• Every Term You Need to Know about Textiles

Upholstery vs. Panel vs. Acoustic vs. Cubicle

Posted by Shawn Voss on Aug 31, 2016 11:15:38 AM

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What makes a fabric something that is made for you to sit on instead of something to wrap a panel with? Or hang in a hospital? Are the fabrics really all that different? The answer is yes and no, as we will explain in this post.

 

The 4 main types of fabric that we manufacture right here in North America are upholstery fabric, panel fabric (for office cubicles), acoustic fabric and cubicle/privacy curtain fabric for healthcare uses. At first glance they may appear quite similar, but in fact they differ in many ways ranging from width, finishes, construction and flammability requirements.

 

Upholstery Fabric

Used for anything from task chairs, side chairs, lounge seating, house of worship seating, couches, booths, etc... The main thing about upholstery is that it needs to withstand more wear and tear because it is constantly being sat on.

 

- 54" wide is the industry standard.

- The ability to withstand abrasion is important. According to the Association for Contract Textiles (ACT), a fabric that withstands 30,000 or more double rubs is suitable for high traffic / public space use. However, more double rubs isn't necessarily good.

- Needs to meet criteria in regards to pilling (little fuzzy balls forming), crocking (color from the fabric getting on your white pants), and lightfastness (not fading in the sun).

- In general it is a thicker, tighter weave than panel/acoustic fabric.

- Quite often it has backings or treatments on it like stain repellents, moisture barriers, antimicrobial, or acrylic backcoatings.

- Darker, more saturated colors are more common in order to hide potential stains and dirt.

- Needs to pass certain flame tests like California Technical Bulletin 117 and NFPA 260/UFAC which are tests that try simulate how the fabric would react in a fire on a piece of furniture. 

 

 

Panel Fabric

Called panel fabric because it is applied to the panels of an office cubicle. These can be the more traditional tall panels or the smaller panels on benching systems. On larger panels lighter and more muted colors are typically used. On benching systems more saturated and vibrant colors are used more since it is a smaller area and less visually overwhelming. 

 

- 66" wide is the industry standard.

- It's important that the fabric doesn't retain moisture, or it will sag on the panels as humidity levels change. Polyester and polypropylene do not absorb moisture but other yarns like cotton or wool do.

- Typically lighter, less saturated colors in general.

- Patterns are typically smaller in scale and more attention is paid to the design of the pattern so that strange repeats don't occur over a large area.

- Most of the time panel fabrics are un-backed.

- An additional backing can be applied for use as wallcovering.

- Can be coated and slit for use as blinds or roller shades.

- Needs to pass ASTM E84 flame test.

 

Acoustic Fabric

Originally, there was just panel fabric. And then people started to use it on acoustic panels. Nowadays the acoustic market is large itself and products anre designed and marketed specifically for this application. Most panel fabrics can be used as acoustic fabrics and most acoustic fabrics can be used as panel fabric. We have a third party test all our new panel fabrics to determine whether they are appropriate for acoustic applications. If they allow a certain amount of sound to pass through the fabric then they will work well for acoustic panels or speakers, provided they meet the other criteria.

 

- 66" wide is the industry standard.

- It's important that the fabric doesn't retain moisture, or it will sag on the panels as humidity levels change. Polyester and olefin do not absorb moisture but other yarns like cotton or wool do.

- Most of the time they are un-backed.

- The fabric needs to let the sound pass through it and into the sound absorbing material behind it.

- Needs to pass ASTM E84 flame test.

 

Cubicle / Privacy Curtain Fabric

Made for healthcare environments, one of the biggest differences from other types of fabric is that cubicle curtain fabric is woven and designed to be seen from both sides, since it is hung in places like hospitable patient rooms. 

 

- 72" wide is the industry standard.

- All of our cubicle curtains come standard with an antimicrobial treatment

- All of ours are woven with some percentage of fire resistant (FR) yarn in order to pass the NFPA flame test.

- The color palette for healthcare is typically pastels and muted tones.

- Can also used for drapery.

- Because they are hung over large ares, larger scale patterns are common.

- Botanical and natural patterns are common.

- Typically used railroaded.

- Made to withstand laundering as they are commonly washed in healthcare settings.

- Needs to pass NFPA 701 flame test

 

 

Using Upholstery Fabric for Acoustic Panels or Office Cubicles

We get asked quite often whether or not you can use an upholstery pattern in another application. Ultimately you are responsible for how you use our product, but in some cases using an upholstery fabric as fabric for acoustic panels or for office cubicles will work out just fine. It depends on a lot of factors. The content, finishing, pattern, testing, flammability, etc... could all determine whether it works or doesn't.

 

With that being said, we do have 6 upholstery products that we have tested and approved for use in vertical surface applications. They are Anchorage/Open House, Beacon, BeeHave, Jane, Highbeams and Madison.

 

So while it's all fabric, and at first glance they look pretty similar, there are a lot of intentional decisions that have been made to make that fabric perform as needed. 

 

 

Browse through all our patterns

 

 

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Topics: Upholstery Fabric, Acoustic Fabric, Textiles 101, Acoustics, Panel Fabric