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Many of expected 70 million attendees to the World Expo Center, which opened in Shanghai, China in May, will pass through the entrance pavilion whose structural membrane canopy is made with Beta yarn from AGY.
The Beta yarn consists of very fine glass filaments (4 micron) that are twisted and plied into yarn bundles. “They provide the flexibility and strength properties that are critical for large scale architectural applications, such as the Shanghai canopy,” said John Mancinelli, North East Sales Manager at AGY. “We supply the raw, non-combustible Beta yarn to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, who weaves it into a wide width [120+ in (305+cm)] structural fabric, and then coats it with a proprietary PTFE formula.”
The finished membrane product, called Sheerfill Architectural Membrane, enables the construction of buildings with architectural profiles such as that of the entrance pavilion.
“The secret is our very fine Beta glass filaments,” explained Mancinelli. “They are the smallest diameter available and provide the membrane with maximum flexibility. AGY’s glass chemistry allows Saint-Gobain to coat the fabric in such a way that larger micron size filaments or different glass chemistry would reduce the fabric’s effectiveness.” He added that producing the glass filaments is difficult due to their small micron size and the low throughput. “There are only a few companies in the world who can produce these filaments and AGY is by far the leading volume producer.”
The finished PTFE-coated fiberglass fabric is considered a permanent architectural membrane material with a life of 25+ years. Its translucent nature creates gently diffused glare-free natural lighting. “The glass allows light to pass through the material,” explained Mancinelli. “It was an important requirement for the canopy’s designer who wanted a visual accent not only during the day but also at night because the Expo is considered an 18-hour-a-day event. During daylight, the membrane appears bright white and opaque creating an iconic attraction from a distance. With night-time backlighting, the fabric emits an ambient glow that also creates a dramatic architectural signature on the skyline.”
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