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Hannover Messe 2009, 20 to 24 April - The power of empty space

11.02.2009: Spectacle lenses with anti-reflective and scratch-resistant coatings, flat-screen TVs, solar cells and foam-free bottling of beverages - without vacuum technology, many of the things that we take for granted today would simply not exist. And physically de

Vacuum technology keeps industry on the move

Spectacle lenses with anti-reflective and scratch-resistant coatings, flat-screen TVs, solar cells and foam-free bottling of beverages - without vacuum technology, many of the things that we take for granted today would simply not exist. And physically demanding tasks in the packing and despatch departments of industry are no longer a challenge, thanks to the advent of automated lifting systems with vacuum grippers. The range of functions that can be performed is reflected in the number of vacuum systems on display at ComVac, which forms part of the line-up at HANNOVER MESSE 2009 (20 - 24 April).

Hannover. The market for vacuum components grew by twelve per cent in 2007 according to the Working Group of the International Statistics on Vacuum Technology (ISVT). The Group consists of members of several regional vacuum technology associations. At the end of last year the group's spokesman Dr. Stephen Ormrod cited manufacturers of solar cells as one example of the "the acceleration of demand for vacuum components".

Similarly the flat panel sector, which is absolutely reliant on vacuum technology for the manufacture of its products, has started to recover and is reporting a rise in demand once more. Many coating processes used by industry in the surface finishing of parts also depend on vacuum systems. Apart from these examples there are many other industrial applications - from analysis technology to semiconductor production and materials handling - that should start to push up market volumes in the medium term.

The sheer variety of vacuum systems now available will become apparent at ComVac, the Leading Trade Fair for Compressed Air and Vacuum Technology. The exhibiting companies will be presenting vacuum components - such as pumps, gauges and other measuring instruments or accessories - together with their associated support services.

The holding power of the vacuum


The "power" that a vacuum - effectively a completely empty space - can exert was demonstrated back in the 17th century by Otto von Guericke with his experiment involving two hemispheres. Using a simple piston pump he sucked out the air inside two hemispheres that had been placed together to make a sphere. The partial vacuum thus created held the two hemispheres so tightly together that 16 horses were unable to pull them apart.

Since in practice a perfect vacuum - a space in which there are no particles at all - cannot be achieved, the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) defines a vacuum as "the state of a gas when the pressure of the gas and therefore the particle density inside a sealed container is lower than it is outside, or when the pressure of the gas is lower than 300 mbar".

Applications engineers distinguish between different types or degrees of vacuum:


-   Coarse vacuum: This refers to the pressure region between atmospheric pressure and 1 mbar. The main area of application for coarse vacuums is in the handling of materials, such as palletizing and  depalletizing in logistics or lifting aids in assembly work.

-   Fine vacuum: This term describes a pressure in the range between 1 mbar and 10-3 mbar (10-3 = 0.001 = one thousandth), typically used in the production of light bulbs.

-   High vacuum: A high vacuum is a vacuum between 10-3 mbar and 10-7 mbar (10-7 = 0.0000001 = 1/10,000,000), as used, for example, in the manufacture of electron tubes.

-   Ultra-high vacuum: Pressures below 10-7 mbar have commercial applications in the surface finishing industry, for the vapour deposition of metals, or in electron-beam welding.

Apart from its use in generating motive force, as in pneumatics, one of the main areas of application for vacuum technology is in the surface coating industry. Here the absence of air ensures that vaporized metals reach the component to be coated without being "diverted" en route by air flows.

These ultra-thin layers are highly effective, helping to shield against solar glare or insulate against heat loss in the case of window glass, or making spectacle lenses anti-reflective and scratch-resistant. Tools used in metalworking are coated in the same way to make them more durable and improve their performance. Without vacuum systems it would simply not be possible to make them in this form.

Thin layers and heavy packages


Solar cells are also coated with the aid of vacuum technology. Nanometre-thin layers of silicon nitride ensure maximum utilization of the electrical energy generated by the sunlight. But before the silicon nitride can be deposited on the cell with the aid of a chemical reaction, a vacuum first has to be created in the reaction chamber. A number of other processes used in analysis technology - such as mass spectrometry or electron microscopy - can only function if the air has been sucked out beforehand. The firms exhibiting at ComVac will be showing how vacuum power can be brought to the workplace efficiently and at an affordable cost.

At the same time vacuum applications can be very "hands-on". Vacuum grippers for materials handling systems have now reached a very advanced stage of sophistication. Any problems that occur in use - and these are very rare - are nearly always caused by the items being handled. In logistics the systems used to palletize and depalletize goods now operate so fast that the limiting factor on the speed of operation is the strength of the packing cartons.

A robot equipped with vacuum grippers could actually shift the cartons even faster, if it were not for the fact that the resulting acceleration forces would cause the cartons to tear. In the world of assembly automation, on the other hand, careful handling counts for much more than speed, and contactless gripper systems have been developed to handle items with supreme delicacy. Vacuum solutions are also used to empty industrial gas bottles prior to refilling, and to bottle beverages without inducing foaming.

About ComVac

ComVac takes place from 20 to 24 April under the umbrella of HANNOVER MESSE 2009. The ComVac portfolio covers all aspects of compressed air and vacuum technology - from the generation, treatment and distribution of the air to its application in machines and systems. The focus is on modern electronic control and regulator systems. Services such as current state analyses or compressed air contracting complete the range of offerings at ComVac, which in 2009 will be located in Hall 26.


-Tanja Gerhardt-

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/deutsche-messe-hannover-2009-vaccum-technology-power-empty-space-statistics---55588.html

11.02.2009 / MaP

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