Vacuum Pods

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Forum topic by Mark Smith posted 08-05-2013 07:28 PM 3648 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mark Smith

509 posts in 2241 days

08-05-2013 07:28 PM

This will probably only be of interest to you of you have a CNC machine. I was at the AWFS show in Vegas last week when I saw Vacuum Pods. These are a cheaper alternative to have vacuum table. The ones I bought actually work off an air compressor using a venturi effect versus having to buy a vacuum pump. They are shipping them to me so I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet, but the demo they did using a very small portable compressor was very impressive. They were able to hold down a piece of wood very tight. I could not break the seal by hand.

But the most interesting thing I saw is I was at the booth of the company who made my CNC machine and they had a portable vacuum table on their demo unit. I was talking to the guy about it and about the Pod system I had just found at the other booth. As we were talking I pointed out that the only bad thing about these compact vacuum units is you couldn’t use them easily if you wanted to cut completely through the piece of wood as you run the risk of damaging the vacuum unit. The units are made of plastic so at least you won’t damage your CNC if you hit one. The guy says watch this and he put a piece of 1/2 inch particle board on top of the vacuum table and then put the piece of project wood on top of the particle board. The vacuum actually sucked through the particle board and held the project board in place and again I could not break it free with my bare hands. For those of you with CNC’s this appears to be a very good alternative to double sided tape or other clamping systems that may damage your machine.

The pods I bought are coming from I paid $300 for six pods and the valve system to run them off the air compressor. I already have the air compressor in my shop so there won’t be an expense there. When I get them in I’ll report back on how good they actually work.

10 replies so far

View macatlin1's profile


78 posts in 3144 days

#1 posted 08-05-2013 09:50 PM

Where I used to work we had one of these machines Techno to cut plywood and composite materials. I can attest to the holding power of the vacuum through MDF. We used 5/8 MDF when starting and flycut the table level which was a 5-10 minute job. That surface was good for several days of cutting and we cut through the part by .005 to .010 and the grooves had little effect on the holding power. If there were grooves that extended outside the area of the stock the machinist simply placed some hardboard cutoffs over them to reduce any leakage. When we cut a graphite foam sandwhich we needed to ocsillate the cutter up and down to even out the wear. If we didn’t the cutters would develop twin notches whare they were cutting the graphite. The result was the MDF had undulating grooves and as long as the grooves didn’t go completely through the MDF every thing was OK. When we started a large project we ordered the MDF by the pallet but it still lasted a long time.

To be honest we didn’t have venturies to creat the “suck” but rather a 10 HP scroll type vacuum pump that was included in the price of the machine. We did use venturies elsewhere in the shop and even made some bench top hold downs with plywood, pegboard and MDF.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2273 days

#2 posted 08-05-2013 09:54 PM

I found it interesting, and I don’t own a cnc machine. Thanks for postin

-- Who is John Galt?

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Mark Smith

509 posts in 2241 days

#3 posted 08-05-2013 10:03 PM

My CNC is a smaller machine and I mostly use it for smaller projects. The bed on the machine is 18” by 58” so much of my work is done with pieces much smaller than that. That is why these pods are perfect for what I do with the machine. I’m just still amazed that the vacuum can suck through MDF and still hold down another piece of wood. MDF looks pretty solid and you would think it would be since it is pressed together with glue, but I just it must have a lot of pores in it.

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Mark Smith

509 posts in 2241 days

#4 posted 09-03-2013 08:37 PM

My Vacuum system finally arrived via UPS today. I may not have a chance to use them for a week or two, but when I do I’ll post some photos and more info here as to how well the work. At $300 if they work out, they will pay for themselves in the cost of double sided tape in about 6 months.

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Mark Smith

509 posts in 2241 days

#5 posted 10-10-2013 05:43 PM

Just for info on this, I still haven’t had a chance to try out this vacuum system yet. I got busy in my other business which I have to run in order to support my woodworking business. :) Once that slows down a little I’ll give this vacuum system a try and get back to you guys on it.

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5193 posts in 3444 days

#6 posted 10-10-2013 08:11 PM

I am building a 36×84 CNC router, but I am not at the stage where a vacuum hold-down system is on my list. I was impressed by the system I watched from the manufacturer. I am completely purplexed that you can pull a vacuum through MDF. To me it’s the same as if it were a steel plate instead of MDF.

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Mark Smith

509 posts in 2241 days

#7 posted 10-10-2013 08:19 PM

I would not have believed either if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I though MDF was pretty solid, but apparently it is not.

View DS's profile (online now)


3033 posts in 2621 days

#8 posted 10-10-2013 08:23 PM

Yes, MDF is commonly used as a spoil board on nested CNC machines with a vacuum.
Particle Board is considered too porous and will allow excessive leakage in the areas removed by the kerf and along the edges.

It doesn’t take lots of holding pressure when your work area is fairly large. At even 1 lb of holding force per square inch It adds up to over two tons of holding force across a 4X8 sheet. Actual holding force is several time higher than that.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

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Mark Smith

509 posts in 2241 days

#9 posted 12-18-2013 10:09 PM

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Mark Smith

509 posts in 2241 days

#10 posted 12-18-2013 10:20 PM

Okay, I know some of you have been patiently waiting for me to get back on here and post an update on these vacuum pods. It took a while but I finally got back into the shop and needed to make a bunch of cutting boards so I figured I’d try the vacuum pods. I could not get them to work! I don’t think they’re faulty, but I need to modify my setup.

The above photo shows the pods and the manifold system laying on my CNC table. This particular model actually uses an air compressor (as opposed to a vacuum unit) to blow air through that manifold and create suction through the ports that the plastic tubes are stuck in. Using on my MDF tables on the CNC I could not get it to hold tight enough. I was able to put them between two hardwood cutting boards blanks they worked great at holding them together. So I think what my problem is, is the MDF boards are the table are losing too much suction through the wood like we talked about above. So a simple solution would be to simply clamp some hardwood to the top of the table and then put the pods on that, and normally that would probably work, but as you can see the pods are quite thick, and the wood I’m cutting is a little over an inch thick, and the whatever I would clamp to the table would be 3/4 of a inch thick so that caused me to run into problems with the travel on my Z axis when using the big bit that I needed to cut through 1” thick wood.

So as of yet I have not got these to work on the CNC, but I think they will work. What I’m going to do is make a table that replaces the MDF and has a smooth surface without pours. Maybe I could still use MDF and just put a few coats of polyurethane on it. Whatever I figure out I’ll report back here on if it works.

One thing for my fellow CNC users who use double sided tape, I went back to the tape for the cutting boards I’m making now and I couldn’t get it to stick good. The problem was it was down in the 40’s and 50’s in my shop and this tape loses power when cold. So I got my torch out and heated the tape a little, but that didn’t work either. What did work is when I heated the tape, and both pieces of wood it was going to be attached to. It didn’t take much, just making everything nice and warm, and they stuck together really good. So good that I could use less tape which is a good thing because this two-sided tape is real expensive.

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