For Inventors, IBS is a Showcase for Licensing

March 4th, 2024 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

On the back of Guerry Green’s business card it says, “Innovate or die.”

Green’s proprietary design incorporates thin strips of carbon fiber material into extruded vinyl as reinforcement.

As the owner and founder of Screen Tight, Green’s resume proves that’s more than just a saying. So far, his company has over 60 U.S. patents.

He started Screen Tight 35 years ago, but his creativity has since taken him in many directions—the latest of which includes a new breed of extruded vinyl profiles that are reinforced with carbon-fiber.

Without reinforcements, vinyl screen doors are subject to warping and flexing, Green says. But, when coextruded with a thin strip of carbon-fiber, they’re “as sturdy as aluminum,” he adds.

“This is like an I-beam,” he says, pointing to a thin, narrow strip of recycled carbon fiber material.

Prior to using carbon fiber as a reinforcement, “We could never get the vinyl as stiff as we wanted it,” he says. “It wiggled.”

He tried everything, he says.

Aluminum works, but is expensive and bulky to incorporate into frames, he says. When under loads, aluminum also bends, permanently losing its shape. Carbon fiber adds the same strength, but it bends, then “pops back,” Green says. It can also be extruded directly into vinyl frames.

“This is a first,” he says. Now he hopes the concept will find uses throughout the door and window industry. Ultimately, his goal includes licensing the concept.

Listening for Opportunity

Green wasn’t the only exhibitor at the recent International Builders’ Show (IBS) looking to cash in on their ideas through licensing. After creating and marketing new products, many look to turn their ideas into revenue streams by offering them up to other manufacturers. That’s what drew two students from the University of British Columbia into the door and window industry. Their idea for a door that allows for airflow, while blocking sound transmission, came from a course that Vick Yau took in his final year of undergraduate studies. Yau was a business major. His partner, James Higgins, studied engineering. An incubator program teamed them up, tasking them with developing a product and business concept.

“Most kids thought ‘What’s the next app?’ or ‘What’s the next Facebook?’ We were the only ones crazy enough to come up with a door product,” Yao says. “But I think it has paid off.”

University of British Columbia graduate, Vick Yau, developed VanAir Door when he was a student.

After homing in on a common issue involving air transfer for HVAC systems and airflow for venting laundry dryers and bathrooms, the duo spoke with architects.

“We asked them, ‘Is this a real problem?’” he says.

It was.

In key areas, often there isn’t enough airflow under solid, swing-style doors to support the needs and requirements of HVAC systems and dryers. Louvered doors can solve that problem but fail to provide adequate privacy or sound dampening. So, the two set out to solve the issue with a new door design.

“Air flow was simple,” Yau says. “We took an existing hollow-core door, cut two large slots into it and hollowed out all of the inner cardboard.” Acoustics, on the other hand, were more difficult.

The VanAir Door includes channels to allow passage of air, combined with baffles to reduce sound transmission.

Based on a concept called impulse resonating, the two developed a system of holes and slots, feeding air channels through the door, while blocking sound. The technology is electronically tuned to provide the highest sound transmission class (STC) rating possible—enough to nearly match the performance of a solid-core door.

Once the concept was finished and tested, it was patented and used by the university. Since that time, Yau and his partner have worked with a door manufacturer to produce and sell around 25,000 units. Now they’re marketing and selling the VanAir Door, while hoping to license the concept and sound-dampening components to other door manufacturers.

“We’re trying to be the new standard in interior doors and see this as the new revolution in the door industry,” he says.

Something Borrowed (and Made Better)

Of course, not every new idea has to arrive out of thin air. Some are borrowed and reinvented. Thus was the case for another showstopper at IBS: Glass Craft Door Company’s Houdini hardware for barn-style doors. The product had everyone stopping to look; though, it was impossible to spot what they were looking for.

Glass Craft’s Houdini door hardware is fully concealed.

Houdini hardware has a two-wheel roller system at each end of the door bottom and a small roller track that mounts to the wall, behind the door slab. The end effect is a door that appears to just float along, without any hardware. All of the hardware is completely hidden, both in the open and closed position.

Regarding innovation, “It’s what I like to do,” says John Plummer, president and founder of Glass Craft.

His company “throws a lot of noodles at the wall,” Plummer says.

The idea for Houdini came from his daughter, who spotted a similar concept that she felt was poorly executed—complicated and difficult to install.

“She came to me and said, ‘Fix it,’” he says.

Plummer said his aim includes having the hardware installed and used not just on Glass Craft doors, but any door that builders choose to install.

To have your product included with someone else’s lineup, “It’s very flattering,” says Joe Altieri, president of FlexScreen. To have door and window manufacturers market products as, “Made for FlexScreen” is both humbling and satisfying, Altieri says.

For innovators, it’s about more than just product sales; it’s the more the merrier, as they look to cash in on licensing.

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