A lighter way to make a vacuum

Written by: Tom Shelley | Published:

Dean Palmer reports on a miniature vacuum generator that has a number of novel features, as well as lightweight design

A miniature vacuum generator offers a compact, lightweight solution for a number of automation and product handling applications.
The Moduflex Vacuum Generator, from the pneumatics division at Parker Hannifin, incorporates a number of innovative features, including a standard blow-off facility. The unit can also be positioned remotely from the control valve, directly onto a valve island, or mounted in-line close to vacuum cups to minimise space requirements.
The real innovation is the unit’s all-in-one internal and external blow-off facilities or vacuum release functions. At the end of a cycle, the internal blow-off facility means the user does not require a separate valve to release the product being handled by the suction cup. The compressed air is stopped immediately and the product is released. For longer tubing or for applications in which more than one suction cup is involved, an external blow-off function is also provided, which delivers a higher pressure release.
Steven Delanott, European product manager for valves and vacuum at Parker Hannifin, says potential applications for the vacuum generator include component pick-and-place in the electronics and semiconductor industries, through to paper, foil and carton handling in the print and packaging sectors.
“The Moduflex Vacuum Generator uses proven Venturi technology, where the kinetic energy from a compressed air jet can be harnessed to create a vacuum or suction force, reaching up to 90% vacuum,” explained Delanott.
Apparently, vacuum products are either 50-60% vacuum for handling porous/soft products or 90% vacuum for delicate electronic components.
The device offers a choice of mounting and positioning options. For example, it can be positioned remotely – with the vacuum cup directly mounted on the generator – for fast response times. Alternatively, with centralised control on a valve island, it saves space at the point of suction or in rugged environments.
Delanott pointed out that engineers can mount the device in-line, with the suction cup positioned remotely. As well as saving space, it allows easy access to the vacuum generator.
Depending on the application, the vacuum generator can be controlled by single or double 3/2 electrically or pneumatically actuated valves. It can also be supplied with an optional vacuum sensor for connection to machine monitoring systems. This optional sensor is Parker’s own small, thin, push-in MPS-06 sensor, which measures the vacuum level on the suction cup and alerts the operator if this drops below a pre-set limit. Other options include push-in straight, elbow and double main union connectors, and an exhaust silencer.
Delanott told Eureka: “The standard unit weighs just 30g. It has a very robust construction, with a polyamide body, nitrile poppets and brass nozzles.”
He claims that competing vacuum generator products made from aluminium weight around 200g, so the weight saving is significant. Weight is important because suction cups move around a lot during production or assembly – which means the vacuum generator will move too.
Working pressures range are 1-8 bar and the generator can be used at temperatures from -15°C to +60°C.

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