hand. The optical fibre was sandwiched between the two surfaces and a flying lead or security cable emerged from one corner.
After leading experiments based on a whole host of weaving, drilling and gluing techniques, Mr Bergman realised that instead of trying to adjust the mat to fit the fibre, the company needed to work in reverse. “We need to find a manufacturing process that can encase the fibre into the mat without using heat or laborious hand work. What we really need is a commercial partner who can help us with this.”