Vacuum pumps find steady employment in woodworking, creating the suction that holds workpieces in place; drawing air through the spoilboard on a nested CNC bed; used in pressing and veneering to remove the air molecules from a closed vacuum bag.

Vacuum pumps are basically air compressors run backwards — with the inlet attached to a machine you want to apply vacuum to and the outlet open to the air.

Peerless Engineering, which makes Reitschle compressors seen on many wood machining centers, notes that in industrial uses, and at scales that affect entire machining plants or other large-scale operations — the machines differ in small ways that enhance the efficiency of one operation over the other.

And only very specifically-made machines should be used as both a vacuum generator and a compressor at the same time; the doubled load will run any machine not carefully built to withstand it.

There are three things you need to know about a vacuum pump: the strength of the vacuum it can produce, the rate at which it moves air, and the amount and quality of electricity it takes to use.

Vacuum Strength

Vacuum strength is measured in absolute pressure (mmHg), where the smaller the number, the power powerful the vacuum. Standard atmospheric pressure is 760 mmHg at sea level, so anything less than that is a form of vacuum. Most large pumps are rated once, for continuous-duty use. Small pumps, which can have problems with overheating at high loads, usually have a continuous-duty rating and an intermittent-duty rating showing how much it can produce for short times before it needs a break.

Flow Rate

Vacuum pumps are flow rated according to how quickly they can move air when both sides of the pump are at equal pressure (i.e. open to the air.) Of course, as the vacuum on one side of the pump increases, air flow decreases. Manufacturers can provide the curves that show what the flow rates should be as the vacuum increases.

Power Requirements

Vacuum pumps use relatively little power compared to air compressors. The aforementioned pressure-flow curves should also include the amount of drive power required as the vacuum levels change (and thus allow you to derive efficiency rates by dividing power needed by air moved at each point along the curve.)

Vacuum pumps will have a strong showing at IWF 2016, with energy consumption and low noise output at the forefront of new features.

Among manufacturers showing vacuum pumps:

The new Busch Mink MV Claw Vacuum Pumps offer lower energy consumption, more compact dimensions and quieter operation over their predecessors. Specifically design for woodworking applications, Mink Claw pumps offer high pumping speed, constant vacuum, and completely oil-free compression. Busch says they are also ideal for use as individual vacuum modules in centralized systems supplying vacuum to several systems located throughout a production facility. Mink MV claw vacuum pumps can be frequency controlled to match immediate performance requirements, even under changing process conditions. This makes it possible to precisely maintain a predefined pumping speed and provide constant vacuum at a specified level. This demand-driven control enables the vacuum system to achieve additional energy savings. See Busch at booth #8069.
Kaeser's rotary screw vacuum pump packages can achieve up to 99 percent vacuum, says the company. They feature an energy-saving Sigma Profile airend specifically designed for vacuum applications such as dust collection, packaging, bottle and tube filling, drying, degassing and filtration. Kaeser vacuum packages also feature a TEFC, high-efficiency motor, a PC-based Sigma Control system, and soundproofing and vibration isolation mounts. See Kaeser at booth #5552.
Ingersoll Rand vacuum pumps are engineered for compactness, economy and dependability. They feature cast iron construction, protection from low level oil, and cylinders with 360-degree cooling. See Ingersoll Rand at booth #7290.
Becker's VTLF rotary vane vacuum pumps
Becker Pumps  offers a large range of router table pumps from 1 to 25 horsepower and multi-pump systems up to 75 horsepower. Its oil–free vacuum pumps offer very low maintenance and extremely high reliability. When routine maintenance is required, only a few tools, removing a few bolts, and an hour of labor is all that’s needed, says Becker. The company is exhibiting in Booth 5455 at  IWF.

Becker has designed a full line of central vacuum systems, called the Advantage-W, which are specifically designed to meet the needs of CNC routers.  These systems are designed for spoil board applications, faster cutting speeds, and shorter changeover due to its flexibility.  The Advantage-W systems can be operated incrementally to match  production demand, so operators run only the necessary pumps, saving energy and reducing operating costs.

Advantage-W systems are available in 4 Duplex and 2 Triplex models in a space-saving vertical arrangement, which also gives easy access to any part of the pump. Each pump in the system includes its own built-in inlet filter, and each pump is connected to an integral manifold that eliminates unsightly piping arrangements and minimizes losses due to piping leaks. In addition, Becker includes, as standard equipment, a central inlet filter for primary filtration.
Dekker Vacuum Technologies, in Booth 4054, has a rnage of vacuum pumps featuring its patented technology. The Vmax and VmaxLT systems. "The main advantage of our Vmaxsystem is that the use of water – and thecorrosion and waste associated with it – has beencompletely eliminated," says the company. Its patented DX-5 and DX-7 air/oil separator virtually eliminatesoil carry-over concerns and ensures the cleanest environment.

At the heart of the Vmax systems is the Titan Series high-efficiency single-stage liquid ring vacuum pump manufactured to ISO9001 quality control standards. By using DEKKER’s specially formulated low vapor pressure sealing fluid Vmaxol, the system can operate for 10,000 hours or more without an oil change. Another benefit is that the life of the pump increases dramatically. Many systems that have been in operation for more than 15 years still have the original pump installed and are working without a major overhaul.