Vacuum Pumps UK customer, the Box Drawer company, runs a 3 x 2m vacuum bed. The pumps are vital to this equipment – but out of sight


Vacuum is ever present in lots of industries, from vacuum forming to food production, to fish farming, to printing and packaging, to dairy farming, to extrusion, pick and place and many more applications.

Despite being vital to the production process in so many diverse fields, vacuum can be taken for granted or even forgotten altogether – perhaps because vacuum units are often hidden away inside a machine or tucked away under footboards, or even moved into pump rooms away from everything else in the factory. However, if these units fail everything can stop, production lines can fail and costly machines can fall silent, costing businesses thousands.

And if you’re unlucky, failures happen just when production is at its busiest or when there is that urgent job to finish for your most important customer. With this in mind, preventative maintenance of your vacuum units should be fundamental to the workings of the production or maintenance department.

VTLF2.250 Rotary vane

Vacuum units for the woodworking industry tend to fall into two different categories of stand alone pump units, the most common being the dry running rotary vane type, but more recently claw pumps, which are the latest technology to make an impact in this market.

Dry running rotary vane units utilise a well proven technology that has been the main stay of CNC equipment and vacuum jigs for many years. They are robust and reliable, and with the right maintenance schedule can be free from extremely inconvenient failures and expensive repairs. These units probably need checking every 2000 hours approximately for vane wear, filter cleaning and for greasing points to be done.

Claw units are the relatively new pumps on the block, they have rotating lobes or “claws” that are machined to exact tight tolerances to produce the required vacuum. The advantage of this technology is that there are no vanes to change - however the units can be noisier than their dry running counterparts, and if they do fail with the claw suffering mechanical pick up, then repairs can be costly. However, the life span of a claw unit should be substantial, even if the initial investment is higher.

PA.155 Claw Unit

There is also the prospect of centralising your vacuum requirement into a pump room or area away from the factory floor. This reduces noise and heat in the workplace, helps with energy savings and makes access to the units for routine maintenance easier. Units are linked in from the pump room to a ring main which circles the factory, and pipe drops are made from there to relevant machines. Centralised control ensures that the pump units and motors are being worked efficiently and “on demand” not at full capacity when they don’t need to be. There is a capital expenditure to consider for centralising any vacuum system but the return on investment is made through energy savings and maintenance down time costs.

There are some types of pump it is best to avoid – or replace, if you already use them. We have encountered some woodworkers using Oil lubricated rotary vane type pumps which produce a level of vacuum too deep for the holding process, and can exhaust oil mist into the factory and be troublesome at best.   

It is worth looking at independent pump companies – like Vacuum Pumps UK ( who not only offer new, refurbished and hire pumps at competitive prices, but also have experts on hand for planned maintenance and repairs as well offering spare parts. The advantage of shopping away from the manufacturers not only gives you a lower price point but also gives you a truly independent assessment of the best and most cost-effective option for you.

So don’t neglect your pumps! They are a key component in your production – and having a good maintenance routine and a reliable source for pump products means you will be able to concentrate on your production throughput and efficiencies – and so maximising revenue and margins.