The Technical Center

Textile Resource for Specialty Fabrics and Product Innovation
   March 31, 2023  Facebook Twitter

Textile Trends

When and where are lightweight structures used?

  • When a showpiece element is needed, which stands out and is different from conventional buildings.
  • When there is a need for a wide span of space free from columns.  Tensil fabric structures can span unsupported lengths of up to 150 feet and tensile steel cable nets with fabric can easily span twice that amount.  Air structures can span even longer distances with column free structures up to thousands of feet.
  • When the designed building has to move from one location to another during the lifespan of the facility, such as temporary schools, traveling exhibits, etc.
  • As lightweight additions to existing or conventional buildings, tensile structures can act as camopies, skylights, covered walkways, shading systems, or atrium roofs.

What Fabrics are Used for Lightweight Structures?

  • PVC polyester fabric is a cost effective fabric having a 10 to 20 year lifespan.  It has been used in numerous applications worldwide for over 40 years and it is easy to move for temporary building applications.  Topical films and coatings can be applied to keep the fabric clean over time.  It meets building codes as a fire resistive product.
  • PTFE coated glass fabrics have a 30 year life span.  They do not degrade under ultra violet rays and are considered non combustible by most building codes.  They are used for permanent structures only, and cannot be moved once installed.  The PTFE coating keeps the fabric clean.  They are woven in approximately 12 foot widths.
  • Expanded PTFE fabrics have a soft hand like traditional fabrics, and can be considered either fire resistive or non combustible, depending on the building code, and are well suited for retractable structures. 
  • Polyolefin coated polyolefin fabrics are an extremely cost effective material and are used normally in shorter term applications of 10 to 15 years.  The fabric is made in 12 foot widths.
  • ETFE foils are used in inflated structures where thermal properties are important.  The fabrics fire properties lie somewhere between PTFE glass and PVC polyester fabrics, and it is used in permanent applications. The ETFE fabric is a high-performance fluororesin Fluon® ETFE foil, produced by Asahi Glass Co., Ltd., Japan.  Given its superior properties, such as heat, chemical and weather resistance; anti-adhesion; excellent electrical characteristics; and transparency, the foil has been used since its launch in 1975 in a wide range of fields, including electronics, aviation/space, and green houses.


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