technology profile - smart shades
At Home With Draper
This major player in commercial window treatments is now offering residential solutions.
By Douglas Weinstein
MANY OF OUR READERS WHO HAIL FROM THE COMMERCIAL SIDE OF DESIGN-BUILD will no doubt be quite familiar with premier AudioVisual/Shading/Gymnasium solutions provider, Draper, Inc. This privately held manufacturer got their start back in 1902 when Luther Draper established the Draper Shade Company to address the problem of heat and glare that was impacting teachers and students in Midwest schools – his solution was the innovation and introduction of spring-roller window shades which he began manufacturing in the small town of Spiceland, Indiana.
That’s right! Draper has been in the shade business for well over a hundred years and are a key asset partner in commercial projects the world over. Their rich history includes the development of uniquely durable classroom projection screens, the first electric projector lift, as well as becoming the largest manufacturer of gymnasium equipment in the United States. And over the decades their once modest facility has grown to encompass a campus composed of nine manufacturing and administrative buildings with over 700 employees.
Draper is obviously a diversified concern, practicing lean manufacturing with their portfolio of products, including architectural shading treatments that provide precision control over the natural daylight entering a building, excellent energy savings and interesting façade design options. In 2021, Draper introduced their Draper@Home range of residential products.
Draper takes the residential opportunity very seriously. The company brings its history of quality, its capacity for volume production, and integrated manufacturing to this market.
I had the pleasure of visiting the impressive Draper campus in Spiceland – 40 miles east of Indianapolis — and touring the facility with various department heads, who showcased a wide range of lean manufacturing and quality control processes. For the majority of specialty trades in the residential design-build community, on-time delivery and customer service are two key issues every vendor has to address in their offerings, and a peek behind the curtains gave me a favorable impression of how reliable a partner Draper endeavors to be.
A large part of Draper’s window treatment business revolves around customization. And volume. In the commercial world, there are multiple types of shading solutions including manual/motorized roller shades, skylight/tension shades, outdoor/exterior roller shades and digitally printed shades. Venetian blinds, rack arm systems, sideways drawing ZIP shades, solar control and large fabric systems. There’s a lot going on when you look at the array of commercial design opportunities, and having the adaptability and prowess to manufacture at scale for in-time delivery is the key to Draper’s continued success.
Of particular note was the tour of an individual cell (working team unit) which was assembling shades for a commercial project. This cell was responsible for an order of 600 shades for the project, and the team was a contained group that was as organized as they were efficient.
The first step of the factoring process involved cutting the fabric to size. This is done by the senior experience member of the cell, who uses different cutting technologies based on the fabric. Next comes aligning and attaching shading material onto the tubular shade roller assembly, with perfect alignment. Next, a hem pocket is created and the dowel inserted. A bar code was scanned at each step of the assembly process, recording what has been done so far.
The roller shade unit then passed to the second most experienced person in that cell, who raised the shade on a motorized system to inspect operation, alignment, and, with complete back-lighting, the integrity of the fabric itself. Every single shade, louvre, slat and screen is individually tested and inspected in the manufacturing process. And again, each individual shade was wrapped and its bar code was scanned. Everything required for one window is included in the package. Each group of shades was then packaged in a designated box that had its own unique bar code scan so when the box arrived at the jobsite, boxes could be assigned to their designated area and each shade when unboxed is clearly labeled as to its final destination.
In other words, on a residential project, the systems integrator would receive x-amount of boxes. One box might be labeled “home office, first floor, eight roller shades”. Once that box is opened in the home office room, each individual shade is tagged for exactly which window it was designated for. This process was created to meet the needs of installers working on large office buildings, and it’s equally effective for a home project. as precious man-hours can be saved, especially on large-scale window treatment projects. This level of product inspection and specifier coordination that Draper utilizes equates to better margin opportunities over the long run.
Another advantage that Draper brings to their manufacturing process is wide use of CNC machinery. Computer numerical control (CNC) machines play an important role in virtually all manufacturing industries. These complex machines are controlled by a computer and provide a level of efficiency, accuracy and consistency that would be impossible to achieve through a manual process.
And efficient project management is also a key to delivering custom solutions that are on time, on budget, and fit the needs of the client. Throughout my tour I was exposed to Draper’s internal processes and their commitment to measuring and improving processes by eliminating waste and balancing the work load between their production employees. From testing each batch of screen material to their strategic global partnerships, innovative and high-value solutions are the focus of the manufacturing teams at Draper.
Draper offers an amazing variety of window treatments – their FlexShade® product line-up offers the comfort of glare-free natural light during the day balanced with the security of privacy fabric at night. The Dual Roller FlexShade – manual or automatic – allows you to vertically stack two shades or a shade and a projection screen in one window. With hundreds of fabric colors, openness choices and hardware options, designers can fit any style or need.
For audiovisual or room darkening applications, LightBloc – no light gap – window shades provide near complete blackout. And for automated control of solar heat gain, Draper offers a Skylight version of FlexShade. Expanding into specialty applications, Draper has developed exterior motorized window shades, bottom-up shades that can harvest natural daylight and reduce glare and heat, as well as an array of venetian blinds and louvered systems that provide optimal light control throughout the day.
The Draper outdoor shading system – with ZIP side channel integration – brings the comfort and security of the indoors outdoors. All designers know the importance of expanding usable square footage in both living and business areas without having to resort to costly renovations. The FlexShade Zip offers unique side channels that ensure a sealed enclosure for existing garages, porches, patios and pool houses. Designers can create outdoor workspaces, elegant areas for dining and entertaining, or relaxing private niches that are protected from the sun, wind, rain and those pesky no-see-‘um insects.
Hardware options include standard mounting brackets that fit all single roller window shades and vary by product. For a clean, modern look, fascia and endcaps are also available, as well as solutions to eliminate light gap. Also available are ceiling/wall headboxes that offer a fascia panel and top/back cover that conceals hardware and the shade roller. For the most elegant of solutions, Draper offers an extruded aluminum headbox solution for single roller shade ceiling-recessed installation. All designed and manufactured in-house in Spiceland.
Draper is obviously a diversified concern, practicing lean manufacturing with their portfolio of products, including architectural shading treatments that provide precision control over the natural daylight entering a building, excellent energy savings and interesting façade design options.
This, of course, is where the real fun begins for the interior designer. Draper offers a fabric view-through simulator on their website that helps designers to understand the effect of fabric color and openness on the view through a window. With thousands of options, selecting the right amount of openness for natural light capture as well as privacy, in addition to the fabric itself, is a process in and of itself. Luckily, Draper offers educational support and training for their shading products so you are able to narrow your selections prior to ordering samples.
One of the popular fabrics on offer is Mermet E Screen™ which provides transparency with excellent thermal and visual comfort. Known for its proportional 2 x 2 basketweave, there is a wide range of openness options and colors available to coordinate multiple design goals. The Deco™ series is an extension of the E Screen collection, featuring two distinct, yet subtle design styles. Half of the line incorporates Deco bicolored yarns in the horizontal orientation of the fabric, while the other half incorporates Deco yarns in both directions. The unique appearance of this yarn achieves a sophisticated visual texture in any space—indoors and out.
For outdoor applications, Phifer SunTex® shading fabric is made of strong vinyl-coated polyester which is mildew and fade resistant and needs only an occasional cleaning with mild soap and water. This fabric is ideal for use as a shading fabric on windows, doors and porches.
The Mermet Verona fabrics are important elements of a sleek, modern look. The decorative construction, distinguished by loosely twisted yarns and a soft, raised surface adds elegance to a space. Designers can achieve desired light levels and a consistent interior aesthetic by selecting between daylight and twilight options.
With thousands of options, Draper offers the right fabric for the right application. And with Draper’s educational outreach, dealers are able to learn about shade fabric selection and the impact of fabric color and openness on shade performance. Finally, there is courseware that covers how to manage glare and solar heat gain with exterior shading, daylighting and a guide to motorized shades and controls.
Window shade automation should be elegant, simple and scalable. The Draper@Home offering is Powered by Somfy, and is compatible with all home automation programs. Draper also has a proprietary system, IntelliFlex® I/O, which is a complete control solution for motorized shades, flexible and expandable to the size and complexity of a project.
As with any project design looking for intuitive control and elegant performance, discussing automated control in the discovery phase of a project is the key to eventual success.
As with any design and integration project, choosing the right partner is as important as the products they have on offer. Draper has been a major player in the commercial world of window treatments and is now offering those same efficiencies that come with scale, along with a vast array of shading solutions, to the residential marketplace. Visit them at here to learn more.