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The History of Geocells

Geocell technology has come a long way over the past four decades. In its early days of development, the geocellular soil confinement system consisted of 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.

The Invention of Modern Geocell Technology

In the late 1970s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) contacted Presto Products Company—a private-label consumer packaging manufacturer—to develop a more robust honeycomb-shaped confinement system that would maintain load-bearing 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. This innovative system became known as Sandgrid and was used by the military primarily for road applications.

After the development of Sandgrid, Presto Products created a new business unit to focus solely on the geosynthetics business. With this expansion, Presto Geosystems® was established.

Presto Geosystems and the USACE tested various resin blends and concluded that virgin high-density polyethylene (HDPE) provided superior weld consistency and structural strength. Presto Geosystems introduced the GEOWEB® Cellular Confinement System (CCS) to the geosynthetics market in the early 1980s.

In the years following the initial testing, the geocell technology continued to advance, paving the way for the use of geocells in new civil and military applications. In addition to a load-support solution, the GEOWEB system provided soil stabilization for the rapid construction of fortified walls in the United States’ Middle Eastern combat zones, starting with Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

The GEOWEB System’s Big-Screen Debut

The GEOWEB system made its Hollywood debut in the 1994 sci-fi action-adventure movie, Stargate. To serve as the desert landscape in the film, filmmakers chose the barren setting surrounding Yuma, Arizona. However, very loose sands at the film location made transportation around the site virtually impossible. Crews used the GEOWEB system to create an “instant road,” using on-site sand as the infill, that allowed vehicles and heavy equipment to move around the desert with no rutting or loss of traction.

Director Roland Emmerich stated, “We never would have been able to move around the desert without [GEOWEB].”

Fast-Forward to Today’s GEOWEB Geocells

The GEOWEB system did not let fame go to its head, but these early applications and projects did help cement its stardom in the world of geosynthetics. Since its introduction in the 1980s, the GEOWEB Soil Stabilization System has been used on every continent and on thousands of load support, slope stabilization, channel protection, and retaining wall projects.

Presto Geosystems is a leader in the stormwater and site development industry with eco-friendly, custom-tailored solutions to meet the most demanding soil and water problems. We have been manufacturing high-quality, innovative products for over forty years. Our proven solutions are designed to handle unique challenges, lower project costs, and reduce construction time with minimal environmental impact. Our products are backed by accredited research, internationally recognized testing, and quality processes, ensuring high-performing and long-lasting solutions.

We are committed to the complete project cycle. We invest with partner engineers, contractors, and owners to solve their site challenges. Our value starts with design assistance, and we stay with you through project completion.

Our Mission is to Give the World a Strong Foundation to Build On.

With the commercialization of geocell soil confinement technology in the early 1980s, Presto Geosystems made history as one of the early pioneers in the world of geosynthetics. Four decades later, that innovative spirit is as alive today as it was at the beginning of our journey. Our products have been used on every continent and on thousands of projects to improve infrastructure reliability and environmental quality for communities around the world. We believe in the human spirit of innovation, and we believe that reliable infrastructure and environmental quality are foundational to the prosperity and well-being of the world’s communities.

Design Support & Resources for GEOWEB Applications

The engineering team at Presto Geosystems works closely with civil engineers, offering free project evaluation services and on-site support. Our recommendations will deliver a structurally sound, cost-effective solution based on four decades of accredited research and testing data.