MakMax Tensile Membrane Structures
With more than 35 years of experience in the tensile membrane business, MakMax Australia, and the rest of our Taiyo Kogyo Group family have been fortunate to have constructed hundreds of tensile membrane projects all over the world. Two of the most common tensile membranes in use are PVC (coated polyester fabric) and PTFE (coated glass fibre fabric). We have had the opportunity to field test both PVC and PTFE membranes form a variety of base-fabric manufactures and have complied some of the key comparison points.
PTFE coated glass fibre membranes are currently the best tensile fabric products available in the market. The materials are UV stable, inert and have a proven design life of at least 50 years. They exhibit a high translucency, an extremely low surface energy which minimises dirt build up and maintenance intervals, and the best fire performance characteristics of any fabric material.
PVC coated polyester fabrics are an excellent economical weatherproof membrane. They offer a medium level of light transmission and generally last 15-25 years before needing replacement. PVC membranes with a PVDF coating have good dirt repellent characteristics however some UV aging of the colour should be expected through its lifespan.
Key Differences Between PVC vs PTFE Membranes
- Both PVC and PTFE effectively block UV rays.
- Both PVC and PTFE membranes are weatherproof†.
- A more affordable option, PVC is also recyclable at the end of the usable life in some regions of the world.
- PTFE membranes have a significantly higher translucency, providing a higher light level under the material which helps reduce artificial lighting during the daytime and provides a much brighter and inviting space than darker canopies.
- PTFE membranes repel dirt and pollutants and have superior self-cleaning properties to PVC. This results in lower cleaning and maintenance costs throughout the life of the structure.
- While both PVC and PTFE are durable and hard-wearing materials, PTFE membranes have a significantly longer life-span, maintaining their colour, strength, and performance over much longer periods.
† Comparison based on solid membrane structures; PVC and PTFE are also available in mesh versions.
Fire Performance of PVC & PTFE
PTFE membranes have superior fire performance characteristics to PVC membranes to most Australian and International fire testing standards. Below are some basic results of two commonly used membranes. Different manufactures and grades of material will have slightly different test-results, the below should used as a guide only.
A note on non-combustibility
Prior to the 2019 BCA, PTFE-coated glass fibre tension membrane materials were generally deemed non-combustible as the code permitted composite materials to be classified as non-combustible, providing the structural elements passed AS 1530.1 and any coatings were sufficiently thin. The glass fibre woven structural base cloth within PTFE fabric is non-combustible to AS 1530.1, but the PTFE coating is not, and the change in wording in the 2019 BCA is generally interpreted by certifiers and fire engineers to now not allow this material to be considered non-combustible.
Where non-combustible construction is required, a ‘deemed to satisfy’ pathway is usually difficult to achieve, and PTFE-coated glass fibre membranes will normally need a performance solution to be used. Generally, in our experience, fire engineers and certifiers are familiar with PTFE-coated glass fibre membranes and based on the testing values to AS 1530 parts 1, 2 and 3 are usually happy to support a performance solution. PVC coated fabrics have on occasion been given performance solutions that have allowed their use in areas requiring non-combustible construction, however this is rare as the fire performance of PVC materials is inferior to PTFE-coated glass fibre membranes.
Do You Have A Project And Need Some Advice?
MakMax Australia offers a range of the best PVC and PTFE membranes in the world from suppliers who have passed our rigorous quality testing and share our commitment to quality, longevity and performance. We recommend membranes with the most suitable properties for attractive and long-lasting tensile membrane structures. Contact us to discuss your project and let us help choose the best tensile membrane.