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Wet to dry: Improving sustainability with advanced vacuum technology.

May 6, 2024


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For industrial manufacturing across the world, the traditional focus on profitability and operational growth now extends to environmental responsibility and sustainability goals. Governments and regulatory bodies are enforcing firmer control on industries and scrutinizing environmental impact much more than before. For owners of vacuum systems and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), sustainability is not just a goal but a vital need to thrive well into the future. 

Challenges of traditional vacuum technology

For years, industries have relied on vacuum pumps that utilize water, oil, or water vapor steam as working media. Traditional vacuum pumps use different working principles and require different working medias:

Water in liquid ring pumps

Liquid ring pumps typically utilize water as a working medium, creating a sealing ring that assists in gas compression. However, relying on water includes several challenges. At first the consumption of this valuable resource. Water droplets and vapor is continuously lost with the exhaust gas stream and needs to be frequently re-filled to the system. The water does also accumulates potential process contamination which leads to an even higher exchange demand or to the need for a costly or complicated water filtration system. Next to this the supply water temperature is limiting the achievable vacuum level. If the water temperature might change due to changing weather conditions, this could lead to varying product qualities. 

liquid ring pumps
water as working medium
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rotary vane vacuum pump

Oil rotary vane pumps and piston pumps

Oil, a common working substance in rotary vane and rotary piston pumps, acts as a lubricant, coolant and sealing agent. However, using oil creates maintenance challenges, sets up a demand for regular oil-level and quality monitoring and creates environmental concerns. Oil in contact with the process gases absorbs contamination which is extracted from the process. Oil needs to be filtered and requires frequent exchange to keep the pumping performance at the required level. 

Steam in steam ejector systems

Steam ejector pumps leverage water vapor (steam) as a carrier gas through a venturi tube, creating low and high-pressure areas for vacuum creation. While being effective, the usage of steam requires excess of water and power, as the evaporation of water requires huge amount of energy. Steam is also mostly produced by burning of fossil fuels, which contributes to global warming with its unnecessary release of CO2 gas

steam ejector systems

Dry compressing vacuum pumps without pumping media

Dry vacuum pump technology enables a technological shift that aligns perfectly with the sustainability objectives of modern industrial manufacturing. The core advantage of dry technology is that these pumps operate solely on energy, eliminating the need for sealing water, oil or motive steam.

Modern, industrial versions of screw-type or claw-type dry pumps also offer the robustness and reliability which is required for demanding industrial applications.

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Advantages of dry vacuum solutions

  • Minimal resource consumption: Dry vacuum pumps, powered by energy alone, eliminate the need for water, steam or oil inside the compression room, aligning perfectly with sustainability goals.

  • Contaminant-free operation: Unlike traditional systems, dry vacuum pumps do not accumulate contaminants in their operation media, removing the need for complex sewage treatment systems or waste oil handling procedures.

  • Reduced maintenance and labor costs: The absence of oil removes the need for frequent oil-exchanges and the constant monitoring of oil quality. This significantly reduces both operational costs and manpower requirements.

Dry vacuum application in industries

The use of dry vacuum pumps and systems is transforming operations across industries, thanks to their versatility for industrial applications. Here some examples of industrial applications in which dry vacuum system could outperform the traditional vacuum solutions:

  • Food packaging and processing: The food industries heavily rely on vacuum technology for processing and packaging to maintain quality and hygiene standards. While liquid ring pumps have been commonly used, the trend in modern factories is shifting from wet to dry processes due to the rising cost of water resources.

  • Plastic production and PET recycling: Vacuum drying and degassing processes are essential in production of high-quality plastics or plastic recycling. Although liquid ring pumps have been traditionally used, they are today challenges by their wastewater generation and high power demand. To ensure sustainable plastic recycling, transitioning to more environmentally friendly alternatives which align with responsible wastewater disposal practices is essential

  • Steel production: Secondary metallurgy steel production processes typically involve vacuum process steps which were supported by steam ejector vacuum systems. To drive those, steel plants relied for decades on cheap steam as a by-product of the blast furnace operation. The times of such cheap steam is over, simply as more and more steel plants are now moving to scrap recycling in electric arc furnaces. Where steam was not available, it was produced by fossil fuel powered steam boilers. The usage of mechanical vacuum systems based on dry screw and Roots blower combinations, enables the steel industry to get rid of such energy wasting technologies. They can reduce their CO2 footprint and increase the reliability and control of their processes while optimizing their efficiency of energy usage.  

  • Vacuum heat treatment: Vacuum heat treatment plays a crucial role in modern vehicle production industry, encompassing cars, planes, trains, engine parts, turbines and much more. Thermal case hardening, annealing, vacuum brazing, carburizing and other applications require robust and reliable vacuum systems, to create an oxygen free atmosphere for perfect process control. Using robust and reliable dry screw pumps significantly reduces cost of ownership of vacuum heat treatment furnaces. Shifting from oil lubricated vacuum pumps to dry screw pumps enables the heat treatment industry to be eco-friendlier and more sustainable. 

  • Coating industries: From architectural glass coatings to wear protection and ophthalmic applications, dry vacuum solutions contribute to sustainable coating processes. Traditional wet pumps involve extra consumption of resources for this application and bear the risk of an oil-contamination of the substrate. The shift from wet to dry vacuum pumps enables the coating industry to be more sustainable and profitable. 

Sustainable manufacturing with Leybold dry vacuum pumps and systems

Dry vacuum solutions offer not just a higher robustness but enables the user to comply with environmental regulations and to put a proactive stance towards a greener, more sustainable future.

As a world leader in vacuum pump technology, we specialize in helping our customers to switch from traditional wet technologies to modern dry vacuum solutions. Leybold’s products and expertise can transform your industrial production, making it more sustainable and competitive.

Partner with us for innovative vacuum technology that enhances efficiency and environmental responsibility.

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