From the furniture in your kitchen to the doors in your home, the wooden products made by computer numerical control (CNC) are found everywhere — and they're impossible to craft without vacuum solutions. Used for both moving workpieces and clamping them down, vacuum solutions keep softer materials like wood stable and in place when physical clamps would damage the piece.
As essential as these systems are to the CNC woodworking industry, there are several variations and design factors to consider before choosing one that fits your application. Workplace environment and number of CNC tables can determine which type of system you choose. Here we'll look at which vacuum pumps and systems for woodworking are available, and the benefits that an Atlas Copco vacuum solutions bring to the table.
Vacuum pumps in woodworking
Whether it's a cabinet, furniture item, collectible or door, wooden items are frequently made by CNC routing, where workpieces called stocks are secured to a table and automatically machined. CNC routing brings many benefits to industries involved in woodworking, like:
However, for all of their benefits, CNC routing has an important requirement for woodworking: the stock must be fastened securely — and gently.
Unlike harder materials like metals, holding a wooden stock in place with a clamp could damage the wood, forcing designers to use sacrificial material that will be removed at the end of the machining process. This means greater material loss, and more waste.
To avoid this, vacuum pumps are used to apply enough negative pressure that the stock is held firmly in place. They are secured by suction cups that do not damage the wood, which can be used to move the piece as needed. Without vacuum pumps, woodworking with CNC would be much less efficient — if not impossible.
What's needed in a vacuum pump: traits and trends
Vacuum pumps are sophisticated yet elegantly designed machines, and there are a number of design factors to consider when choosing one for your application. For example, smaller tables may only need a pump with a volumetric flowrate of 200–300 m3/hr, while pumps that operate multiple tables through centralization may possess a flowrate of 800–900 m3/hr. The size of the workpiece is another important variable, as larger work pieces would require larger suction cups to hold them.
As the vacuum pump industry evolves, several traits are emerging that are giving businesses a boost. Manufacturers must take every step possible to improve their production, and these trends in vacuum pumps and systems for woodworking are helping them do it:
Some vacuum pumps employ a fixed speed drive (FSD), but this kind can cause variations in suction as cracks or leaks develop. This can result in loose connections and a displaced or damaged stock, so variable speed drives (VSD) are being implemented to adjust their flowrates and compensate for lack of suction as machining ensues.
Material and electricity costs both erode the bottom line, and more efficient VSD pumps can help companies save on both.
· Noise reduction
Manufacturing floors often have a very high noise level due to all the operating equipment. Modern vacuum pumps are quieter, and can lessen noise pollution.
· Smart controls
As Industry 4.0 emerges, manufacturing processes will become more automated and connected. Vacuum pumps must be able to keep pace with a changing manufacturing world, and should communicate with the systems around them.
Atlas Copco has noticed these trends, and has developed a series of GHS VSD+ oil sealed rotary screw vacuum pumps to help meet these growing needs. Offered with an array of sizes, flowrates, lubricant options, and other design considerations in mind, our VSD+ vacuum pumps help woodworkers build their products with the efficiency, consistency, and comfort they need. And with our HEX@TM smart controllers, even legacy units can be turned into intelligent vacuum systems that can be monitored from any device.
Types of Vacuum Pumps
There are many different types of vacuum pumps, and they are used in a wide variety of applications. Atlas Copco offers a host of vacuum pump options that's as diverse as the industries we serve.
While many different pumps exist, they can be grouped into two categories: point-of-use and centralized. While they operate similarly, there are several design parameters that should be considered before choosing one for your facility. Some of them are:
Point-of-use vacuum pumps are small, as they are only used to operate one or two CNC tables at a time. Centralized vacuum pumps are larger, and can operate many more at once.
Because of their size, point-of-use pumps are usually placed directly under or very near the CNC table, while the larger centralized pumps are located farther away.
· Heat and noise
The closer proximity of point-of-use pumps means that more heat and noise will be added to the environment, which can negatively impact the factory floor. Centralized pumps can be placed elsewhere.
The differences in size and location also mean that maintenance and repairs for point-of-use pumps can be more cumbersome, and can interfere with the tables as well. The result can be longer downtime, which translates into lost productivity and profit. Because of that, we find that while point-of-use pumps can be a better choice for smaller operations with only a few CNC machines, centralized pumps are often a better solution for larger manufacturing facilities.
The Atlas Copco advantage
At Atlas Copco, we use our extensive experience to build vacuum pumps that suit every industry that needs them — including the woodworking sector. From the consistent performance and energy efficiency that our VSD+ pumps bring to the comfort and convenience of a quieter, smarter pump, manufacturers using our tech have a leg up on the rest of the competition. We also place a premium on customer service, so our team will go out of their way to help you find a pump that fits your field. Contact us today, and put Atlas Copco to work for you.
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