Beginner Buyer’s Guide to Vacuum Tables

When it comes to the world of automated printing and cutting, nearly all industry experts recommend a vacuum table – this is especially true if you are using a flat substrate.  Is it possible to do the job without one?  Yes, however, in the long-run continuously purchasing adhesive takes away from your bottom line – therefore, it’s a wonderful idea to purchase a vacuum table that is large or compact enough to fit your needs.  Additionally, this will save you from the long-term prospects of accumulated dread and frustration from fabric slippage that can significantly reduce workplace productivity.

What is a Vacuum Table?

A vacuum table is identical to the traditional table with the exception that it is porous – the pores being evenly distributed pores throughout its surface. The two main components of a vacuum table are:

  • Vacuum chamber containing perforated table
  • Vacuum pump

Those who are using automated cutting and printing systems must have an environment in place where the fabric is being held down at all times.  Although it is essential that fabric not move; the vacuum capabilities do not necessarily have to be higher performance in order to be effective – in fact, the differential between pressure only needs to be minimal in a vacuum table for to hold the fabric in place.

What Happens If I Try Automated Screenprinting Without a Vacuum Table?

As said before, while it is possible to do screenprinting without a vacuum table, it is hard to understand why one wouldn’t want to save themselves from hours, days or even weeks of frustration.  When a user is lifting during your print cycle, the whole sheet is not going to stick as it would being held down by a vacuum table.  Furthermore, when you peel off the poster, the user will most likely not receive their desired result. Spraying with adhesive is a very viable option; however, in the long-run the user will be paying more to replace the adhesive than they would be had they just invested and maintained a vacuum table.

Can I Just Convert My Current Solution to Vacuum Tables?

It’s very possible to do this; however, it is critical to ensure that all materials are the same during your projects.  When there are different materials working in collaboration with each other – such as wood, steel, or aluminum – this can create an environment which decreases the flatness of the tabletop.  This can give the user undesirable results.

Is a Wood Vacuum Table a Good Idea?

It is very common for people to build their vacuum table with a steel frame along with a wooden tabletop.  While the aluminum part will generally remain stable, the wood part of this combination can be at risk for a lot of movement due to temperature change.  Believe it or not, this is not the riskiest threat – in fact – humidity also has a major effect with wood.

What are the Traits of a Great Vacuum Table Manufacturer?

When searching for someone who can deliver a high quality solution, cohesiveness and commonality are all important factors.  In other words, the user will want the materials to be made out of one fabric, whether it’s steel, aluminum, or wood.  Furthermore, flatness is extremely important.  A precise level of flatness is the result of the company and the type of equipment that is being used.  The company should be completely transparent in explaining their exact methods in determining the flatness quality standards.  If the vacuum flow is not even across the board; how can one expect to deliver a consistently high quality product to the masses?

The best manufacturers offer technical support as the process of purchasing a vacuum table can be rather troublesome; which is why there are a minority of people who’d rather forgo the investment and just conduct their regular cutting and printing activities without a vacuum table.

Last but not least, the user of an automated system should request if their product be shipped via wood crates.  Not all manufacturers offer this as an option, and this is shocking as wood is more durable than cardboard.  When a person invests in a high value product such as a vacuum table, it is essential that it is shipped in a method that protects the investment.

How Do I Prevent Scratching?

There may be instances in which the underlying surface of your table is more liable to scratch than others.  In the instances in which you are loading and unloading, it is best to have a precise balance between vacuum suction and blowback timing so that the fabric cutting/printing can be safely and effectively handled.    There are many other considerations such as the size of your vacuum blower, capacity, and horsepower; that should also be considered.  Great vacuum tables already have excellent hold down/flotation systems that can deliver the perfect timing including the correct specs for your specific needs.  When in doubt, consult an expert.

What Are Some Additional Features to Look Out For

When shopping for a vacuum table, you will want one that is anti-static, non-oxidative, and is free from long-term rust.  The reason why aluminum is a great choice is for the previous mentioned reasons along with the fact that it has an incredible strength/weight ratio which makes the table very sturdy, yet portable in the instance that it needs to be moved.

Can I Save Money With Vacuum Table Rebuilding?

Many customers want to upgrade their current solution without paying the full cost for a new vacuum table.  In this instance, there are two main categories in which rebuilding falls into:

  • Resurfacing
  • Complete Overhaul

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but in most cases, these tend to be the most popular ones.  Many companies can serve their clients by restoring not only the look, but the overall performance of your vacuum table by tending to flatness & airflow to ensure a frustration free experience.  The reason why businesses acquire automated tools is because they want to increase productivity – therefore, with vacuum rebuilding, you want to make sure that the company you are working with understands this urgency and promises a quick turnaround time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is quite difficult for one article to tell you the exact needs of your business as there are so many different uses for a vacuum table; however, in the end if you are purchasing from a reputable company, they should be able to guide you along the way.