Finite Element Analysis for Tensile Fabric Structure

Seeing a tensile fabric structure design for the first time is a bliss in the eye. However, looking at it in the engineering point of view, the design itself may not be sufficient to build a quality and reliable fabric structure without undergoing a series of details engineering analysis.

The shape and form of the fabric roof system is not enough to consider that a remarkable tensile fabric structure will be built out of a simple idea. It takes more engineering & detailing sessions and finite element analysis between engineers and architects to achieve what is working and still aesthetic tensile membrane structure.

What is Finite Element Analysis in tensile membrane roof ?

Finite Element Analysis or FEA, is a form of structure analysis. For tensile membrane structures, finite element analysis is used by structural engineers during the design phase of a tensile fabric structure project. Principles of solid mechanics are applied and concentrates on the boundary, solidity, and boundary conditions. During the finite element analysis stage for tensile membrane roof, engineers applies force on the designed structure and checks if there are any displacements and records the values of stress and strains. After which, the values are adjusted to meet the approximate exact values of an ideal value to ensure that the design is reliable, durable and able to withstand any environmental conditions.

Amongst the common analysis aligned with finite element analysis are load analysis which includes external loads such as wind load, reaction loads and steel structure analysis. With load analysis, the overall size and shape of the structure is obtained which includes the structural framework and the fabric length and shape. All structural reactions in relation to certain load applied to the structure are arranged in a tabulated layout.

All in all, all results from the software driven finite element analysis is compared to the manual calculations prior the analysis is performed tensile roof. The difference between the two calculation results is the grey area that needs to be assessed and addressed by the experience design and engineering team. The goal of the finite element analysis in membrane structure is to find the most static and dynamic equilibrium of the overall structure to avoid damage, failure, irregularity and obtain consistency of the structure as desired.

Important Success Factor in Tensile Fabric Structure is Design

Design process is critical success element in tensile fabric structure. All project kick-offs starts with the design stage. And in tensile fabric structure, the design process plays a vital role in the success of quality fabric roof. The design process takes flight once the requirements and parameter are set. Below is a TE Membrane tensile fabric design process flow.


Stage 1 : Data gathering and taking notes of the requirements, highlights and features for the fabric structure. This will determine the type of approach needed to be carried out. TE Membrane and our clients, architect and designer sit down together to discuss every detail of the plan, elevation, form and design as desired. Geographical areas and loads conditions are also tackled during this stage to learn the requirement of the tensile fabric structure.

Stage 2 : Sketch and drawing for visual presentation. CAD, freeform software and 3D Modelling and other advanced technology and software are used to generate the exact form of the tensile fabric structure. TE Membrane hold in-house architectural design and engineering that creates the actual form, shape and suitability of the fabric structure.

Stage 3 : Initial sketch approval and freeform 3D concept approval. Clients review the plan and approve the general concept of the design. Once the design is approved, our architects and engineers will proceed to perform the finite element analysis by introducing it to series of loads and weather resistances calculation, tensile stress will be generated at this stage. All preliminary calculations such as reaction loads and steel sizes will be generated this stage.

Stage 4 : Final tensile fabric roof approval. Clients review the final plan and design. Any revisions and minor or major alterations can be made during this stage as well.

Why TE Membrane focus in design ?

When it comes with fabric roof and membrane roof design, accuracy and creativity are the key pointers. Your ideas and vision are important to us. We give high care to protect your designs as this represents who you are and contributes to your uniqueness.

Selection of Tensile Fabric Structure Material Specification

TE Membrane has come up with a criteria that would fit all types of fabric according to its tensile specifications and qualities. Not all fabrics are made equal and same for every tensile fabric structure needs. Being an expert on tensile membrane structures, we carefully review every aspect of the materials characteristic, specification and project nature and its application, understand client’s requirements as to how long they need the fabric roof to determine the right fabric choice that include the lifespan, budget concerns for the project, accessibility of the fabric roof for cleaning and maintenance, location, climate and environmental factors to consider.

For the list of most common fabric types used in tensile fabric structures, please check our Membrane Materials Comparison Table here.

TE Membrane Material Criteria Items

Learning what each material criteria and specification definitions and details will provide clients a glimpse of what type of material to use and helps them with their decision making after the design is laid out for their review. Below are some of the major criteria we follow in classifying each fabric material type in tensile fabric structure.

Lifespan : This may be the primary point to consider when looking for a fabric material to be used on a fabric roof system. Every client needs to have the most durable fabric that will last for years and years. PVC Coated Polyester, PVC Coated Glass Fibre, PTFE Teflon Coated Glass/PTFE Open Mesh Fabric, Uncoated PTFE Fibre, Silicon Coated Glass, ETFE Foil and Tenara are among the fabric types that last for about 20 to 35 years and even longer given proper cleaning and maintenance.

Pricing : Next to lifespan, pricing is highly considered during architectural material selection process.

Fireproof Protection and Rating: An important factor when selecting the right type of fabric material according to building approval for fire safety.

UV Resistance : A good UV resistant fabric will repel UV rays away from the structure and factor that might affect the degradation of fabric over time.

Translucency : Natural lighting is one of the assets of a tensile fabric structure. Various fabric have different percentage of translucency.

Colour : Fabric colour provides an edge with the over-all look of the tensioned fabric structure but the discolouration will happen over time.

Environmental : Due to environmental concerns that went in bloom at the start of the millennium, tensile fabric are being consider first choice of roofing materials in green development and green campaign.

Tensile Fabric Structure of Cleaning and Maintenance

With the cleaning and maintenance stages of tensile fabric structures, we created a standard of tensile membrane structure cleaning program to cover all areas of the fabric roof and its steel membranes by following our very own checklists as below:

For cleaning procedure:


  •  check and clean any debris build up
  • check and clear water drainage
  • check any possible sign of vandalism
  • check any possible sign of fabric failure including seam, tear and colour change.
  • cleaning of vandalism on frames and fixings of the membrane
  • check for corrosion on steel frame and joint
  • check on paint work
  • check on all fittings and cables tension and material conditioned

For maintenance procedure and services:

  • cleaning
  • risk assessments
  • emergency repairs
  • re-stressing fabrics and steel membranes to ensure durability
  • safety inspections for the whole structure
  • Integrity assessments and report

Right and constant supervision is rendered to our highly knowledgeable cleaners and maintenance people to assure our clients that their fabric structure is thoroughly cleaned and maintained. Not only that, we give high regard to safety as well.

Installation, cleaning and maintenance works of fabric structures nowadays are very challenging and requires skilled workers that are highly trained. TE Membrane makes sure that all our on-site team of experts are all equipped and skilled handling walk-on nets, ropes/climbing harnesses and even mobile elevated working platforms.

Tensile Fabric Structure Installation & Maintenance

Tensile fabric structure installation and maintenance processes are executed with extreme caution and safety. These two stages of a fabric structure project are critical to the success of achieving the most durable and remarkable roof system.

TE Membrane Tensile Fabric Structure Scope of Installation

TE Membrane has over 14 years of experience in the installation of tensile membrane structures. Project management experience become one of the important skilled in the success execution of good installation of tensile fabric structure. We operate even in the most challenging locations, tight deadlines and whatever conditions deemed safe.

Our Project Management team ensures that the following guidelines are met for all our tensile fabric structure project prior to installation of the tensile fabric structure:

  •  All safety criteria is met which includes safety gadgets and equipment including safety measures to obtain 0% casualties during the construction and installation phase.
  •  All operating machines are inspected and needs to be 100% running and are in good condition.
  •  All materials should be quality control passed and align to safety standards.

TE Membrane’s installation team exists out a core of very experienced membrane installation structure and experienced membrane installation Supervisors. The installation work is done by the local provided labour and plant of the steel fabricator.

Tensile Fabric Structure Manufacturing & Fabrication

Tensile fabric structure manufacturing and fabrication are both hosted in-house at TE Membrane & Partners. In-house manufacturing and fabrication allows as to give close monitoring on the quality of architectural materials and right fabrication method being employed. We fabricate all the component of fabric and steel structure of tensile fabric structure in-house.

Fabric Fabrication

TE Membrane is a reputed tensile fabric structure company with experience and commitment to the tensile membrane structure quality standards in membrane fabrication.

We are experience in fabricate and use various selection of architecture fabric materials below :

✓PVC Coated Polyester,
✓PTFE Coated Fiberglass
✓Uncoated PTFE Fibre
✓Silicon Coated Glass
✓ETFE Foil
✓HDPE Shade Cloth
✓Polyester Lycra

The materials selection depend on project specification with varying degrees of warranty, light translucency, reflection, UV protection, fire rating, self cleaning, expected cleaning & maintenance schedule and life expectancy long life.

Our state of the art equipment including a automated computer plotter cutter and fabric welding seaming machine. These ensures accuracy and superior fabrication quality to meet tensile fabric structure industry standard. Tension membrane structures are fabricated utilizing the reinforcement seaming details to have strongest seams applicable to the fabric. We utilize heat seaming sealing machine, radio frequency (RF) seaming sealing machine and sewn seams utilizing PTFE thread which provides the longest life expectancy in the industry standard. Our fabric design patterning is pre-plan and arrange in nesting software to ensure accurate fabric procurement and maximum usage of fabric based on the right arrangement, sewing and cutting crews utilize the most advanced computer controlled cutting technology available which provides precision load analysis and tight tolerance and right planning.

We have the best manpower that do very well with the fabric fabrication process. TE Membrane provides our fabrication team rigorous technology and safety trainings to create the most skilled workers and competitive materials there is in the world of tensile membrane structure.

During fabrication of fabrics, we subject all our fabrics to Biaxial Testing. The test procedure includes stretching the fabric in two opposing directions to check durability and strength when subjected to load requirements to get accurate compensation value on all our tensile fabric structure. Elongation or break of fabric and tear strength are tested also to ensure that the fabric material is in perfect quality.

Steel Fabrication

All steelworks are done in-house for TE Membrane. We have well-versed tensile membrane steel fabricators who are very knowledgeable with tensile membrane architecture and structural detail and finishes. We cut our cleats and plates with laser or CNC cutting machines and highly skilled steel fabricators and machine operators that perform the cutting, bending and welding.

Consistently, we provide superior quality welding that meets various industry standards as well as the expectations. We provide invaluable structural testing services including structural steel welding inspection based on scope of work for Non-Destructive Testing, Visual Inspection and Ultrasonic Testing (UT)Magnetic Particle Testing (MT).

Over years of experience, we have positive feedback from our clients and made them sturdy and durable tensile fabric structures that are aesthetic and lasts longer than expected.

Tensile Fabric Engineering & Analysis

TE Membrane strictly observes BS 6399 Pt 1 BS Loading Code – Dead and Live Loads, BS 6399 Pt 2 BS Loading Code – Wind Loads and BS 5950 BS Steel Structures Code and makes sure that we comply with it during our tensile fabric structure design and engineering stages. All materials used and method of fabrication are carefully selected and undergo quality control, quality assurance and quality inspections to have the best and finest qualities and comply to tensile fabric structure standard . This way, we are sure to build the most quality and durable tensile fabric structure that will stand the test of time. Along with that, we spend in-depth focus on tensile fabric engineering and analysis, creating a sensible solution to address common tensile fabric structure problems such as fabrication issue, winkle, deflection, uneven stress, wear and tear, weather, cleaning methodology and others that may arise during and after installation.

TE Membrane has the latest and up-to-date fabric fabrication method and technology. All fabrications are in-house for all fabric types ideal for architectural tensioned fabric structures and tension membrane such as Teflon coated fiberglass membranes, PVC/ polyester PVDF coated membranes and Architectural grade shade mesh, silicone fabric and ETFE. There are from renowned and reputable material suppliers from Serge Ferrari, Versaidag, Mehler, Chukoh, Tarconic and Atex.

Engineering and Analysis TE Membrane conducts intensive engineering analysis to make the best tensile fabric design with right tensiled to withstand weather and load resistant. We perform load cases to represent series load cases including self-weight, balance stat and many different wind load combination of up, down and cross wind factor acting on tensile fabric structure. The fabric structure is then subjected to tensile stress and strength testing and should pass all criteria based on the right selection of fabric type and thickness. All load and displacement calculations are gathered and analyzed. During the stage of engineering and analysis, we give importance and high attention to form finding, loading and non-linear analysis of the membrane.

Our engineers makes sure that the engineering issue is resolved while the architects keep it aesthetic. One of the main features and assets of all our designs is that it adopts to the urgency of the project. All of our pre-designed fabric roof and tensile membrane structure are 100% strong and sturdy. Our architects and engineers designs every tensile fabric structure based on quality structure. This is one factor plays a big role for clients’ decisions when planning and building their very own fabric roof system. We also adapt every design to go with the application of the fabric roof. Whether it will be used in sports enclosures, entertainment, retail sector and exhibitions or s permanent tensile fabric structure on a building or the main feature of a landscape, every inch of detail is re-engineered for durability and quality. For more information on our tensile fabric engineering and analysis

Tensile Fabric Design Process

TE Membrane focuses on developing and converting your ideas and creativity to life. Our unique and advanced tensile fabric designer creating free form solution by adopting membrane natural form. Over the years of experience, we have the best design team that able to meet even the most complex tensile fabric structures design. Tensile fabric design is not an easy task as it involved non linear solution. It combines knowledge on theories, experience and technical of tensile membranes. TE Membrane has the well-versed in-house design and engineering team.

How Does Our Tensile Fabric Design Works?

Below are the steps we follow during our initial tensile fabric design stage:

First Phase: Sketch and 3D Model

We start with discussing the concept visual form of the fabric roof structure with the architect, designer or project owner. Our highly competent architects and engineers help out with the improvement of intended concept with possible form in sketch format, follow by creating parameter in 3D model in CAD before exporting to form finding software.

Second Phase: Form Finding Analysis

After the visual look in sketched and the parameter in 3D model in CAD, we then run the finite element analysis and form finding to finalize the actual membrane shape and form of the fabric tensile structure. The input of loading information is necessary at this stage such as stress, wind loads, snow loads, rain loads, cable loads and etc. The form finding process will normally takes times, if the process is not successfully re-evaluation of concept and parameter is necessary. When the final form of the tensile fabric structure has been achieved we will be able to perform another stage to retrieve and generate the reaction forces and preliminary steel sizing for the tensile fabric structure.

During the second phase, we also analyze wind loads, reaction loads and steel structure in tensile fabric. We also conduct rain and snow resistance analysis to ensure sufficient tensioned on the fabric of tensile structure.

Tensile fabric design is all about creativity, knowledge and expertise and hard-work followed by dedication. TE Membrane has all these qualities to bring all your structural visions and imaginations into reality. We inspire, visualize and create for your best benefits when it comes to tensile fabric design & engineering.

Introduction to Tensile Fabric Structure Design Concept

One of the most flexible free-form building are fabric structures. Its lightweight characteristic offers immense variety of building application & design. Tensile fabric structure is a type of tensile membrane structure. Membrane structures can be free form structures and are dependent on curvatures to distribute load evenly in tensioned stat.

Some common roof system failures are inability to withstand or carry load such as amount of wind, rain and snow. Removing deflection from wind, rain and snow from roofs is more dangerous than efficient. Hence, fabric structures were developed to have double curves on tensioned membrane structures to carry the weight or load of the wind, snow and rainfall.

There are several basic forms and types of tensioned membrane structures. Namely anticlastic and synclastic structure. Anticlastic is pure tensioned structure that can be seen in most cone, sail and arch design. Synclastic is air supported structure with air in between create a pillow like structure.

(1)Anticlastic structure -Tensioned Membrane Structure

a) Hypar Sail Design

Paraboloids have surface divided in quadrants. Hyperbolic paraboloid looks like a saddle where the surface has high and low points. It is a form of anticlastic tensioned membrane. In the design of fabric structures, a hypar or saddle shape offers stability. Hypars normally have two high and two low points opposing each other. These points resists wind flow that lifts the fabric.

b) Cone Design

Another type of anticlastic are the cone and arch forms. These are popular and mostly used in canopies and other roof membranes. The cone can also be an inverted conical.

c) Arch Design

The most common type of fabric roof is the arch-shaped fabric structure. Arch shapes generate by bending the steel frame profile in order for the membrane fabric to wrap around to form a barrel vault structure.
(2) Synclastic Structure – Inflatable or Air Dome Shape

A type of synclastic structure is the inflatable or dome-shaped forms. Constant pressure of air helps to give the fabric its balloon shape which shows double curvature as well. It is normally installed over sports-complex, gardens and etc where large span is required.

Tensioned fabric structure is commonly built with a combination of two or three forms and shapes. Building it from a modular unit to form more complex combination solution in tensile fabric design.

Tensile fabric architecture is the design of fabric material roofing that form freely with the minimum support structure where tension is applied. All materials used in the installation of fabric structures are all subjected to details design & engineering in tensile fabric structure.

Architects/designers and engineers find various challenges when it comes to developing new styles and forms to better suit the need of roofing systems. Each design should address pre-stress conditions to ensure the integrity and stability of the fabric structure. Equal distribution of fabric load over each membrane is the key to a perfect and reliable roofing system.

TE Membrane is Tensile Fabric Structure Specialist.