Industrial vacuum pumps are used in a broad range of industries, including packaging, groceries, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and medical applications, to name a few. Industrial vacuums are also crucial for applications that require a clean environment, such as surgical suction, heat treatment, metallurgy, and laboratory systems.

If you are looking for unbiased information about industrial vacuum pumps, good luck?   Most sites provide little information; instead, they send you directly to someone in sales.  But sometimes you want some background information first.

Our guide will help you navigate vacuum pumps.  It provides a brief overview of vacuum pump applications and briefly explains how they work.  You will also learn about the commonly used types of pumps, their pros and cons, and how vacuum is measured.




Top Industrial Vacuum Pumps 

If you are looking for a DIY vacuum pump for smaller applications, we have several recommendations for under $400. However, generally speaking, we recommend filling out the form to speak to an expert about your specific needs. 

1.JB Industries DV-4E Eliminator 4 CFM Vacuum Pump

The JB Industries Eliminator features a ½ HP, 1725 rpm capacitator start motor with overload protection built-in.  The 115V, 60 Hz motor requires a standard household plug.  The oil capacity is 25 ounces, and the large sight glass makes it easy to the oil level.

The Eliminator is designed for air condition service.  Although the most expensive of our recommendations, it is backed with a 24-month warranty.  They are built in JB Industries factory in Aurora, Illinois, and are the only economy vacuum pumps made in America.

2.Robinair 15800 VacuMaster 2-stage Economy Vacuum Pump

The VacuMaster is a two-stage, rotary vane pump with a 1 HP motor.  Air displacement is 8 CFM, rated to 40 microns.  The VacuMaster runs off 115V, 60 Hz, so it can be plugged into a standard outlet. 

Oil capacity is 18.6 ounces, and the VacuMaster has easy access to the fuel port, with the oil valve positioned underneath and angled for faster draining.

The Robinair is designed for commercial refrigeration applications.  Robinair has been manufacturing tools for air conditioning, automotive, refrigerant recovery, and other industries since 1956.  Although owned by Bosch, Robinair’s headquarters are in Owatonna, Minnesota.

3.Vevor Two-Stage Vacuum Pump

The Vevor is a two-stage rotary vane pump with 8 CFM from a 1 HP motor.  It is the lowest-priced vacuum pump and has multiple applications, including automobile maintenance, vacuum packaging, refrigerator vacuum, among others.

The oil anti-flow back design prevents oil from flowing back, the oil viewing window allows for monitoring of oil levels, and an intelligent radiator protects the machine if something gets stuck in it.

Reminder:  Monitoring oil levels is essential for pumps. If you need help choosing a pump, contact us.   

Applications for Industrial Vacuum Pumps

  • Holding, lifting, and moving.  These include board testing, pneumatic conveying, printing and binding, general packaging, and CNC routers.
  • Forming and Shaping.  Forming plastics, glass items such as windscreens and bottles, wood and lamination are typical applications.
  • Food Preservation.  Packaging of meat and poultry, canning, and freeze-drying.

How Do Industrial Vacuum Pumps Work? 

An industrial vacuum pump removes air from one area and moves it to another.  A pump can remove gas from an enclosed space, leaving a vacuum behind.  Or a pump uses the vacuum to move water.  Pumps use pressure, suction, or both to create a vacuum.  

Pumps use pressure differentials to create a vacuum, thus reducing the pressure in the enclosed space.  As the pressure falls, removing additional molecules becomes exponentially more challenging.

Vacuum pumps fall into three broad categories based on the level of vacuum they create:

  • Rough (or low):  up to 1 Torr
  • Medium (of fine):  1 to 10̄¯³
  • High:  10̄¯³ and greater

In settings that require middle or high levels of vacuum, a system will include primary and booster pumps.  

Types of Industrial Vacuum Pumps

Classifying different kinds of vacuum pumps is a complicated process.  Pumps that are developed for one industry often are modified for use in another industry.  

Vacuum Pumps can be classified by how they work.  Transfer pumps rely on momentum to move gas from the vacuum side to the exhaust.  Entrapment pumps trap air or liquids in an enclosed space. 

Pumps that rely on pressure differentials are referred to as compressed-air pumps.  Mechanical pumps rely on an external electric motor or internal combustion engines.

The following vacuum pumps are commonly used, but there are others with specialized uses.

  • Rotary vane
  • Liquid ring
  • Diaphragm
  • Scroll
  • Turbomolecular

We will explore each in more detail in the following sections.

Rotary Vane Vacuum Pump

Vane Pumps work by placing rotors around a shaft to pull air through an intake port and trapping the air, thus creating a vacuum behind the air.  These are high performance, low-cost pumps, and compact machines useful in numerous commercial and industrial settings, especially automotive applications.  

Automakers utilize high-pressure pumps in the manufacturer of products that move liquids, such as automatic transmissions, power steering systems, and brakes.   

Rotary Vane Pumps are two-stage pumps found in large trucks, where they provide braking assistance.  Diesel-powered vehicles need vacuum pumps because their engines have no intake vacuum.  Gyroscopic flight instruments, air conditioner installation, and laboratory freeze driers also use rotary vane pumps. 

Bottom Line

Rotary vane vacuum pumps are:

  • Low cost
  • Compact
  • High vacuum level (1000 mbar)
  • High flow rate (1,600 m³/h)
  • Require oil changes to avoid excessive wear and tear.

Check out this diagram to help you visualize how a rotary vane pump works.  Note that the axis is off-center.  The liquid ring pump also incorporates this design.

 

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Liquid Ring Pump 

A liquid ring pump uses a vaned impeller to compress air and create a vacuum.  As the liquid flows into the pump, centrifugal force creates a liquid ring against the casing’s inside.  The vanes become compression chambers.  

Because liquid ring pumps are not negatively impacted by water, they are used in distilleries, refineries, and power plants.  Common applications include vacuum filtration, extraction of moisture, mineral recovery, and pulp paper processing.

Bottom Line

  • Highly resistant to corrosion
  • Dry pump
  • Tolerant of process upsets
  • Large capacity range
  • Pumping flow rate up to 30,000 m³/h

The diagram of a liquid ring pump shows an off-center piston and the ring of water that compresses air to create a vacuum.




Diaphragm Vacuum Pump

Diaphragm Vacuum Pumps rely on positive displacement.  These pumps are also known as membrane pumps because the vacuum is created by the upward and downward movement of a membrane.

To avoid wasting water or oil, these pumps rely on a dry compression process.  A single pump can create 50 mbar of pressure.  If more pressure is required, two pumps in a series can reach 3 mbar, and 3 in a series can reach pressures up to 0.5 mbar.

Diaphragm pumps are useful in medical processes, freeze-drying, vacuum mattresses, and small vacuum ovens.  Some diaphragm pumps are highly resistant to chemicals (due to Teflon-coated diaphragms), and those are used in chemical labs.  Models that run on 24V-DC motors can be used in mobile applications.

These pumps have maintenance intervals of 10,000 hours, and most maintenance can be easily done on-site as the diaphragm and seals are the parts that typically need to be replaced.

Bottom Line

  • Dry pump
  • Little maintenance
  • Chemical resistant (some models)
  • Continuous operation 
  • Low flow:  up to 20 m³/h
  • Expensive  

 

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This animation shows the principle of the diaphragm pump.

Scroll Vacuum Pump

A scroll vacuum pump holds two spiral scrolls inside the housing.  The orbiter (or outside scroll) moves eccentrically against the inner scroll.  Gas is trapped between the two scrolls as the outer one squeezes down on the inner one, and the trapped gas is compressed, thereby creating a vacuum.  

Scroll pumps are often used in situations where clean and dry vacuum pumping is required.  They are also used in leak detection, sample preparation, and electron microscopes.  

These pumps can also be used as fore pumps in turbomolecular systems.  Although the initial investment is high, their operating costs are low because they do not need oil and consume less power than other pumps.

Bottom Line

  • Expensive but low maintenance
  • Quiet (50 dB)
  • Oil-free
  • Flow rates up to 42 m³/h
  • Vulnerable to debris
  • Tip seal wear causes reduced performance

If you need a quick visual of how a scroll pump works, then check out this video.

Turbomolecular Pump

Turbomolecular pumps use angled blades that rotate at high speeds (typically between 24,000 and 90,000 rpm).  They can achieve pressure ranges between 10¯³ and 10¯ˡˡ.

Turbomolecular pumps are used in applications that require a high vacuum and extremely low levels of contamination.  They are used in clean applications in analytical instruments or research and development.   Or they can be used to work in harsh conditions, such as the semiconductor industry.

These pumps have three different designs—mechanical bearings, active magnetic bearings with a variable magnetic field control, and a hybrid design that limits wear on the bearings.

Bottom Line

  • Oil-less pump with a hydrocarbon-free operation
  • Easy to operate
  • Do not require regeneration.
  • Low maintenance
  • High initial cost

You can find a turbopump schematic here.

How is Vacuum Measured?

When selecting a vacuum pump, you want to be able to compare the vacuum level a pump creates. This section will provide a quick overview of commonly used measurements.

A vacuum is measured through the difference between the pressure inside the vacuum chamber and atmospheric pressure.  There are several ways to measure vacuum, but in America, the one used most is inches of mercury.  For example, the measurement 0 inches Hg, or 0” Hg means there is no vacuum in the chamber.  (Countries using the metric system use millimeters of mercury).  

The maximum vacuum level is 29.92” Hg, and at that point the chamber would be a pure vacuum.  No vacuum pump can achieve a pure vacuum, but the higher its Hg value, the closer it is to a complete vacuum.  For many industrial vacuums, the inches of mercury measurement is adequate. 

If more accuracy is required, you can choose from two other systems.  One is Torr (named after an Italian scientist, Evangelista Torricelli), and it is popular in the United States.  Atmospheric pressure is measured at 760 Torr, and a complete vacuum is 0 Torr.  Unlike the inches of mercury scale, when comparing machines with Torr values, the one with the lower Torr value creates more vacuum.

A differential scale often used outside of North America is mbar.  In this scale, atmospheric pressure is 1,013 mbar, while 0 mbar is a complete vacuum.  Like Torr, a lower mbar means more vacuum.  (If you need to convert mbar units to Torr, multiply the mbar by 0.760.)

Finally, kPa is a percentage-based system.  This system’s advantage is that an engineer measuring Torrs and another using mbars can calculate the percentage based on their system.   In other words, a 50% kPa is equivalent to 500 mbar, 380 torr, or 15″ Hg.

Key Takeaway:  in Hg, the higher the number the more vacuum, while in the others, a lower number means more vacuum.

How do you calculate the flow rate of a vacuum pump?

To calculate the flow rate, you need to know what type of fluid you will pump, the distance it will travel, and the volume of fluid that needs to be transported. Once you have that information, it is best to contact the experts at aircompressorsusa.com 




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What to Look for When Selecting a Vacuum Pump

When selecting a vacuum pump, focus on these characteristics:

  • Flow rate.  Flow rate refers to how quickly the machine can drain to create a vacuum.  In most cases, a higher flow rate results in a quicker drain time.
  • Compatibility.  Your pump needs to be compatible with the gases created in the application.
  • Lubrication.  Pumps that require lubrication are generally more efficient and have higher resistance.  However, in an environment that requires they be free of oil contamination—such as laboratories—you should choose a dry vacuum pump.
  • Maintenance and cost.  When factoring in the cost, find out the machine’s maintenance cycle.  Sometimes a lower-priced machine requires more maintenance, negating the initial savings.

 

Components of a Vacuum System

Your system will include delivery lines, control valves, switches, and filters, along with a vacuum source.  Preventing leaks is essential—even small leaks will affect the performance and efficiency of your system.  

Check that any plastic tubing is designed for use in vacuum systems to avoid collapsing tube walls, which would block the flow of air.  Vacuum lines should be as short as possible for the same reason.