A Food Saver brand vacuum sealer, a rectangular black object with clear vacuum hose attached

When You Need a Little Suction …

What can you do when you need some vacuum to hold a small part for viewing? If your lab is equipped with a vacuum line: no problem. If you happen to have an available vacuum pump (and these are available at very reasonable costs): again, no problem. But what if you have neither of these? Then you might turn to a food saver.

Food savers are basically vacuum pumps with a sealer to help preserve food. The food is placed in a plastic bag, the food sealer evacuates the air from the bag, and then you can seal the bag with heat. They are advertised as a way to store food longer with less spoilage.

Some food savers have provision for a tube to bring the vacuum external to the sealer. The food saver with the tube can be used in a pinch as a vacuum pump. Its vacuum capacity is limited, and it’s designed for only very intermittent operation. Also, you can purchase a small vacuum pump on-line for less money than a food saver costs at your local store.

I happened to have a food saver purchased for an application where we needed to preserve samples against moisture contamination. It worked great for that purpose. So, when a need arose to hold small parts on a vacuum wand (it could have been a small vacuum gripper) for imaging, the food saver was pressed into service, and the project proceeded.

Keeping a project on schedule can require improvisation, if only to save time.