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Portable Vacuum Board

Ryan Rumminger & Nathan Stroud

Anderson Career and Technology Center
Engineering Design and Development Class
May 1, 2015

Our goal in this project was to implement vacuum clamping technology in a way
that reaches a wider market than ever before. We effectively downsized the typical DIY
vacuum table. We also valued compatibility with household vacuum cleaners like car
vacuums and shop-vacs. Our goal was to make our product an accessory for customer
owned vacuum cleaners that could be used to mitigate hassle and danger from light
craft-making. While our product had limited utility, it is the kind of utility you ask for from
a product like ours. We were able to get sufficient vacuum to mount our product on
glass, and we consistently demonstrated this to our reviewers. While our product might
have still been a gimmick or novelty to the public, it at least garnered positive attention.

Table of Contents

The purpose of this project, from the educational standpoint, was to apply the
technical knowledge weve acquired during our tenure at the Anderson Career and
Technology Center. In addition to technical skills, we developed considerable
professional skills. Communication was paramount throughout the semester. We
communicated with our facilitator, our audience, and each other. Communication was
vital on the part of my partner, as our chosen project was his idea. All we did this
semester was convert an idea into a working prototype. We also educated ourselves,
throughout our research and fabrication, on the requirements of continuous vacuum.
However, I believe the professional experience we gained is much more valuable than

Vacuum table are widely used in industry. My partner was first exposed to
vacuum clamping technology when a vacuum table was used in silk screening plastic
panels as part of his fathers work manufacturing vending machines. Our research
primarily focused on existing products and public feedback. We found that there is
plenty of variety when it comes to vacuum clamps, boards, and tables. However our
research brought us to the conclusion that almost every vacuum clamping product is
visually and functionally different. You have industrial tables built for use in conjunction

with CNC routers, as well as DIY jobs and portable systems that vary in design and
packaging. Our product blurs the line between the portable and DIY categories of
vacuum clamping products. We also consulted our survey data in order to make
decisions and justify our product. Our data consisted of an open test group with a
subgroup of Project Lead the Way faculty, who we considered potential consumers.
Before fabrication, we cited a forum in which the porous qualities of MDF board were
discussed. This is where we discovered that MDF is sealed before sale, so we would
have to sand away the outer layer of the board. This was valuable in the process of


2x 12''x18''x1/2'' MDF Board

1x 7/8'' Standard Vacuum Hose
1x 1'' PVC Valve
1x 3/4" to 1" PVC 90 degree elbow
1x 3/4" Male to Male PVC adapter
1 Roll of Duct Tape
1 Bottle of Silicone Caulk
1x Vacuum Pump/Generator

Our project began by sharing very abstract ideas on what we would build for our
project. It normally takes more than one person to weed out proposals that arent
entirely tangible. There are no bad ideas, but there are bad decisions. There was some
pressure to stay within our means, both economically and intellectually. We had to ask
ourselves what already exists, what will people buy, and what do we have the tooling
and resources to build. We decided to do the portable vacuum board, which turned out
to be a good idea because we could use existing technology to satisfy a new niche in
vacuum clamping, the portable vacuum work surface. We differentiated our product by
making it portable, solid-faced, and compatible with average-sized vacuum hoses. We
created the mother of all decision matrices in order to decide which features would be
included and which materials would be needed. We justified our design based on the
values decided on in our Decision Matrix. We then set about gathering resources and

building our prototype. We ordered large sheets of MDF board and cut them into
individual panels. We cut a grid pattern into our first bottom board, but we ultimately
decided to use a board lined in foam tape instead. Fabrication involved sanding the seal
off of our boards, but we learned the hard way that a power sander was not the way to
go. We exhausted one board because we sanded large sections of board unevenly. An
uneven board will not create suction with anything. We sanded our second top board
very lightly and evenly. One of our systems that did not work to our expectations was
the one designed to hold the board together from the inside when it was not being held
together by vacuum. We recessed magnets into the lower board and attached more
magnets to the underside of the top board. The magnets were slightly too far apart to
attract each other effectively, and silicone did not work as well as we thought it would as
than to the board. We caulked the sides of our board to direct airflow through the top
and bottom sides. We assembled our PVC fittings to fit to both the board and our
vacuum hose. We worked with both a 1980s Oreck portable vacuum, but we used Mr.
McCulloughs Shop-Vac for our presentation. All of our demonstrations included
mounting our vacuum board to a window and sticking my drivers license to the top face
of the board.

Our product performed fairly well, but it was limited in its utility. This product could
be optimized with time. The proper personnel and equipment could fabricate an
unlimited number of versions. We could experiment with different thicknesses and hole
frequencies. We could fix barometers to certain points on the board and find the
optimum design. If the field of chemistry allows it, we could use more porous, solid
objects that are self-healing. Initially, our product was meant to be used in woodworking
as well as crafts, but our product did not produce the ideal vacuum. It is still useful, just
not for as broad a market as we had wished.

All we learned during this project was learned through experience. We learned
about the porous quality of MDF, but we also learned about why the documentation and
planning was important. When my partner first proposed this project, I had no idea what
he was planning to do or how he was planning to do it. Our classmates were equally
baffled. Now, I contrast that moment with the day of the showcase. This was when we
not only had a prototype, but we both knew how it worked and what we did to fabricate
it. This was a result of the communication that occurred within our team over the span of
a semester.


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