Zodiac raises the bar for lightweight ULDs

With the lightest unit load device (ULD) available on the market, Zodiac Aerospace is confident of building its order book as airlines around the world adopt strict diets in a bid to shave kilos and rein in burgeoning fuel bills. By Donald Urquhart.

Zodiac raises the bar for lightweight ULDs

The Herculight S Container delivers a major weight reduction – at 55kg that’s 10 kg less than other current designs in the market – with the same durability as their predecessors.

The sales pitch is compelling: With a typical load in a B777-300 of eight PMC pallets and 20 AKE containers, an airline is able to save 350-450kg per trip by replacing their current ULD’s with Herculights.

Key to its slimmed down stature is not so much radical redesign of the overall structure or through the use of expensive materials. Rather it was achieved through an innovative ‘smart’ redesign of key structures of the ULD, such as the aluminum corner pieces, base and extrusions combined with composite panels, according to Bart van Berkel, VP sales catering & cargo equipment at Zodiac.

“We put a lot of pressure on our engineering team,” van Berkel says with a laugh. “It’s not just sheering off of aluminum, but actually a redesign while maintaining the durability of light metals. We believe with the new, smarter design we have been able to develop units that are equal in durability to the previous generation while having the advantage of being lightweight.

“From our point of view, ‘lightweight vs durability vs reparability’ – that is ‘the’ discussion that is going on within the industry right now, so in our design philosophy we do not focus on one aspect alone, we try to make the best mix.