Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Draper

Draper was kind enough to invite me and several other members of the press out to its headquarters in Spiceland, Indiana, about an hour outside of Indianapolis, earlier this week for a factory tour and some midwestern hospitality. This was my first visit to Draper and I learned a lot about the company, arguably one of the audiovisual industry’s oldest, which I didn’t know and wanted to share with you dear readers. I knew Draper primarily as a projection screen manufacturer, but it’s a whole lot more than that. So without further ado, here are ten things you probably didn’t know about Draper:

  1. In business since 1902, Draper, which employs over 600 people in Spiceland, has never laid off a single, regular full-time employee for economic reasons — not even during the Great Depression! Many of the employees there are second-, third- or even fourth-generation workers.
  2. Founded by Luther Draper, the company is still owned and run by several members of the Draper family, now the fourth generation to run the company.
  3. The first product the company made was not a projection screen, but a set of commercial window shades for a school.
  4. A large part of Draper’s business is making basketball backstops, and they are one of the primary producers of those in the world. The basketball backstops are the metal mounts that attach to ceilings or walls and have the backboards and hoops attached to them. These are welded in the factory right there in Indiana.
  5. In addition to Draper Europe (in Sweden), Draper Canada and Draper Group Ltd in the UK, which make or distribute Draper products outside the U.S., Draper also owns two other AV companies in Sweden — Smart Media Solutions (SMS), a manufacturer of mounts and brackets for displays and projectors, and Evoko, a maker of meeting room products, including room scheduling software and hardware and some conferencing equipment. Draper hinted at these companies’ products being leveraged more here in the U.S., so I think it’s possible we’ll see more custom mount and enclosure offerings, as well as a potential entry into the digital signage market for the company at InfoComm.
  6. The company has totally rebranded and will be revealing a new logo at InfoComm for Draper itself, as well as TecVision. A new website will also be coming this year.
  7. Almost all manufacturing is now done in-house. In years past, they primarily did assembly in Spiceland, but now they make most of the components there as well. Much of the assembly is done by hand, as is the packaging, much of which is also made and assembled in-house.
  8. Very extensive testing is done on all products, but in particular projection screen materials. They extensively test gain, ambient light rejection, even gloss using numerous different types and angles of light sources.
  9. Draper makes more motorized projection screens than anything else.
  10. There’s a robotic arm that does welding!