Specialty Fabrics Review May 2020 - 38

frame is the essential component that transforms fabric into architecture,
turning a piece of cloth into some sort of protective cover or defined
space. Generally made from aluminum or steel, frames provide fabric
structures with shape, strength and flexibility.
But designing and fabricating metal framework requires different
capabilities and skills than those needed to cut and sew the fabric that gets
attached to them. The physical space alone presents a picture in contrasts-
one workroom has saws, fire-breathing welding equipment, protective
helmets and gloves, and an inventory of hard, sharp metal. The other
has sewing machines, cutting tables and yards of fabric and thread.

Fred's Tents & Canopies Inc. has a fully equipped metal shop where it fabricates frames, parts,
fittings, components and more in both aluminum and steel. Photo: Fred's Tents & Canopies Inc.

Some specialty fabric end product
manufacturers contract with outside
metal shops for their services. However,
companies that perform metalworking
in-house say that it makes them more
competitive and efficient.
"If you want to be in the fabric structure
or canopy business to any extent, you will
need to metalwork to be competitive,"
says Scott Neville, president of Kansas
City Tent & Awning Co., Kansas City, Mo.,
and Welhener-H.B. Wall Awning, Ozark,
Mo. The businesses produce fabric and
metal awnings, canopies, shade structures,
fabric signs and covers. Like many in the
specialty fabrics industry, Neville says that
having in-house metalworking capabilities
allows his businesses to improve the
bottom line by being more flexible, having
better control over production schedules,
and having more freedom to experiment
with designs and techniques.
"Keeping all stages of fabrication
in-house negates the need to mark up
others' effort," Neville says. "Yes, there is a
steep buy-in cost to do everything yourself,
but it pays itself off soon enough."
THE FABRIC IN FABRICATION
One of the major advantages of
performing metalwork in-house is
that the work will be done by people
who understand fabric. Industrial
textiles are more durable than ever,

38 REVIEW MAY 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review May 2020

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