Zulu Pods: The World’s First Decentralized Lubrication System
Daniella Sladen, Rob Sladen, Todd Currier
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Effective lubrication is essential to any mechanical system. For example, it is responsible for providing a continuous flow of oil to the engine of the aircraft. As aircrafts have evolved, so have lubricant systems. Now, Zulu Pods, a Florida-based aerospace startup has developed the Zulu Pod, a self-contained, sealed, oil tank and pump that can be installed into existing low-cost expendable jet engines. The technology promises to revolutionize lubrication systems designed for single-use engines like those found in drones and missiles.
Zulu Pod is a decentralized lubrication system that combines the function of a reservoir, pump, and nozzle into a single, self-contained, hermetically sealed, packaged oil delivery system. It is lighter, placed right in the working zone of the engine bearing or gear compartment, and meters the exact amount of lubrication for optimal performance.
“Both my husband and I have a background in aerospace engineering, we spent most of our careers in the world of jet engines. We saw an opportunity in the small engine market, where the lubrication system was overdesigned, and not optimized for its mission,” said Daniella Sladen, Co-Founder and CTO. “On a long car ride, with our kids sleeping in the back, we came up with the idea of a pod-like lubrication system for one-time use engines. We started this company because we lived the pain points of this problem and saw the gap to radically simplify engine architecture,” she added.
The system can be used for primary lubrication for limited life engines or backup lubrication during a loss of lubrication event. The pods present a new, revolutionary approach to limited life engine design. Conventional lubrication systems can be the bottleneck in your limited-life engine performance. Traditional oil and fuel/lube delivery systems used in limited life engines incorporate a bulky, centralized assembly with multiple sourced components leading to increased weight, supply chain complexity, and excess engine design modifications.
“As a startup born in 2020, we experienced supply chain issues like many companies. We quickly realized that if we wanted to get products made at the fast pace we were targeting, we couldn’t rely on the supply chain and needed to bring production in house. The supply chain issue catapulted our vertical integration and has allowed us to iterate on our design with the speed required of startups,” said Sladen.
The system safeguards human life and critical assets during a loss of lubrication event with the Zulu Pod emergency lubrication system. The patented self-contained oil delivery system generates its own pressure supply independent of a pump — capable of being strategically placed in and around mechanical systems to provide the optimal amount of lubrication during a loss of lubrication event.
Zulu Pods are self-energized and utilize metering technology to deliver precise amounts of fluid to a working zone. The pods are amorphous and insensitive to attitude so regardless of the conditions, the fluid still flows at the prescribed rate, challenging the conventional design approach of limited life engines by re-imagining lubrication delivery, thus allowing for radical simplifications in engine architecture.
There are several well-defined markets for this lubrication system. Within the aerospace and defense markets, Zulu Pods is engaged with Department of Defense entities (U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force) and several major engine manufacturing OEMs.
“These contracts focus on two core applications: primary lubrication on UAV/missile systems and emergency, back-up lubrication for rotary wing platforms,” said Sladen. “Future applications include system health monitoring and automated maintenance for autonomous ground vehicles, and loss of lubrication for offshore wind turbines,” she added.
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- AUTOMOTIVE & TRANSPORTATION
- ROBOTICS & AUTOMATION
- MANUFACTURING & MATERIALS
- SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY