Instructions

Product Instructions:

Setting up and using your AirWeights Vacuum Table System is quick and easy. Please follow these instructions, and feel free to contact us with any questions or issues. 

Pump and Air Line Setup:

  1. Locate intake and exhaust ports on the vacuum pump. Install the exhaust muffler on exhaust port. Install the filter and vacuum gauge onto the intake port. 
  2. Install a quick disconnect fitting onto one side of the AirWeights table by removing the set screw, and replacing it with a threaded q/d fitting. Use the included teflon tape to ensure a seal. Do not over-tighten the fitting when installing, or you risk stripping the threads in the table. 
  3. Install the air line between the intake side of the pump and the AirWeights table. Both sides utilize quick-disconnect fittings. Simply push the end of the air line firmly into the fitting to seat. To release the fitting, push the plastic collar towards the metal flange while pulling the air line out. 

Mounting Your AirWeights Table: 

The AirWeights table has a series of recessed mounting holes and slots along the entire perimeter. You can attach the Vacuum Table to any flat and rigid surface or sub-structure. 
We include everything you need to mount the AirWeights table directly to the spoil-board of any CNC machine.


When installing onto the spoil-board of a CNC machine, first face the spoil-board to ensure flatness. 
A set of "locating pins" is included which help ensure accurate repeatable installation of the Vacuum Table on your CNC machine. The locating pins also provide accurate repeatable fixture plate workflows. We include a program to load into your CNC machine to drill a set of locating holes directly into your spoil-board.

How to Clamp Your Workpiece:

The AirWeights Vacuum table is designed to be a versatile workholding solution, and is able to apply strong vacuum clamping in several different ways. Depending on the specific needs of the job, you can choose from 3 main ways to form a gasket under your part.

Grid gasket

  • Grid Gasket is a fast and economical way to set up a part on the machine. Simply create a gasket that sits inside the intended cut area, surrounding one or more vacuum ports with any custom gasket shape based on our 1” grid layout. You can achieve any shape, and create multiple independent vacuum zones for multiple parts. Plug any unused ports using the supplied plugs.
  • When you are done, simply remove the gasket, and you have a clean grid pattern to create a whole new arrangement for your next cut.
  • With this method, you do not want to cut below the bottom surface of your part, since the table is directly below the workpiece. Set your Z height to leave a thin “onion skin” of material that can be easily broken off later to free your part from the material itself. Onion skin recommended thickness: .050”


Tile Gasket

  • Tile Gasket is a quick, user friendly, and very versatile workholding method. The large “tile” of perforated gasket material turns the entire surface of your AirWeights Vacuum Table into one large suction surface - delivering uniform suction across the whole table. This is amazing for organic shapes, designs with uneven outlines, or items that would be otherwise very challenging to create a gasket for.
  • Simply place your workpiece anywhere onto the tile gasket surface, and it will be held firmly in that spot.
  • Since the tile gasket is a soft foam, you can cut BELOW your part, for fully finished through-cuts with no tabs or onion skin. You cut just slightly (0.005”) below your part, barely kissing the foam gasket. This minimizes damage to the gasket itself, allowing you to use one gasket many times over.
  • .005” or min achievable cut depth below part


Fixture Plates

  • Fixture Plates are used to create a dedicated, re-useable ‘fixture’ for repetitive cuts of the same part. They are made of non-porous material, which helps keep vacuum only where you need it. 
  • Provides a sacrificial layer below your part so you can cut all the way through your material. Thickness provides extra clearance for under-cuts and bottom-edge chamfers. You can cut up to 3/16" below the part. Simply run your program and allow it to cut into the fixture plate, leaving you a cleared out area around the part perimeter.
  • A highly efficient solution to palletize your different parts, to efficiently complete large runs of parts, and easily swap between different jobs. Dedicated fixture plates make switching from one set of parts to the next, and back again, a simple, repeatable, reliable, and efficient task.
  • If you want to make the same part over and over again, this is the method for you. Best yet, you can have multiple, easy to swap fixture plates for all of the different parts that you need to batch out.
  • .020" cut depth below part. Do not exceed 3/16” below part.

Setup And Use:  

After choosing the correct gasket method for your specific workpiece, you are ready to clamp your workpiece in place. 

To clamp your material, place it over your gasket location, turn the vacuum pump on, and push firmly onto the top of the material, it can take a second or two for vacuum clamping force to build. 
Confirm vacuum holding force by referring to the pump gauge, which should read between -18 to -22 Hg when holding vacuum. You should also confirm the vacuum hold by giving the workpiece a nice firm push and pull, physically confirming that it's being held firmly. 

With the material vacuum clamped into place, you can proceed to set your X/Y/Z Zero positions, and/or locate the corner of your workpiece. Take careful note of the Z height setting relative to the cut depth of your program. Cutting too deep can risk cutting into your table. You can cut below the part if you are using tile gasket or a fixture plate. 

 

 

AirWeights Demo:

AirWeights System Components:

AirWeights Vacuum Table Components (Box 1)

24 x 24 Package Contents

  1. ¾” Locating Pins (2x) - AW Install
  2. ½” Locating Pins (2x) - Fixture Plates, MDF+Tile Gasket
  3. 5/16” OD x ⅛ NPT Push-to-Connect Fitting
  4. Mounting Screws (14ea, 2 extra)
  5. Rubber Plugs (12ea, 2 extra)
  6. 25’ Grid Gasket (no adhesive)
  7. 8’ Vacuum Line (5/16” OD Polyurethane)

24 x 48 Package Contents

  1. ¾” Locating Pins (2x) - AW Install
  2. ½” Locating Pins (2x) - Fixture Plates, MDF+Tile Gasket
  3. 5/16” OD x ⅛ NPT Push-to-Connect Fitting
  4. Mounting Screws (20ea, 2 extra)
  5. Rubber Plugs (22ea, 2 extra)
  6. 50’ Grid Gasket (no adhesive)
  7. 8’ Vacuum Line (5/16” OD Polyurethane)

AirWeights Vacuum Pump Components (Box 2)

5 CFM Pump Components

  1. Mounting Feet
  2. Inlet Filter
  3. Vacuum Gauge
  4. Exhaust Muffler
  5. Male/Male Fitting
  6. Male/Female/Female T Fitting
  7. Male to 5/16 OD Push-to-Connect Fitting

9 CFM Pump Components

  1. Mounting Feet
  2. Inlet Filter
  3. Vacuum Gauge
  4. Exhaust Muffler
  5. Male/Male Fitting
  6. Male/Female/Female T Fitting
  7. Male ½/Female ¼ Reducer (for Vacuum gauge)
  8. Male to 5/16 OD Push-to-Connect Fitting

Setup and Installation

Vacuum Pump Setup and Use

1. Install Rubber Vibration Isolators: Hand tighten/snug only. Overtightening will cause excessive vibration and the pump may “walk” while running.

2. Install Exhaust Muffler: Hand tighten/snug only - do not over tighten.

3. Install Intake Components: Apply PTFE tape on all male threads liberally, to allow you to rotate/clock them in desired position.

a. Start with male/male

b. Install intake filter

c. Install male/female/female T

d. Install Vacuum Gauge, clock T to desired position for viewing gauge

e. Install push-to-connect fitting

Vacuum Table Installation

  1. Face your spoilboard (if you have one). Provide a clean, co-planar reference on your machine surface.
  2. Plan your installation location.
    **TIP - center your vacuum table on a 24x24 or 24x48 area for easier programming and repeat locating.
  3. Drill 4 holes in you machine spoilboard
  4. Must be 0.25” diameter x .375”-.5” deep,
  5. Locations marked with cross hairs in DXF
    (insert image)
  6. Install two of the ¾” Long locating pins diagonally across from each other. One should be close to the front left corner (0,0) of the AirWeight and the other at the furthest opposite corner (i.e. 24,24 or 24,48 or 48,24)
  7. Place the AW vacuum table onto the pins, constraining the vacuum table in the XY plane.
  8. Install screws in all locations, mounting the vacuum table to your machine surface. Use a torque wrench or clutched driver to ensure equal mounting force from each screw and a uniform surface. *TIP: Consider using ¼-20 (or M6) threaded inserts in your machine  table for easy removal and installation. This also helps control equal torque values. Mounting points are sized to receive ¼-20 Socket Head Cap Screws. 
  9. Push vacuum line into fitting in pump and fitting in vacuum table. 
  10. Run a Vacuum Test as follows:

a. Plug all 10/20 vacuum ports using provided rubber plugs. Don’t forget to plug the touch plate corner location(s).

b. Turn on vacuum pump for 10 seconds.

c. Turn off pump and watch gauge. Drop should be slow, losing less than 5”Hg every 10 seconds. 

Using Your AirWeights System

Direct Mount

  1. Your stock material must be flat for the vacuum table to create a seal and firmly hold your stock. If you are struggling to create a strong hold, consider using individual pieces instead of longer boards or large sheets containing multiple pieces. Always place your material concave side down and apply pressure to support vacuum sealing when seating your stock. 
  2. Use grid gasket (no adhesive) to create a sealed zone underneath your stock. The zone must contain at least 1 vacuum port.
  3. Plug all remaining vacuum ports. Don’t forget the corner(s)!
  4. Place your stock material over the sealed zone, making sure your stock completely covers the gasket material. 
  5. Turn on your pump and apply downward pressure to your stock to help create a seal. 
  6. The sound of your vacuum pump will change, pressure difference will increase and your part will be rigidly held.  
  7. Make sure to leave a .050” “onion skin” at the bottom of your cuts when using this method. DO NOT CUT THROUGH or you may damage your vacuum table and lose vacuum pressure, depending on the gasket approach. 
  8. Use a secondary process (trim router, drum sander, sanding whip, etc…) to remove the remaining onion skin from your part. 

MDF + Tile Gasket

  1. The type of MDF used is critical to this approach. We recommend using ¼” thick MEDEX from Roseburg Forest Products. Other MDF materials can work, but the material density needs to be at least 45 lbs/ft3 [720 kg/m3] to function properly with your AirWeights system. This can be counterintuitive when compared to traditional vacuum table systems found on large industrial CNCs, which move large volumes of air. Our pumps prioritize pressure difference and power efficiency. If low density materials are used, the pump will not generate a high pressure differential due to excessive flow through the MDF. Higher density MDF helps to reduce or “choke” this flow, allowing the buildup of a pressure difference and creating strong workholding. 
  2. Place your ¼” MDF on the vacuum table and turn on the pump. Our pre-applied MDF+Tile Gasket assemblies have precsion locating holes to accurately ans repeatedly locate on the AirWeight. You can expect a reading of about -15” Hg while the MDF is leaking air through its thickness. 
  3. Face off the minimum amount possible from the top of the MDF. Ideally .010” (0.25 mm) or less. This is primarily to achieve coplanarity between the top surface of the MDF and your machine. If you are happy with the variation in Z across the MDF surface without facing it, you can skip this step. 
  4. Somehow mark the orientation of the MDF after facing, if you decided to. This ensures that any Z error you accounted for is maintained each time the MDF is placed into the AW. 
  5. Remove the MDF from the AW and place it on a flat surface. Without removing the backer, place the tile gasket onto your MDF in the position you’d like to install it. Make sure your tile gasket covers the top surface of the MDF completely. *TIP: Place a heavy object on the tile gasket to maintain its position. 
  6. Fold 1 edge over to show the backer. Peel back ~3”-5” along the entire edge, then fold snx crease the backer to keep it away from the adhesive. 
  7. Fold the gasket back over and place the exposed adhesive lightly against the MDF in the appropriate location. Adjust as necessary. Once the correct location is achieved. Apply pressure to activate the adhesive. 
  8. Fold the gasket sheet back the other way. Slowly peel the backer off the tile gasket, allowing the sheet to naturally lay onto the MDF. Once the sheet has been rolled on, apply pressure all around the gasket to seat the adhesive. 
  9. Place your MDF + tile gasket assembly back onto your AirWeight, making sure to maintain the same orientation as before. 
  10. Place material on top of the tile gasket. Turn on your vacuum pump and apply downward pressure to your stock. Hello 10 to 20 seconds for pressure to build. Push and pull laterally on your material to test how secure the hold is. If you are not comfortable with the holding force, do not perform any cuts.

Tile gasket tips and tricks:

  1. Minimize the amount you cut through to maintain the service life of your tile gasket. Cutting deep into the gasket, or worse, cutting through into the MDF, will cause issues and leaks for the next project. You may even choose to leave a very very thin onion skin (i.e. .005”) they will simply flake off upon removal of the part just to maintain the service life of your tile gasket. This requires understanding your stock thickness very very well, especially in the location where you are setting your Z0 position. 
  2. This approach is very sensitive to flatness. If your stock material is bowed or warped, this approach may not function well.
  3. This approach is sensitive to surface roughness. For example, plywood with a very coarse grain will be challenging to hold. Smooth surfaces such as prefinished plywood or plastic sheets are ideal.
  4. Seal the edges and a 1 inch border on the bottom side of your MDF. Lacquer wood, glue, epoxy, etc. have all been proven methods. This helps to prevent leaks and unwanted areas.
  5. If you’re stock material is smaller than the surface of your tile gasket, cover any exposed tile gasket with a nonporous scrap material, such as thin sheet plastic or scraps of prefinished plywood. This helps prevent leaks in unused areas and increases holding force on your stock.

Fixture Plates

  1. Fixture Plates are a non-porous, semi-sacrificial surface that sits between your AirWeights vacuum table and your stock. It is meant to be cut into, allowing you to cut completely through your stock and leaving you with finished parts at the end of your program. This method provides the same level of holding force of direct mounting, but with trh added benefit of cutting completely through.
  2. Gasket material is used on the top surface of the Fixture Plate to create sealed zones that sit within the boundary of your finished part(s). These zones must also acount for any internal areas that are cut completely through, such as an internal hole. The basic rule is that there must be a seal anywhere that is completely cut through.
  3. Within the sealed regions, there must also be hole for a vacuum inlet. Place a .400” diameter hole so it aligns with a grid line on the AirWeight underneath, while close still being close to center within the gasket boundary. Or, if that is not an option, make the hole at least 1” in diameter so that air can always enter the sealed cavity even if it’s centered on a square within the grid of the AirWeight beneath. Machine the holes last when making your fixture plate and DO NOT CUT THROUGH or pressure will release and your part will become loose. Use a drill or countersink from the backside to break through in each location they needs a vacuum inlet.
  4. Here is an example of fixture plate design for a simple part (Jace to insert example and describe, CNC with Me file).
  5. For more information on fixture plates, please watch our tutorial on YouTube (insert link).