Sep 13

The GRIDZ Are Coming… . AGAIN


Making It With Balloons Network logoTHE GRIDZ ARE COMING…  .  AGAIN!

With Economy, Efficiency And Multitude of Design Options For Balloon Decorations.
By Graham Rouse
Welcome to Making It With Balloons Network (MIWB.net).




“They bring new levels of economy and efficiency to balloon decor.  And, they cary licenses for new sets of technology that multiply their usefulness for buildiing balloon decorations.”


There have been only three modular grid systems designed and manufactured especially for balloon decorations and displays that have been widely marketed in the United States of America.  Now, two more are on the way and they both bear the label “GRIDZ”.

These “new guys on the block” carry on the tradition of 6” square aperture frameworks introduced by the Skistimas Design System (SDS).  They bring new levels of economy and efficiency to balloon decor.  And, they carry licenses for new sets of technology that multiply their usefulness for building balloon decorations.

The First Three Grids

(1)  Rouse Designer Panels  —  The first of the modular systems was introduced at the NABA (National Association of Balloon Artists) convention in 1988 by Graham Rouse. They were called Rouse Designer Panels. The panels were 22” by 30” and made of corrugated board. They had a regular array of 3/4” diameter holes spaced 2” on center. They were designed primarily for 5” balloons inflated to  2″ or 4” in diameter. Each hole had four slits radiating out from the center.  A balloon would be set on a hole with the neck of the balloon pulled through the hole.  The neck would then be stretched to an adjacent hole where the neck would be pulled up through the hole and pinched into one of the slits. This arrangement kept the balloons standing upright in a regular pattern.  One panel would be connected to the next panel with cable ties.

(2)  Skistimas Design System  –  Jim Skistimas and Pioneer Balloon Company introduced the Skistmas Design System in the early 1990’s. The basic SDS panel had two layers of wire grids that were about 1.5” apart. Each layer was 2’ by 4’ and had 32 openings that were 6” by 6” squares. Balloons were squeezed, individually into the square openings. They were designed primarily for 11” balloon inflated to 7.5” in diameter. One panel was designed to connect to the next panel with special plastic clips.

(3)  Rouse Matrix Systems  —  The Rouse Matrix Systems were introduced at the International Balloon Arts Convention in Chicago a year or two after SDS. These originals of RMS panels were made with corrugated plastic sheets with rows of overlapping slits.  This pattern of slits allowed the plastic sheets to be stretched open into an array of hexagon shaped openings (a honeycomb pattern) to hold balloons.  Balloons were generally tied in pairs and balloons rolled into adjacent openings. This system came in a variety of configurations, but the two most popular forms held 11’ balloons inflated to 8” in diameter or the second held 5” balloons inflated to 4” in diameter. This early version of RMS used cable ties to connect one panel to the next.

The new, fourth generation of the Rouse Matrix Systems has about 140 different configurations, but the two modular panels for 11” and 5” balloons are still the most popular. Now, however,  the RMS panels are made with thin 10-15 mil, natural clear, recyclable plastic (about 1/16 the thickness of the originals), have built in connectors to join them and have an adhesive wax coating to help hold balloons in place.

New Grids Are Alike

The two GRIDZ new comers to the USA market have a number of characteristics in common:

  • Both are made of plastic.
  • Both feature 6” square openings for balloons.
  • Both are lighter than previous square grids.
  • Both are more compact than previous square grids.
  • Both cost less than previous square grids.
  • Both may be used alone.
  • Both may be used with the other.
  • Both may be use with SDS panels.
  • Both come with licenses and instructions to make use of the latest Rouse Technologies for building balloon displays.
  • Both come with free access to special internet based resources for registered Gridz owners.
  • Both come with free access to special discounts on related products and services for registered Gridz owners.

New Grids Are Distinct

(A)  Deco GRIDZ  —  The more rigid of the two new Gridz is called Decorator GRIDZ or just Deco GRIDZ for short. These new Balloon Decorator GRIDZ will not support the huge weights possible with its double layer, steel, wire frame predecessor. If you want to support heavy light fixtures, sound equipment etc. with your balloon framework then you will do well to stick to the heavy metal frame in those sections of your displays.

In other areas, where you want basically the same size and look at a lower cost, with less weight to carry around and less storage space taken up when not on display; then Deco GRIDZ are an obvious alternative or add on to your existing inventory.  At about ½ the initial price, ¼ the storage space and 1/8 the weight; Deco GRIDZ is more than competitive even though it will not likely hold up for as many decades down the road.

(B)  Soft GRIDZ  —  The more flexible of the two new GRIDZ  is called Decorator Soft Gridz or just Deco Soft GRIDZ or even Soft Gridz for short. These Expand-And-Load, square children of Rouse Matrix Systems are thin plastic sheets with patterns of slits that allow them to be opened into 6” square grids that match up with SDS and with Deco GRIDZ.  They will support only as much weight at the inflated balloons will support.  The plastic from which they are made is recyclable HDPE.  It can last for generations, but at only 10 mils to 15 mils thickness it will not remain useable as long as the thicker Deco GRIDZ.

At about 1/8 the price, 1/875 the storage space and 1/54 the weight of the predecessor metal squares;  Soft Gridz is an exceptionally cost effective add-on and alternative to both SDS and Deco GRIDZ.

Details On Deco GRIDZ

Deco GRIDZ come in 12” by 12” by about 4/10” thick panels that snap together to form larger displays. Each panel is divided into four 5 ¾” square openings.  The inside corners of the opening have been rounded off to add strength.

The “natural clear” plastic (milky white and translucent) is stiff but can be bent and twisted somewhat by hand.  The Deco GRIDZ square does automatically spring back into shape if you bend it.

There are eight, short, “C” shaped protrusions on each of two adjacent sides of the  Deco GRIDZ squares.  These miniature claws snap around the smooth sides of adjacent panels. Just align the edges and squeeze them together. Tender hands may find this a little uncomfortable.  As with tying balloons, however, good technique and a little practice makes this disappear an issue.

The snaps generally hold well. The corner connections do seem a little more susceptible to unlocking if the sheet of panels is handled roughly.  I understand that special connectors are in the works to join the Deco GRIDZ to other systems and to support apparatus.  For now cable ties (Zip ties, electrical ties) or hook and loop (Velcro) strips wrapped around adjacent apparatuses will do nicely.

The lighter weight and softer material of the Deco GRIDZ compared to the steel mean that less heavy hardware is required for installation.  Also, there is less potential risk and liability should a display fall over.

Details on Soft GRIDZ

With both SDS and Deco GRIDZ the framework is rigid enough to hold the grid squares open all the time.  This is convenient for loading balloons.  That loading convenience comes at a price of dollars, inconvenience of storage space and weight to move around. With Soft GRIDZ you make the trade off to stretch open the framework and usually clamp it to a table for the initial row or two of loading balloons.  After that, subsequent rows of apertures are usually open enough and stable enough to load balloons easily without the extra hardware.

As with its RMS honeycomb relatives Soft GRIDZ is most often made with thin 10-15 mil, natural clear, recyclable plastic;  and  it has an adhesive wax coating to help hold balloons in place.

One of the big differences between Soft GRIDZ and its square relatives is its flexibility.  Soft GRIDZ may be easily bent into curves for arches, tunnels, cylinders and other curved forms.  This makes Soft GRIDZ an excellent add-on to rigid walls and panels.

Another valuable set of characteristics of the Soft GRIDZ is the exceptionally light weight and soft materials.  Designs made to be hung high in the air are much easier to rig.  The strain on rigging is much less.  And, in the unlikely event that rigging fails, there is much less risk of harm to people or objects below.

Initially, Soft GRIDZ will come in panels that open to 2’ by 4’ just like the original SDS panels and also in 4′ by 4′ panels. Other configurations of 4’ by 6’ and special shapes like arcs, hearts, American flags patterns, circles etc. are scheduled to follow.  In the future we also expect to see Soft GRIDZ with smaller and larger sized openings to serve the diverse balloon graphics and balloon sculpture needs of the balloon industry.

More To Come

LET ME SEE IT!  I know that if your are interested at all, you want to see these new things.  That is coming next along with an introduction to the powerful technologies that are licensed for GRIDZ owners to use with their new square grids. Do check back or simply join the “Friend Connect” near the top of the left column to stay up to date.

If you can make it to Detroit September 20-22, 2011 do attend one of the Rouse Squared classes at the BALLOONstitute Convention to learn more and to try out the new Deco GRIDZ and Soft GRIDZ for yourself.


Thanks for reading/listening. I am

Graham Rouse
Making It With Balloons Network
At http://miwb.net Your Resource Center For
“Making Things, Making Success & Making A Difference With Balloons”™.
© Graham Rouse 2011



1 ping



  2. admin


    You may order GRIZ online at the GRIDZ Store in Ballooniverse Mall.

    That is http://bvsmall.com/gridzstore .

    The GRIDZ are shipped from the United States. The GRIDZ Soft Pack versions cost significantly less per square foot of display than the stiff plastic version and are considerably more compact and easier to ship.

    You will save even more if you take the time to register as a balloon reseller/professional before you order. Select “Register” in the navigation bar across the top of the page.

    And, do send us pictures of your GRIDZ projects.

    Graham Rouse

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