Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Vacuum Controls

Vacuum chucks and holding devices have been used in many industries for a variety of purposes, from lifting packages to holding items for machining. With the introduction of CNC routing machine-tools for mass production (of wood furniture, plastics and other non-magnetic materials), there was a need to clamp-down large work pieces on the flat router tables. Mechanical clamping was not an option as it caused damage to the work pieces and didn’t satisfy the need to quickly place items on the table and clamp instantly.
ADA Möbelfabrik, headquartered in Anger, Austria, is one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of furniture. Upholstered furniture, beds, mattresses and slatted frames are produced for the Austrian market and for many other European countries in two shifts, using modern manufacturing techniques. The vacuum supply required for securing items to the CNC machining centers is provided via a central vacuum plant produced by Busch. By opting for this vacuum system, ADA has integrated an extremely economical and reliable vacuum supply into the production process.
Multiple vacuum pumps can be running mostly “dead-headed” in the many production systems that don’t require constant flow.  Any system that evacuates a small volume and then holds a product down while it is being machined, or sucks a bag shut to seal will spend the majority of its time not moving much mass of air.  This type of operation is found everywhere in secondary wood processing, machining, food packaging, and many other industries.  Anywhere vacuum is used as a motive force or to evacuate a small volume repeatedly.  This article will apply to any of these types of systems- and not apply to constant-flow vacuum applications in the process industries.
Industrial vacuum systems are a challenge to optimize. They have more distribution system variables to balance than a compressed air system does. Vacuum systems conveying particulate are sensitive to velocity. If the velocity is too high, pressure drop results. If it’s too low, particulate doesn’t stay in suspension, and there can be compliance and safety problems. For instance, when conveying wood or other explosive dust, dropping below “critical” velocity allows dust to accumulate in the bottom of the duct, creating an explosive hazard. Entire plants have burned to the ground, and lives have been lost due to these types of incidents. According to OSHA1, wood is not the only explosive material in dust form.