The Marmalade is almost ready for drive time

Inventor John Pawloski at work on a Marmalade Drive.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A modest grant from the Workforce Development Institute could help a longtime Long Island innovator hit the big time with an ultra-efficient drive system.

Named by inventor John Pawloski’s young daughters, the Marmalade Drive is “very efficient and wickedly simple,” according to the inventor, a vice president at family-owned Jewelers Machinists Co. in North Babylon.

Already tested successfully in commercial HVAC units and about to be installed for the first time in a golf cart, the traction drive – a small electric motor that economically rolls power from one point to another – is “definitely unique and soon to be very big in the marketplace,” Pawloski predicted.

It’s not only the science that instills such confidence. Pawloski – the great-grandson of Robert Smith, who patented the polarization process upon which Edwin Land cofounded Polaroid – knew his newfangled transmission would work the moment he had his first midnight vision.

“I have one of those weird brains where I hallucinate a lot about mechanical things,” he noted.

Instead, Pawloski’s bravado comes from that relatively small WDI grant – just $9,200, which is enough to cover software and training that will allow Jewelers Machinists and a collection of Long Island-based industry partners to begin large-scale production of the Marmalade Drive. The golf cart being tested at the North Babylon proving grounds may be the first of many outfitted with Pawloski’s quietly efficient transmission.

“I’m really excited about the software,” he said.

jewerls-deviceThe Computer-Aided Design programs will allow Jewelers Machinists to use its existing precision thread grinders – machines that slice grooves into parts, such as screws – to more efficiently grind bearing races, the the tracks ball bearings follow. According to Pawloski, this will facilitate “dramatically” quicker production of the Marmalade units.

With the software re-tasking their thread grinders, and in conjunction with other mom-and-pop machine shops around Long Island that will produce various Marmalade Drive components, Jewelers Machinists expects to be able to manufacture upwards of 200 units per month.

The company could have announced commercial availability of the traction drive before now, but anticipating healthy demand, Pawloski & Co. wanted to be ready to deliver.

“You don’t want to have a great product and only be able to make one every two months,” he said. “You want to make sure your foundation is very strong before you move ahead.”

The proposed supply-chain scenario involving other Long Island businesses was a key factor in the WDI’s decision to grant Jewelers Machinists the money it requested, according to Rosalie Drago, reginal director of the institute’s Long Island office in Huntington.

“We invest in projects that help expand the skill of the local workforce while simultaneously expanding the capabilities of our local businesses,” Drago told Innovate LI. “Jewelers Machinists is a terrific example of this on several fronts.”

Among them: The Marmalade Drive project focuses on two sectors near and dear to the WDI’s mission – manufacturing and energy – and has already created jobs for regional collegians, including Stony Brook University students who have performed engineering work on the project as interns and part-time employees.

According to Pawloski, two of those student engineers will become full-time Jewelers employees upon graduation – precisely the kind of industry/education partnership needed to “develop a pipeline of work-ready talent for our region,” Drago noted.

“We want to support people who are committed to staying the growing here … and helping others in the industry thrive along with them,” she added.

Jewelers Machinists has actually been thriving for some time. Launched by Pawloski’s grandfather in Brooklyn in 1947, the company originally crafted parts for jewelry-making machines and later ventured into lathe and milling work. Eventually, thread-grinding became its No. 1 vertical, and Jewelers carved a niche in the aerospace industry, among others.

Now it’s on the precipice of a brand-new niche – a major energy-efficiency breakthrough that could become the standard-bearer in heat pumps, HVAC units and other traditional engine drives.

“The sky’s the limit when it comes to applications,” noted Pawloski, who envisioned the Marmalade Drive roughly nine years ago, built the first prototype at 2 a.m. and has since earned four U.S patents covering design and potential applications.

“The patents cover just about everything,” he said. “We’re very protected.”

And very optimistic – not only about that machine-shop-supply-chain, which Pawloski said could rev up as early as this summer, but in the Marmalade Drive’s commercialization potential.

HVAC tests involving two Long Island factories and a Manhattan office building were extremely promising – “they saved a good amount of kilowatts compared to belt-style transmissions,” Pawloski noted – and Jewelers Machinists engineers are expecting similar success with their golf cart tests, opening the device to a range of powered vehicles.

None of it would be possible, according to the inventor, without the assistance of the WDI and Stony Brook University, which has not only provided engineers but loads of solid guidance through its Sensor CAT and Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology programs, which have both been “tremendous helps,” Pawloski noted.

“Stony Brook University has been a great sounding board, giving us excellent advice on developing and commercializing [the Marmalade Drive],” he said.

As for funding, the WDI stipend and a small Empire State Development grant are the only government money thus far dedicated to the traction drive’s development, and there has been no private investment as yet. But as production picks up steam, Jewelers Machinists may apply for larger grants and even seek private capital – it all depends on how the device is received by it various potential markets.

“For certain sectors, like the golf carts and HVAC units, the quantities could be astronomically huge,” Pawloski said. “It could be a case where a couple of million bucks will speed us right up.

“It’s definitely one of those things you have to play by ear,” he added. “But we’re very confident that by this summer, things will be percolating real good.”