TED Conversations

Mark Ballantine

CEO, Founder & CEO, Mantisgrip

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Balloon Forming: Creating permanent structures of any shape, everywhere

With netting, sheets of fabric, and simple sewing techniques anyone can create form-work for concrete, grout, sand and microbes structures.

Imagine tubes of fabric, netting sewn within as reinforcement for both the concrete and the form-work. Tubes connected to other tubes by netting to temporarily hold the desired structure. These tubes, in all shapes and sizes pumped or filled with fibrous concrete similar to inflating a balloon animal with air.

These structures are light weight, stay-in-place forms, that can be dropped (prefabricated) into any area, inflated with air to unfold the form-work for layout. Then strategically filled with concrete. A new solid structure, ready for use by the next day.

Applying higher order fibers and high tech fabrics can add engineered, calculable strengths where needed. Specialized self-consolidating concrete, ceramic, and clay blends can enhance the properties of these structures.


This idea was a spin-off of my space structures designs using robotic seamstress' and pre-impregnated fabrics for use in near earth orbit and on the lunar surface. The layered the fabrics are assembled or inflated in the shadow of the earth, then moved into the solar light for the "special sauce" in the impregnated fabrics to liquefy and commingle. Return the structure back into the shadow to cure as necessary. Chemical magic happens and a solid shell is born, ready to occupy.

The situation here on earth seems more pressing and in need of my work.
I believe that open-sourcing my idea and offering assistance in the design and construction of these structures better serves humanity in the global housing crisis. Therefore, here it is free of patent protection for all to use.

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    Oct 2 2012: There is a TED talk presented by a female artist who has done something extremely similar, though not involving concrete. She has done commissions all over the world.

    I regret I do not know her name, but if you look at tags related to art or creativity, I am confident you will find it.

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