panels in a few clicks

Tesnile Fabric Structure Design Software

Tensile fabric structure designers can now have a complete set of tools, running in industry standard CAD software, AutoCAD® or Rhinoceros®.

MPanel-Pro is our flagship product providing 3D form finding and 2D patterning Windows software for tension fabric structures designs, working as an add on toolbar in AutoCAD and Rhino.

MPanel-Design is the Lite version without the 2D patterning tools.

The MPanel-Pro toolbar provides a set of design tools in a user friendly interface to assist tensile fabric structure designers. These tools allows you to manipulate your CAD drawing from the initial relaxation of a mesh to the final production panels to send to your plotter or cutter.

MPanel-Pro was developed to assist tensile fabric structure designers, but works equally well on other projects, such as tents, awnings, exhibition stands, and inflatable structures.

Because it works with AutoCAD and Rhino, there is no need to learn a complete new CAD environment so you can leverage your CAD skills and you will be up and running in a very short time.

Convert 3d to 2d pattern

The drawings below can be downloaded to your computer and looked at in your CAD package. These drawings illustrate some of the basic uses of MPanel.

Tutorial Files Summary Thumbnail
Standard Tutorial AutoCAD
The standard tutorial for learning MPanel, as shipped on demo CD’s. Consists of a starter drawing, with prototype structures, a MS Word document to describe the operations needed to complete the drawing, and a copy of the finished drawing. barrel
Ten Steps to an MPanel Project AutoCAD
A step by step tutorial showing how to design a cone tent using MPanel. cone tent
Formfinding Options AutoCAD Deciding on which relaxation method to use is sometimes confusing. This tutorial shows the difference between Fixed Edge, Cable Edge, and Joined Edge relaxations. fixed cable

MPanel Formfinding

Follow the links to download a zip file containing the drawing in AutoCAD or Rhino

Tutorial Files Summary Thumbnail
Fixed Edge Sail AutoCAD
Shows a method to design a sail structure with one fixed edge and 3 catenary edges. panels
Fixed Edge Cone AutoCAD
How to design a cone tent with fixed edges. Illustrates how to use MPanel to fix the eaves on a double cone tent structure. paneling
Change Mesh Density AutoCAD
Shows mesh density being changed to refine a cone tent. Change Mesh Density can be a great time saver, allowing the initial design to be drawn out with very coarse meshes that require little construction time and allow MPanel to relax the forms quickly. When the design is further along the meshes can be increased in density and then re-relaxed, to obtain a high definition drawing. seams
Square Sail Droop Control AutoCAD
Looks at the problems of adjusting the droop of a square sail with high/low points. There is a peculiarity of an exactly square sail on a symmetrical frame, that adjusting the weft/warp ratio does not adjust the droop of the sail. This drawing explains that issue, and offers a solution to the problem. paneling
Embedded Cables AutoCAD
How to use embedded cables to carry some of the loads in a cone tent design. formfinding
Half Dome Awning AutoCAD
Creating an awning cover with some double curvature on a half dome. Framed structures, which are sometimes made without double curvature, benefit in strength and rigidity if they are designed with double curvature. This drawing illustrates working over a simple entry way awning. panels
Cable Structures AutoCAD
Looks at designing cable reinforced structures as an alternative to stressed skin structures using MPanel. paneling

MPanel Paneling

Follow the link to download a zip file containing the drawing in AutoCAD or Rhino

Tutorial Files Summary Thumbnail
Standard Panel Handling AutoCAD
Shows the standard panel handling used by MPanel to take a set of panels from the 3D model, into panels with compensation, seams, and production annotation. paneling
Paneling Using Cross Sections AutoCAD
Shows making panels by using cross sections, which gives complete control over seam placement and panel widths. paneling
Seam Allowances AutoCAD
MPanel allows different types of seam allowances, depending on your assembly method. This tutorial describes how to apply those seam allowances. paneling
Geodesic Seams AutoCAD
Creating geodesic seams on a saddle tent. Geodesic seams are often used to minimize seam lengths and create substantially rectangular panels. MPanel can create geodesic seams from any boundary points over any number of meshes, and can then turn the seam lines into a new mesh, to ease paneling. paneling
Specified Width Panels AutoCAD
How to make panels of a specified width. Illustrates working from a geometrically fixed seam to produce a series of specified width panels. paneling
Merging Panels AutoCAD
Looks at the issues involved in merging panels, and shows how the shearing error occurs. Merging is a powerful technique for joining panels together and achieving panel end curvature, but it has implications in the way the fabric stress relaxes that need to be understood. This drawing illustrates those issues for a simple hoop structure. paneling
Diagonal Seams AutoCAD
Creates a set of panels running diagonally on a square sail. Diagonal seams are required for aesthetic or structural reasons, and MPanel can create them nicely, although there are difficulties with the corner triangular panels. This drawing illustrates the process. paneling
Calculating Compensation pdf_small This pdf explains the procedure for calculating the compensation on panels.

MPanel Advanced

Tutorial Files Summary Thumbnail
Deep Catenary AutoCAD
Deep catenaries can be used for entrance arches, shade tents, sculptural effects, etc. This drawing shows how to develop deep catenaries without running into meshing problems. Advanced Tutorial image
Advanced Cone Tent AutoCAD
Shows how to build up a cone tent based on an outline frame, with different mesh MSurf on individual meshes. This is needed if the cone tent perimeter shape is irregular, to keep an even mesh density. Advanced Tutorial image
Single Sheet Modeling AutoCAD The method of modeling using a single sheet over several constraints. This was an earlier modeling technique, used before the capability to relax multiple meshes arrived. For some fabric shapes it is difficult to think of a reasonable multiple set of meshes to define the structure, and so this drawing details the old method. Advanced Tutorial image
Modular Tent AutoCAD
How to design a modular structure, so that you can add any number of central sections to create different length designs. Advanced Tutorial image
Advanced Compensation AutoCAD Ordinary compensation or shrink methods work for most situations, but MPanel’s compensation can be tailored to fit special circumstances. This drawing illustrates methods for variable compensation, partial decompensation, and changing compensation across the panel. Advanced Tutorial image
Natural Pole Angle AutoCAD Illustrates the method to find the natural top ring position and pole angle for a cone tent. Uses a structure of links to allow top ring to relax to it’s natural position. Advanced Tutorial image/td>
Stress Estimation AutoCAD Imp
ACAD Metric
Rhino IMP
Rhino Metric
A basic introduction to stress estimation in a cone tent example. Covers membrane stress variations, cable loads and anchor loads. Advanced Tutorial image
Inflated Structures AutoCAD MPanel has a limited capability to handle inflated structures. This drawing illustrates that capability. Advanced Tutorial image
Design Checklist AutoCAD
When you have completed your design, you might want to go through these steps to help avoid any errors. This is also a useful reference page when you are having problems manipulating your designs with MPanel.
Using Links AutoCAD This drawing will explore using link models with MPanel.  Links can be Guys, that try to maintain their length, or cable links, that maintain fixed tension Advanced Tutorial image
Determining Pre-Stress AutoCAD Imp
ACAD Metric
This example takes a simple shape and shows how the fabric stress is affected by wind and snow loads. It provides an estimate of the required fabric pre-stress, and so provides the information needed to detect a suitable material. Advanced Tutorial image

Minor Updates

Version change log

Version 27 2023-04-05
Version 27.2 maintenance release:
Seam styles and compensation settings sometimes fail to save on Win11 machines - made more robust
Predefined layers weren't always specified correctly in AutoCAD - now fixed
Misreading of decimal values when the windows locale specified a comma as a decimal point - now fixed
Standard slits previously did not add 1st and last slit from panel edges - now included
Panels in AutoCAD did not always use specified colors - now fixed

Version 27.1 - panel grouping bug fix

Confirmed compatibility with AutoCAD 2024.
New Tube tool provides simple tube modeling, intersection functions and control over tube seam location
New panel modification tool, "Change panel edges" allows panel edges to be redefined
Merge panels now has an option to cope with different number of nodes on the panel edges
Split panel by edge lengths now retains both upper and lower panels.
New panel seam/hem option square bottom offset seam ideal for adding valances
New mesh split tool splits mesh into segments ideal for applications such as the new Tube tool
New combined cable and guy link for modeling cable nets.
Cable link tension definition changed to be more intuitive
Polyline conversion to radial lines (cartwheel) for FEA modelling
Button names optionally shown in toolbar for training along with "click here" notice on the title bar
Parametric site library image changed to isometric for improved clarity.
Invert panels option added to nesting plus a warning if nested panels are output with the output setting "invert panels" on.
Update License Agreement

Version 26 2022-03-30
Confirmed compatibility with AutoCAD 2023
Panel a complete mesh includes the choice to panel by "number of panels" or by a specified "fixed width"
Panel a complete mesh will now pick up mid connections when a 3D poly is added to identify any mid points
"Straighten joined edges" tool added to mesh relaxation
Panel from a set of color marked polys will automatically panel and number panels clockwise from a colour
Convert poly to points
Draw edge mesh now includes the option to auto calculate N/M Surf based on edge tolerance
Draw edge mesh based on intersecting curves
Version 25 2021-06-12
MPanel-Pro v25 summary of new features:

"Add Edge Mesh" tool updated to filter for edges so the CAD pick box ignores meshes or text.
"Make panel from single entity" converts a single closed entity (circle, polygon, spline blob) into an MPanel standard panel.
"Mirror mesh" takes some meshes (and 3dpolys and lines) and mirrors it while keeping the correct mesh orientation.
"Join meshes tool" now works when joining meshes with different mesh density.
Cross section tool now includes a new option called "Snap extra cross sections to points".
The Poly Conversion tool now includes a new tool called "colour mark duplicates" to mark duplicate polys for deletion.
Extended data has been substanitially updated and is now shown in property grid style.
Other improvements include more consistent mesh naming - all meshes are now named M1, M2, M3.
Users prompted to "panel across mesh" when panelling a mesh which has no left or right sides.

Version 24.0 2020-03-02
MPanel-Pro v24 summary of new features:

Build model

Advanced conic
now works on multiple circle-poly pairs, and joined meshes have same msurf

Poly float constraints
New poly constraint that defines the end of a cable for modelling calculations.

Corner plate and corner disk
cable lengths including corner cable corrections provided in physical info report.

Visualization tools

Hole in mesh
Hole in mesh for visualization

Panel seams and numbers
Plot model with main seams and panel numbers superimposed on model


Panel numbers
Panel Numbers shown in the MPanel text window are now the Panel ID numbers

Panel multiple meshes
Panel multiple meshes now arranges the panels in a defined order

Modify a panel

Cutout tool
Panel cutout tool added to Panel Modifications

Panel maniputlation

Seam Allowance
Added Panels marked on underside swaps lap-over/lap-under

Utility tools

Mesh to Poly
Added mesh diagonals to polylines

Convert Poly's
Added convert poly to lines


Corner Angle
corner angle in physical report in the info tool

Object order - Rhino only
Push old objects to back of view in Rhino

Version 23.0 2019-05-05
With this release we are dropping support for versions of MPanel that connect to AutoCAD prior to 2010.

The MPanel Icon and the button images are all changing.

The new features include:

Site Layout

Draw 3,4,5 and 6 sided frames (previously was only 3 and 4)
optionally can draw the poles as well as the frame
optionally can import example measurements

Parametric site library
will read a 3D stick drawing made with coloured lines
and produce a library file with parameters named after the line colours
the parameters can then be given friendly names
the library file can be drawn out (with changed parameters) as coloured polys.

Build model

Draw conic
optionally the bottom frame can now be a circular polyline

Poly float constraints
additional constraint to allow poles on a hypar to lean directly way from the pole top force during relaxation

Orient to XY
additional methods to
orient each mesh to be reasonably flay in XY, with the mesh warp direction preserved
as above and also space the meshes apart in XY so that they don't overlap


Panel complete mesh
now allows panelling of multiple meshes at once
and the panelling speed when there are detail points is improved

Arrange panels

converted to use new nesting engine
panel warp direction is now assumed to be along the panel mid line
the linear resolution is now specified as a percentage of the roll width
180 degree angular rotation can be suppressed

Modify a panel

can now split a panel by specified width,
from the left, right or a center panel

Version 22.1 2018-06-27
Panel a complete mesh using geodesics improved to cope with more geodesic movement.
Seaming using mirror seams on triangular panels improved
Seam allowance definition for panels that will be inverted improved.
File menu... Fix Rhino 5 entities will correct a problem with some entities being transparent when opened in Rhino 6
Setup file will work correctly if windows controlled folder access is enabled
Version 22.0 2018-04-17
Major upgrade to paneling tool
Automated Scripts
New Framed Shade Structure (Hip & Ridge) Library model builder
New split mesh tool
Compensation Data Base
Version 21.0 2017-05-01