What many people may not know about the early development of the geocell cellular confinement system is that the material wasn’t always black.
In fact, early testing of a “grid confinement” system included wax-coated craft paper; a plastic drainage pipe matrix fastened with staples; paper-thin, hexagon-shaped, glued-aluminum; low- and medium-density recycled materials; pure polyethylene without UV stabilization; and square cells similar to old-fashioned egg carton separators.
In the late 1970s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contacted Presto Products Co., a plastics manufacturer, for assistance in developing a stronger grid confinement system that would maintain strength under heavy vehicle loads.
Working with Steve Webster at the Waterways Experiment Station (WES), Presto’s Gary Bach devised a method to weld polyethylene strips to form a cellular structure that became known as “Sandgrid” and was used by the military primarily for road applications.
After testing various blends of resin, high-density virgin worked best for weld consistency and structural strength. Since early development with the Corps of Engineers, geocells have been further improved for many other soil-stabilization applications, including the rapid construction of fortified walls in the U.S.’s Mideast combat zones, starting with Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.