Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Show Report: Vacuum and Compressed Air Technology at IWF 2016

The IWF 2016 International Woodworking Fair was held August 24-27 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The Show attracted announced the attendance of 16,000 verified buyers of woodworking equipment – a healthy increase over the 14,400 attending in 2014. “We had double digit growth in attendance, exhibit space, and the number of exhibitors. The show floor was very active and exhibitors were seeing high demand for their products,” commented Tom Onsrud, IWF 2016 chairman and president C.R. Onsrud Inc.

Over 90 foreign countries and 49 states sent their key decision makers to IWF 2016. The educational conference was the largest ever held at IWF with over 50 educational programs. Both Blower & Vacuum Best Practices and Compressed Air Best Practices® Magazines were pleased to be in the literature bins!

IWF is largest woodworking technology trade show in North America and is held every other year at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Ga. It is ranked among the largest trade shows in the world.

Vacuum pumps are everywhere at this show, flanking all the CNC panel-cutting and routing machines.


Fender CNC Panel-Cutting Centers and KOMO CNC Machining Centers

There were at least 20 routing machine companies with their equipment on display. Roaming the aisles, I had the chance to speak with Wyeth Schiffelbein, a Service Technician for the Felder Group. The Felder Group is an Austrian company, which has been making a broad range of woodworking machinery for 60 years. To name a few products they manufacture, their line-up includes table saws, panel saws, jointers, planers, jointers-planers, tilting shapers, and 5 axes CNC machining centers. They operate three locations in the U.S. with a headquarters in New Castle, Delaware.


Felder at IWF

Wyeth Schiffelbein, a Service Technician for the Felder Group, stands next to the Profit H10 Panel-Cutting Center.

The booth featured a Fender Profit H10 CNC panel-cutting center. Mr. Schiffelbein explained some fundamentals about the vacuum hold-down requirements of this machine. “We use a 45 lb. MDF (medium density fiberboard) for our spoilerboard and typically run 20-22” HgV vacuum levels.”  The unit also features a vacuum manifold underneath the MDF directing the vacuum to different zones. “Our units feature an intelligent vacuum system able to minimize leakage rates by only sending vacuum flow to where it’s needed.” I found this very interesting. He continued, “This vacuum manifold helps you run smaller pieces and also helps with onion-skinning processes.” OK, I admit I have no idea what onion-skinning wood is. I’m not sure if this “intelligent vacuum system” is now the standard “state of the art”, but I do know in the recent past, vacuum was sent to the entire table - even after large sections of the board were long gone. When cutting small pieces of wood, high leak rates caused pumps to work at higher vacuum levels.

The Profit H10 is shipped with two vacuum pumps included. “We ship two Becker 10 hp oil-less rotary vane pumps with each 5 x 12 table,” Schiffelbein continued, “While I understand the merits of the idea, I have rarely seen a centralized vacuum system at one of our clients.”  My feeling is commercial/industrial woodworking is just at the beginning of a new chapter of optimization as it relates to their vacuum and compressed air systems.

The Komo booth featured a pretty impressive 1205 Fusion Twin Table CNC Machining Center supported by an in-booth Atlas Copco GHS 900VSD+ rotary screw vacuum pump. The Fusion Twin Table provides customer the flexibility of two tables and one or two spindles. The machines feature a moving table configuration and spindle-mounted tool changers. The booth was very busy so I really didn’t get a chance to learn more about their technology.



The KOMO booth featured a KOMO 1205 Fusion Twin Table CNC Machining Center supported by an Atlas Copco GHS 900 VSD+ rotary screw vacuum pump.

Air Compressors and Vacuum Pumps

Kaeser Compressors has a long history providing their positive displacement blowers to the CNC routing machine industry for vacuum hold-down applications.  “We are very effective with spoiler-board systems in routers running at 11-13 HgV,” said Marketing Manager Michael Camber. “We often find energy-saving opportunities of 50-60% by reducing the vacuum specification while increasing flow.” The booth featured the Kaeser BB 89C tri-lobe, fully-enclosed, quiet blower which they recommend for routing machines.

Kaeser personnel also said the compressed air systems, in the woodworking industry, are modernizing to rotary screw air compressors with integrated refrigerated dryers (AirTowers and AirCenters), to aluminum piping (SmartPipe) and to smart controls such as their Sigma Air Manager 4.0. They also had a SFC30 in the booth - a 40 hp VFD rotary screw air compressor.


Kaeser at IWF

Cat Jennings, Juan Rodriguez, Duncan Buie, Bill Mehall, Michael Camber and Michelle Teekasingh at the Kaeser Compressors booth (left to right).

Michael Camber at IWF

Michael Camber stands next to the BB 89C tri-lobe blower.

Atlas Copco is also working vigorously at teaching the woodworking industry the benefits of going to centralized vacuum systems and integrating variable speed technology into the system design. “The GHS VSD+ rotary screw vacuum pump is becoming very popular with the CNC guys in both the woodworking and thermoforming (plastics) industries,” said Atlas Copco’s Steve Nash. “When you combine the efficiency and durability benefits of centralizing with the trim capabilities of our VSD+ technology, plants can now have their energy consumption mirror their vacuum demand.” Nash went on to say a good system design efficiently accounts for the intermittently changing leak rates inherently present in vacuum hold-down applications.

The air-cooled GHS+ rotary screw vacuum pumps are also targeting applications traditionally using liquid ring vacuum pumps. “There are many liquid rings used in applications which aren’t injesting water,” said Nash. “There are efficiency benefits to switching to rotary screws but one of the biggest benefits can be eliminating the chilled water requirements placed on the chillers needed to support the liquid ring pumps.” Last but not least, the booth featured a GA30 VSD+FF variable speed drive rotary screw air compressor with an integrated R410A refrigerated dryer. The unit features IE3 or NEMA premium efficiency motors and the in-house designed NEOS drive featuring IP5X protection and a robust, aluminum enclosure designed to operate in harsh conditions.


Atlas Copco at IWF

Greg Currie and Steve Nash in front of the Atlas Copco GHS 730 VSD+ rotary screw vacuum pump (left to right).

Atlas Copco Vac at IWF

Steve Nash and Andrew Smith assisting customers in the booth.

Vacuum Pump Technology

Becker products are widely used in the woodworking industry. The CNC routers in particular, seemed to have two 15 hp Becker’s in every booth next to their machines. I always enjoy speaking with Becker’s Mick Wentzel. “Our dry (oil-less) rotary vane vacuum pumps have been the technology of choice by U.S. and European OEM’s for many years,” Wentzel said. “The combination of extremely low maintenance requirements along with the benefits of oil-less technology are the decision drivers.” I liked his line saying, “sawdust and oil aren’t friends!”  Wentzel explained they’ve been designed to be very easy to work on for standard filter and bearing maintenance.

Becker is also engaged with variable speed drive (VariAir) technology. VariAir is available on rotary vane vacuum pumps, regenerative blowers, dry rotary screw vacuum pumps and compressors.  Becker also offers pre-packaged Central Vacuum Systems on tank-mounted skids with modular packages for redundancy (laboratories) and flexibility. There’s a VariAir Central System (VACS) combining the two concepts as well.


Becker at IWF

Mike Matijevich, Mick Wentzel and Jim Duggan at the Becker Vacuum booth (left to right).

Busch Vacuum Pumps and Systems presented the Mink MV 100% oil-less rotary claw for woodworking applications. They stated the unit has been optimized for quiet, energy-efficient performance and the compact design works well with tight spaces. Busch makes the case for the durability of the two non-contacting ‘S’ profile rotary claw rotors, resulting in no internal friction and thus no wearing parts to replace. They believe this is a very durable design compared to other oil-less vacuum pump designs.

Centralization of vacuum supply is a big topic. A vast majority of woodworking plants have decentralized vacuum with two pumps (one for backup) parked next to each CNC routing machine. Busch provided an interesting case study of a furniture manufacturer who had two CNC portal machining centers with grid-based clamping tables. Each center was supported by two dry-running rotary vane vacuum pumps.  When the company decided to purchase an additional CNC router, they chose to decentralize the system using oil-less Mink rotary claw pumps. The new central vacuum system reduced the energy requirements from what would have 68 kW in a decentralized layout to 44 kW.


Busch at IWF

Thomas Grommersch reviews the Mink MV oil-less rotary claw vacuum pump at the Busch booth.

Dekker Vacuum Technologies had a nice booth displaying their rotary vane and liquid ring vacuum pump systems. Applications Engineer Rae Isbell was busy taking care of customers but found time to share some excellent product literature with me focused on the woodworking industry. She said Dekker makes an effort to help customers understand the relationship between vacuum level and hold-down force. She explained that in general, the smaller the work piece, the more leakage through the MDF board, requiring a larger vacuum pump capacity to achieve the required vacuum level. Dekker is performing “Vacuum Performance Assessments” to help CNC router users understand their needs.

Part of a Dekker Vacuum Performance Assessment includes an analysis of whether VFD variable frequency drive technology would provide benefits. They explained many plants have vacuum pumps operating only 50 percent of the time. Using an example of a 40 hp vacuum pump system with a VFD operating in a system working 4,992 hours per year (two shifts per day), a utility rate of $0.10 kWh, and a 93% motor efficiency – they calculated a reduction in energy consumption from $16,000 to $12,000 per year on this one 40 hp unit.


Dekker at IWF

Rae Isbell provides information at the Dekker Vacuum Technologies booth.


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