Commercialization Opportunity: Variable Displacement Linkage Pump

The Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) has sponsored more than 240 pre-competitive fluid power research projects in its 10-year history. Some prove to be promising candidates for commercialization by an engaged industry partner. The CCEFP’s Industry Engagement Committee recently reviewed the current projects and identify some that meet that test. Here’s one:


Commercialization Opportunity: Variable Displacement Linkage PumpVariable Displacement Linkage Pump

Project Description: This novel pump design uses an adjustable linkage to vary piston displacement, resulting in very high efficiency across a broad (10%-100%) displacement operating range.  To date, three generations of prototypes of an inline architecture and one radial architecture have been designed and tested.

Value Proposition: The pump is highly efficient across a wide range of displacement, pressure, and speed due to rolling element bearings, no piston side-load, constant top dead center (TDC), and no port plate.  The pumping fluid is separated from the lubricating fluid, allowing operation with water or corrosive fluids.  The torque/pressure ripple can be directly controlled through the kinematics, creating less ripple with five pistons than existing 11 piston pump designs.

Research student profile: CCEFP PhD graduate student Shawn Wilhelm is co-inventor of this novel variable linkage pump technology (protected by three patents). He has been working on the linkage pump for the past five years, completing his PhD in June 2015.  During his graduate studies, Shawn demonstrated a strong entrepreneurial mindset through taking classes (like New Product Design and Business Development and STARTUP: Customer Development and Training), actively engaging and networking through the UMN Venture Center, and holding weekly meetings with individuals from the UMN Office of Technology Commercialization to guide the development of a start-up company.  Dr. Wilhelm turned down employment opportunities at major fluid power companies to pursue his dream of commercializing this pump.  He is currently a Post-Doc, supported by an NSF PFI:AIR sponsored research grant to design the pump for a racing application.

Sources of support: Shawn is actively seeking and obtaining support for research and commercialization.  The lineage of support to date includes NSF EFRI award, NSF PFI:AIR-TT award, MnDRIVE commercialization award, and sponsored research from a racing team.  Dr. Wilhelm has been a significant contributor to writing the proposals for three of these four grants.  The funding opportunities currently being explored include: 1) NSF GOALI supplement – April 2016, 2) NSF SBIR – June 2016, and 3) phase 2 support from current racing team sponsor.  He is continuously exploring other funding opportunities and welcomes advice or partnerships with CCEFP member companies.


This opportunity is available to all companies in the fluid power industry. For more information, contact Mike Gust at 612-624-4956 or

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