Claims of expertise and experience don’t imply or stipulate a thorough understanding of the underlying technology of fabric architecture – it simply means doing something for a long time.
The industry has by and large been left to its own devices to trial-and-error what works with little in the way of formal testing. Experiential knowledge is no substitute for experimental testing if there is no feedback mechanism into the experience from what actually works under extreme or design conditions. i.e. – we can keep doing what we’ve been doing believing it works if there is never any consequence on us for failures, or if it’s never been exposed to the extremes it’s designed for.
The complexities of balancing size, shape, cable tensions, load reactions, knowing what pressure coefficients to apply or how membranes behave under dynamic wind conditions are little known to the newcomer or novice in the industry, and many local consulting engineers in this cottage industry don’t have these readily at hand when called upon to provide these engineering services.
Nothing in the way of design or installation of these types of light weight structures are covered in any TAFE or building courses and for years, sadly for many, it’s been a case of the blind leading the blind
The majority of shade sails are made by companies or individuals with some previous involvement or experience in other fabric related industries. The transition to shade sail manufacturing happens through a combination of trial and error and copying the work of others. There are no formal sources of knowledge and education so the bulk of product in the market is produced by what amounts to a cottage industry.
Of the more than one thousand “Shade” businesses in Australia a small percentage have a real understanding of the technology involved despite the “years of experience”. It is not enough to understand fabric or sewing machines or threads – designing fabric structures requires a fundamental understanding of structural engineering.
If you are doing a DIY shade sail you should try to establish if the seller is actually manufacturing or just re-selling your sails. After all, if you are installing the sail yourself then you might as well be dealing direct with the manufacturer. This can be difficult as some unscrupulous resellers include photos of a factory which is not theirs – effectively miss-representing themselves as the actual manufacturer. If possible, the best solution would be for you to visit the factory 1st hand. Dealing with a company that has made the investment in a factory and employs people, ensures you are dealing with someone who is most likely to still be there if and when you need assistance or support. Operators running a business from a mobile office can and do stop trading with little or no notice as they have little vested in the venture.