How to Maintain Your Witte Vacuum Workholding System

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Did you know that manufacturers deal with up to 800 hours of downtime a year? Just think of all that lost time and revenue. This can be greatly prevented by having monitoring and maintenance programs in place, especially for your vacuum workholding system

Many shops use vacuum chucks to hold aluminum and plastic parts for milling or turning. These systems typically include a vacuum source or pump, vacuum chuck, connecting hoses, valves, and controls. To keep the system working efficiently and effectively, these components should be monitored and maintained regularly. Read on to discover tips for maintaining and repairing vacuum workholding systems:


Monitor the Witte Vacuum Pump

The heart of a vacuum workholding system is the vacuum source. This could be a stand-alone vacuum pump at the machine or supplied by a central vacuum system. Typically, each machine will have its own pump, and there are many types of vacuum pumps available, including:
  • Venturi
  • Electric dry
  • Electric oil lubricated
  • Liquid ring
Select a vacuum pump type based on the type of chuck being used. Carefully follow the suggested maintenance schedule for your vacuum pump. This may include changing filters, lubricating oil, and other cleaning steps for problem-free operation. Most vacuum pumps run continuously, so it is critical that they are not neglected.

A TEFC motor running continuously can become quite hot, so ensure the fan blades are clean and not blocked from providing enough cooling air across the pump motor frame. A pump failure in the middle of a critical part run can ruin your day. 

Pay Attention to Witte Vacuum System Input & Output

Monitoring the voltage and current consumed by the vacuum pump motor is a great indicator of overall pump condition. If the pump motor is drawing higher than expected current, compared to the motor plate rating, there is probably a mechanical problem developing. Better to know in advance and take corrective action before a costly shutdown occurs.

Many shops that use multiple vacuum chucks will usually have a large central vacuum pump and reservoir system. Vacuum power is delivered by pipe to each station. While this is more cost-effective, the need for monitoring and maintenance is significantly higher. This simply means that a failure will shut down the whole shop, not just one machine!

Ensure Tight Connections & Repair Vacuum Chuck Leaks Vacuum System Hoses

We all know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In this case, the potential weak links are your vacuum chuck connections. Take a look at how the vacuum is connected to the chuck:
  • Hoses
  • Pipes
  • Valves
  • Liquid filters
Like all fluid systems, having a leak-free system is essential. Vacuum leaks will reduce your part-holding force. With a pressurized fluid system like your garden hose, leaks are very easy to spot because water sprays everywhere. Vacuum suction is invisible, so leaks aren’t easily seen. It’s important that all vacuum connections are tight and thread sealant or PTFE tape is used on all threaded connections. 

Importance of Quality Hoses in Vacuum Workholding Systems

Check all connecting hoses. Make sure solid hoses are not kinked or cracked. If you use push-to-connect fittings, make sure they are tight and not broken. For flexible hoses, make sure they are wire reinforced (to prevent collapsing), and all hose clamps are tight and have the correct diameter.

Avoid Liquid, Fluid & Coolant Ingestion & Repair Vacuum Chuck Leaks

Most aluminum parts are machined using flood coolant. It is very difficult to prevent coolant from being sucked into the vacuum system, either by vacuum leaks or just by normal operations. Vacuum pumps do not like to ingest any fluids. This can cause considerable damage to the pump components.

Filters or liquid separators are used to catch the coolant before it gets to the pump. This may be a small filter, like a filter regulator, or there are also larger systems that use stainless steel mesh and a storage tank. The coolant filters should be checked and drained often, either manually or by an automatic valve.

Choosing the Correct Valves for Your Witte Vacuum Vacuum System Close Up

And, speaking of valves, just be aware that valves used for vacuum are not the same as standard pneumatic valves. Valves designed for vacuum, either hand-operated manual or electric solenoid valves, include venting. When the valve is turned off, fresh air is provided to the vacuum chuck in place of the vacuum. Otherwise, your part would not come off the chuck!

Guarantee a Tight Seal with the Right Gasket Material

Lastly, most vacuum chucks use some type of sealing gasket material to provide the seal between the part and the chuck. It may look like an O-Ring material or be supplied in an extruded circular cord form. The gasket cord is pressed into a slot machined into the vacuum chuck.

The material should be firm enough to provide a good seal and should also compress slightly to allow the part to locate against the chuck surface. If the material is too stiff, it can lift the part above the chuck surface under vacuum and impact part accuracy. If too soft, it will not provide a good enough seal.

Changing parts will expose the gasket material to coolant, chips, and air-blow cleaning. Make sure the gasket sealing material is clean and undamaged. You should change it when necessary. If the seal does not last very long, consider trying a different diameter or material.

Maintain Witte Vacuum Chucks with Repairs from IBAG

A good vacuum system includes a well-maintained pump, tight connections and hoses, a good coolant separator, and the correct size and type of sealing gasket. Neglecting any of these components can jeopardize your production and impact your shop’s efficiency. This causes delays, customer complaints, and loss of profits. Make sure to investigate, repair vacuums, and maintain your vacuum system in order to prevent costly failures and shop downtime.

IBAG repairs Witte Vacuum components to keep your business on track and prevent manufacturing downtime.

Contact us today to learn how a Witte Vacuum workholding system can help with your application.