Airport custom shade structure Newcastle

Important Technical Information for
Custom Made Shade Sails & Structures

Tension membrane construction has been widely used for many decades with shade sails and structures in Australia. Architects and engineers now recognise this type of building as the material of the future. Tension membrane shade structures are typically lightweight buildings, resulting in a more economical structure, often requiring a greatly reduced mass of foundations and steelwork. This eliminates a lot of future maintenance, as well as initial costs.

Our shade structures are manufactured from PVC coated polyester fabric or Teflon Coated Glass fabric (ptfe). A well designed and built tension membrane shade structure can often span large distances without the supporting structure used in conventional buildings. They can be designed and shaped in a way that is almost impossible or uneconomical to construct with more conventional building materials. The material can be chosen with high translucency levels or complete block out. Specialist façade fabric can be used to completely revamp a tired buildings exterior. A tension membrane shade structure is generally installed in days as opposed to conventional construction with workers onsite for months.

This type of construction is eminently suitable as a problem solving solution to many difficult sites and individual situations. Its ability to “clear-span” large areas with dramatic three-dimensional shapes allows for many exciting and aesthetically pleasing structures at an economical price. We can demonstrate how patterning for a curved membrane form is calculated, and how far the respective fabric must be compensated to prevent wrinkling or creasing and maintain its designed shape over its lifetime.

“Our warranty for any shade structure built by Shade to Order Pty Ltd is 20 years.”

The ability of this material to withstand extreme weather conditions from snow and hail to high winds and high temperatures is nothing short of staggering! The flexibility of these shade sail fabrics allow for the design of passive control of the thermal requirements of each particular shade sail structure.

We can even design them to function without the need for conventional air-conditioning, which can be the single most power consumptive component in some buildings. They can provide cool and comfortable environment wherever there is a need to minimise heat gain and maximise airflow.

The translucent membrane material allows natural light to permeate the under-cover area, reducing the need for artificial light during daylight hours. At night, lighting can be “bounced off” the reflective fabric, both internally and externally; minimising the energy consumption with the use of low-wattage lighting.

Contract Manufacturing

Shade to Order designs, manufactures and installs tension membrane shade structures for many other shade structure companies and brokers both in Australia and overseas. We can complete a shade structure to any stage required.

Measuring, Manufacturing and Installation

Site Measure

We believe that most tension membrane shade structure problems are a result of sloppy measurement of the site, proposed attachments and support structural steel. Measurements should be taken with Total Station surveying equipment by the fabricator or if they are unable to do this then by a professional surveyor. These measurements are then transferred to a CAD program and finally into a specific fabric structure computer program able to complete an analysis of the whole structure. At Shade to Order, we own and operate total station professional surveying equipment and specialist computer CAD design and manufacture programs for tension membrane shade structures.


Once an analysis has been completed, the surface of the fabric can then be patterned and these patterns should be compensated with reference to fabric manufacturers test figures and nested ready for cutting by an automated plotter/cutter. Not only does the nesting software save fabric by reducing waste and saving money but each panel is cut with ultimate accuracy. Marks and fabric flaws can be seen on the light box at the end of our vacuum plotting table and panels nested so as to avoid these showing up in the body of the finished fabric skin. The computer-generated patterns are nested for fabric efficiency and then plotted, numbered and cut out automatically by our large computer controlled cutter. This process ensures that any shade membrane manufactured by Shade to Order is of the utmost accuracy. The result is wrinkle free shade sail solutions! Shade to Order owns and operates a huge vacuum tabled cutter/plotter at our shade sail loft. Cut fabric panels are ready to be joined after they are lifted off the cutter table.

If they are PVC panels then they are transferred to one of our state of the art high frequency welders. If the fabric panels are Teflon coated glass (PTFE) then they are sealed with one of our specialised Teflon sealers. Our varnished shade sail loft floor is built up to the level of our welding/sealing machines, the operators stand in hatches and the fabric passes through the machines at the same level as the welding/sealing bars to avoid creasing the fabric excessively. This results in more accurate welding of the fabric and in the case of Teflon eliminates the base glass fabric being broken by severe creasing. Catenary cables are cut to length and swage ends or toggles are hydraulically swaged onto each end. Corner plate angles determined by the software are used by one of our drafts people to design each corner plate and backing plate which is then machine laser cut and finished ready for fitting to the fabric corners.

The corner plate has two functions, one to distribute the structural loads from the corner into the fabric skin and secondly to anchor the catenary cable via the corner plate to the attachment point. We generally use corner plates, with a radius of 250mm to 300mm depending on the area of the fabric surface, with large reinforcing patches underneath. A CAD drawing of a corner plate, structural steel columns, beams and attachments must be designed to compliment the whole shade structure. Often columns or support beams have to be larger than required structurally for aesthetic reasons. However since fabric shade structures are in tension the elements like backstay and catenary wires are elements of the structure that are thinner than conventional compression structure elements. Membrane shade structures and their associated wires are always in tension. They transfer loads to structural members that may result in these members being in compression like enclosed ring frame structures and Barrel Vault shade structures. Alternatively they may transfer loads to wires or attachments that will always be in tension as in free form structures like Hypar shade structures or Polyedge shade structures.

It is very important to design the shade structure so the fabric surface has an anti-clastic shape, a 3D form. This 3D shape maintains the fabric pre-stress on the surface by distributing any fabric stretch into the 3D form. If we look at a conical shade structure in elevation the inward curvature from the base to the top cone will get shallower as fabric stretches. We can also jack the centre column up to re-tension the conical shade structure if need be, but if the conical shade structure was straight sided like a pyramid shape and straight in profile from the base to the top, then no amount of jacking will take up any fabric stretch. The fabric will lose any pre-stress and flap in the wind. All shade structures must have this 3D shape because fabric will stretch, even structural steel and cables do stretch over time and we need to accommodate this extra fabric into the pre-stressed 3D shape of the fabric surface. Excellent PVC and Teflon Fabrics stretch very little and compensations are allowed for when the fabric is patterned across the membrane surface. With a properly designed 3D shade structure and fabric compensations, the fabric surface will maintain proper pre-stress for the life of the shade sail structure.


It is no good making the perfect membrane shade structure if you cannot install it properly. The whole point of the exercise is to finish with a properly tensioned and aesthetically pleasing shade structure. The Architect or client visualises the finished product in his/her minds eye or if supplied with a rendered image of the shade structure compares the completed project with that, the rendered image has no compression wrinkles in it so he/she expects the membrane skin to be the same; and it should be. Specialist hydraulic tensioning tools have to be used by a crew of experienced installers with knowledge of the correct tension to be applied. This tension should be recorded by the use of gauges like Enerpac tension meters with reference to the analysis figures of the designer. The final word on installation is that the finished product is what you paid for. Not the manufactured product in the sail loft or the finished product in a crate on board an aircraft en route. When the shade structure is installed it should be so good that it sends the client running for his/her cheque book and pen. The lesson here is to choose a membrane shade sail manufacturer that completes the whole shade structure from start to finish; no brokers, no middlemen, no contractual installers, no chance to see a group of people pointing their fingers at each other.

“Shade to Order completes most stages of a project in its factory in Newcastle, Australia”

PTFE coated fibreglass fabrics

Shade to Order can design, manufacture and install shade sail membranes using PTFE coated fibreglass fabrics. PTFE (Poly Tetra Fluoro Ethylene) is a Teflon coating over woven fibreglass fibres. These are high quality materials made from polytetrafluoroethylene glass fibre coated fabric and used for permanent constructions. The shade sail material has very high tensile resistance. It is UV resistant, non-combustible and boasts a high reflective capability.

Because of the smooth Teflon surface, the shade sail membrane is washed clean every time it rains and therefore normally does not require additional cleaning. The translucency can reach 20%, depending on the thickness of the material. PTFE fibreglass membranes have a very impressive life span.

PTFE fabrics are the ultimate choice for prolonged endurance, low maintenance, fire rating and tensile strength. With a life expectancy in excess of 30 years, a PTFE membrane, if manufactured properly, will stand the test of time. Shade to Order uses innovative manufacturing techniques, with state of the art custom designed and built sealing machines to produce the highest of design quality and accuracy Teflon tension membrane shade structures.

Teflon coated fibreglass fabrics (PTFE) are an exciting, impressive, and flexible building product that can be matched by no other form of building. Contact us today for more information on exciting PTFE fabrics.

Analysis and Form Finding

At Shade to Order, we offer a design service that is unparalleled in the industry. From initial design concept sketches, fabric choice, structural design of steelwork, to fabric and steelwork analysis and final engineering. We do it all. The general fabric structure shape is determined with a fabric structure specific computer program. This will determine catenary cable edge curvature, fabric surface initial pre-stress, fabric surface slope for water run off and clearance of obstacles such as corners of buildings, trees etc. An analysis is then completed to establish loads on the fabric surface as well as loads transferred to attachment points, columns and backstays. Connections, catenary wires and structural steel sizes can be established from the information if the analysis was correctly completed. Shade to Order owns specialised computer software including three programs that can complete a structural and finite element analysis of the whole fabric structure including structural steel, wires and attachments.

This ensures a safe and reliable tension membrane shade structure that is structurally sound. We are available to offer expert advice and design input to ensure that you, the customer ends up with a quality tension membrane shade structure. Contact us today to discuss our structural and form finding analysis service. Shade to Order can manufacture shade sails out of a wide range of PVC coated fabrics. Ranging from 300gsm (Grams per Square Metre) right up to the heaviest architectural fabrics at around 1800gsm.

One of the PVC fabrics used is “Ferrari©” architectural fabric, as they use The Precontraint© Technology (pre-stressing fabric base cloth before and during all of the coating process). This combined with dimensional stability and longevity, makes the Ferrari© product one of the most versatile in the world. The “Ferrari©” Fluotop T2 surface treatment assures durability to permanent textile structures; with a 100% PVDF on the surface, it provides effective protection against atmospheric pollution, soiling and climatic aggressions.

An exclusive Ferrari© process, the Fluotop T2 surface treatment merged with the coating of the membrane and forms a completely homogeneous composite material. The Ferrari© Precontraint© Fluotop T2 composite membranes provide textile buildings with reliable mechanical properties, optimum translucency and a simply stunning appearance. PVDF fabric comes with a 15-year manufacturer’s guarantee. Another high quality PVC fabric used by Shade to Order is Mehler Haku©.

This PVC fabric is available in a number of colours. Haku© fabric has a PVDF coating on both sides, ensuring good resistance to dirt and mould and resulting in prolonged life. At Shade to Order, we manufacture membranes out of a number of PVC mesh fabrics. Available in a wide range of colours and weaves, these fabrics are a fantastic option where shade only is a concern, not waterproof protection. The preferred PVC mesh fabrics to use are by Ferrari©, and are called “Soltis”. The genuine heat and light shields of Soltis textiles regulate the sun’s heat effect and provide effective glare protection.

Available in 48 colours, these textiles come in a varied chromatic range conceived for all architectural environments (public buildings and private homes). The Ferrari© Precontraint© manufacturing technique provides the Soltis textiles with an unrivalled dimensional stability making them the ideal solution for technical sun protection of architect-designed buildings. Contact us today for more information on PVC fabrics.

PDF Downloads

Mistakes to Avoid When Considering a Shade Structure
Shade Fabric Comparison

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34 Metro Court, Gateshead
NSW 2290

(02) 4942 5793