What to know about using vacuum chucks in your shop
You’re sitting at your bench and you’re wondering about Vacuum Chucks. Okay, maybe that’s not what you do very often, if at all, but if you’re a machinist and you work with CNC machines, you should know about Vacuum Chucks. Even home enthusiasts with a love of CNC machine processes should gain an understanding of Vacuum Chucks and what they do. This article examines the Vacuum Chuck and the role it plays in CNC machining operations.
What do vacuum chucks do?
Many of the tools associated with CNC machines are straightforward in regards to what they are and what they accomplish. Drills punch holes, routers cut grooves and edges, grinders grind off material, and so on and so forth. So where does the Vacuum Chuck enter the picture?
It’s a tool that fits onto the table or arm of a CNC lathe or cutting platform and secures the workpiece using a vacuum. The chuck sucks hard enough to hold the workpiece in place while it is being machined without having to use clamps or other devices that may interfere with the machining process. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video, like this, is worth millions.
Pros and cons of vacuum chucks
The question CNC machinists need to ask themselves is, will a Vacuum Chuck add more value to the machining process or will it detract from it and require more time and work to complete the machining process?
Vacuum chucks require more hardware. Vacuum pumps, air lines, electrical connections to power sources, spinning bearings, and other devices. That means more equipment to maintain, be aware of, and in some cases, equipment that can cause potential breakdowns and interruptions to production.
On the other hand, workpieces can be exchanged more rapidly, hand-tooling can be accomplished faster, and some safety considerations disappear when vacuum-based retention is utilized over clamping systems.
When in doubt, ask the pros
Because the application of the technology incorporating Vacuum Chucks in CNC machining can become complex, it’s recommended to speak with experienced CNC operators who utilizes a vacuum system before making the investment.
Some vacuum systems are simple to install with few moving parts and little modification of existing equipment. Other vacuum systems can be a little more challenging both in installation as well as operation. Going online to learn about the various systems available is a great way to gain knowledge without having to spend a lot of time or money deciding what to do.
So which do you need, 3D Printer or CNC?
How a workpiece is held in place while being machined isn’t high up on a lot of people’s lists of things to investigate, let’s face it. But for machinists who want to not only work smarter but also more productively, a Vacuum Chuck system may be just the answer to increasing productivity and reducing costs.
For those who work closely with hand tools on wood, plastics, nylon, or other soft, malleable materials, a Vacuum Chuck or Vacuum Table might make life easier, safer, and more satisfying. It can also make finished products easier to handle with better results. We supply and service CNC parts of all kinds, so get in touch if you’re looking to source a vacuum chuck for your shop!