Award-Winning Shade Structures


One of the world’s most decorated companies in its field, MakMax can help customers decide which structure and membrane best suits their needs, depending on where the structure is going to be; what its use will be; and what aesthetic values it must possess.

In 1983, MakMax’s founder developed the idea of an umbrella as sunshade while working as an architect in London. The umbrella in question was embraced and became a standard product range for a company called Shade Structures Pacific. That company sold only umbrellas and modular structures until the early 1990s when it expanded into custom designs.

“After that,” says Managing Director Michael Lester, “the company started growing very rapidly,” and has been enjoying numerous industry accolades and awards ever since.

Mr Lester joined the company in 1997 and in 2001 the original company was sold to another group of companies called Birdair and was renamed Shade Structures Birdair, known all over the world for its tensioned membrane structures – including prize-winning structures such as the Saida Stadium in Lebanon.

When Shade Structures Pacific was purchased in 2001, it had instantly become part of an even bigger company, Taiyo International Group – Birdair’s former competitor, which had already gained 100 per cent of Birdair’s shares in 1992. In 2003, Shade Structures Birdair was transferred to another owner, Taiyo Kogyo Corporation, and was renamed The Taiyo Membrane Corporation.

Taiyo Kogyo has a rich history. It went from an established tent company in Japan; to being completely destroyed during World War II in 1945; to opening a new sewing factory the next year in Osaka; to launching a new business office in Tokyo in 1951.

As part of Taiyo Kogyo, MakMax has access to any resources that may be needed for the construction of a beautiful shade system. This includes a very broad range of supplies and a seemingly never ending knowledge base that draws on employees from all parts of the world.

The company makes available pre-designed and fabricated structures that can accommodate almost any purpose and, if one of those doesn’t suit the needs, then custom fabrication is part of the game as well. “I’d say it’s about a 50/50 split between projects that have been designed by an architect or an engineer (and fabricated and installed by us) – and projects that we have only had some involvement in the concept design,” explains Michael.

MakMax Australia is unique in that the company maintains its own in-house design capacity; there are other companies that can offer these general types of products but are unable to provide this level of expertise and custom design. Generally, the steel fabrication is subcontracted to another company and the membrane is fabricated in-house with materials imported from abroad. “The majority of our work at the moment is with either PVC polyester or Teflon coated fibreglass fabrics,” explains Michael.

The life expectancy of a tensile fabric structure made from PVC polyester can be more than twenty years if proper upkeep is performed, and for a structure made with Teflon coated fibreglass, the lifespan can be upwards of fifty years. Any environmental degradation that occurs is typically due to the effects of the sun’s rays and pollution over time. For PVC fabric in use within a high pollution area, the fabric can get a bit dirty, and it’s never a bad idea to give it a good power wash. Fibreglass fabrics are a bit tougher and can withstand quite an environmental beating.

Some of the fabrics that MakMax uses can be coated with a titanium dioxide coating which will protect it and lengthen the life of the fabric. The titanium dioxide has a photocatalytic property that uses the UV rays from the sun to destroy any pollutants that may come in contact with the fabric.

According to Michael, “Titanium dioxide has been around for quite a long time. It used to actually be thought of as a negative thing. It used to be used in paint and it’s got a photocatalytic action that tends to break the paint down but, if you can enhance the photocatalytic characteristics and then apply it to a surface in a way that the surface itself is not damaged by the catalytic action, then it becomes a very powerful cleaning agent.”

Within MakMax’s range of services, the company offers maintenance packages that can also help to extend a structure’s life and keep it looking as if it just went up yesterday. These maintenance packages are part of the company’s efforts to provide the most versatile service offering within the market.

MakMax maintains its strong position in the market not only by providing top level service and a terrific customer experience, but by offering an extraordinary range of fabrics that are not offered anywhere else. In addition to the PVC and fibreglass, there are knitted shade cloths which are used on many of the shade structures in Australia. MakMax redeveloped and upgraded this type of knitted fabric to a point where other companies had to make it their standard as well in order to compete.

“During the 90s, we developed all of the fabrication techniques that allowed us to put together structures that followed the same form as the patented PVC and fibreglass structures. We actually applied the technology for surface structures back into shade cloth, which prior to then had just been hung up as triangular sails,” says Michael.

The company also offers ETFE. This isn’t a new product as such, and is more of a film rather than a fabric because it doesn’t have a base-cloth to it. It’s typically used in cushions to provide a structure. A beautiful example of a structure that uses ETFE is the Eden Project in England. Essentially though, there is no limit to what is available through MakMax as far as fabric is concerned, because the company can take advantage of the best the entire global market has to offer.

The high Australian dollar has understandably put some pressure on MakMax’s traditional export markets, so the company has to be more efficient than ever before in order to remain competitive. To that end, the business will be implementing greater efficiencies within its new fabrication systems. The company has also installed new and more efficient welders in its factory.

Taiyo Kogyo as a whole has a long and rich history, and as the company is already on the leading edge of its market, what the future has in store will likely be determined by further advances in technology. With the resources it has at its fingertips, there is virtually no end to what such a global company can accomplish.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

October 23, 2021, 12:02 PM AEDT