AGY’s Beta ™Yarn Provides Strength and Flexibility for Structural Membrane Canopy Over Entryway to Shanghai World Expo Center

July 7th, 2010 by

AIKEN, SC, USA – (July 7, 2010) – The World Expo Center, which opened in Shanghai,
China in May of 2010, showcases buildings that are adventurous experiments in form and material.
Many of expected 70 million attendees will pass through the entrance pavilion whose futuristic
design includes a large structural membrane canopy made with Beta™ yarn from AGY, a leading
global producer of fiber glass yarns and high-strength fiber glass reinforcements.

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 stunning architectural profiles.”

Saint-Gobain chose AGY’s Beta yarn because it retains strength both during and after
rigorous processing, and because it retains the flexibility to be bent or folded without losing strength.
“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

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
nighttime backlighting, the fabric emits an ambient glow that also creates a dramatic architectural
signature on the skyline.”

The membrane’s ability to block UV light is an important feature. “It’s a function of both
the yarn and the PTFE,” explained Mancinelli. “The glass is impervious to UV radiation. It will not
degrade over time and with the combination of PTFE, it reduces UV radiation within the facility
while allowing light to enter. Other synthetic materials, however, require special treatments to ensure
they are not negatively impacted by UV light.”

Using the membrane for structural elements also helps reduce overall costs. “In any
application, weight equals cost,” explains Mancinelli. “In roofs, for example, architectural
membranes weigh far less than conventional roofing systems and this results in reduced structural
steel components. You don’t need as many supports so it is possible to reduce the overall structure
while achieving a more pleasing design. The membrane’s high strength to weight ratio allows it to
span larger expanses to reduce overall costs and improve architectural friendliness.”
The Beta yarn is used for different grades of the SHEERFILL architectural membrane.

“The Shanghai entrance pavilion required a very high-end grade because of the expanse of the
structure, which is approximately 90,000m2,” said Mancinelli. “It allows daylight, while providing
shade for the crowds entering the Expo.” From canopies to column-free long-span spaces and
complex integrated designs, architectural membranes combine the aesthetic possibilities of form and
function resulting in dramatic signature structures such as the Pontiac Silver Dome, the Georgia
Dome, the Arizona Cardinals stadium and the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. “The sculptural shapes
that can be achieved using an architectural membrane for structural elements are not possible with
any other material,” added Mancinelli.