Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Vacuum Controls

In the world of semiconductor manufacturing, it’s an understatement to say peak productivity and uptime are top priorities. It’s why a leading semiconductor equipment manufacturer in Silicon Valley, California, relies on EnergAir’s Metacentre and Airmaster modular control technology to automate the vacuum system at its plant – and in turn – significantly minimize the risks of unplanned downtime, while also ensuring peak operational efficiencies.
Industrial vacuum can be defined as vacuum used to perform a task in industrial processes, operating anywhere from atmospheric pressure to 1 torr. Traditionally, the most common technologies included liquid ring and rotary vane vacuum pumps. But as with any industry, there was room for improvement... otherwise, we’d still be driving Model A Fords and talking on corded telephones. Luckily in recent years, the industrial vacuum market has started making significant advancements in technology and efficiency.
Meat packaging plants have long used vacuum pumps as a way to remove air and reduce the amount of oxygen in their products’ plastic packaging. Vacuum packaging extends the meat’s shelf life while protecting its flavor and exposure to outside elements, such as freezer burn and bacteria.
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.
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.
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.
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.