What Are Suction Cups For?

Vacuum suction cups are a vital part of handling systems. They consist of an elastomer suction cup and a connecting element and are available in various shapes and materials. Proper storage and cleaning procedures are necessary. Suction cups grip workpieces using atmospheric pressure, making them a reliable way to transport and hold objects.

What are suction cups for?

Suction cups, also called vacuum pads, are versatile gripping tools that uses atmospheric pressure to create a vacuum seal between the cup and the object’s surface. This makes it a valuable tool for a wide range of applications. In industrial settings, suction cups are essential for lifting and moving objects. The vacuum pads are composed of an elastomer suction cup and a connecting element, available in various shapes and materials to suit specific needs. 

Suction cups for glass are frequently utilized in industrial settings such as factories and warehouses to efficiently handle fragile materials like glass. Along with glass, suction cups can effectively move materials made of plastic, metal, and wood, helping to reduce the risk of worker injury. The transportation industry also benefits from the use of suction cups for loading and unloading cargo.

Suction cups play a vital role in moving and holding workpieces within a plant or robot. Unlike traditional methods of attachment, vacuum suction cups rely on ambient air pressure to grip workpieces. By connecting the suction cup to a vacuum generator, air is evacuated from the space between the cup and the workpiece. As soon as the pressure between the vacuum pads and the workpiece is lower than the atmospheric pressure, the suction cup is pressed against the workpiece. This creates a vacuum seal that prevents air from entering the space between the suction cup and the workpiece.


How do vacuum suction cups work?

The physics behind vacuum lifting suction cups is based on the principles of atmospheric pressure and the creation of a vacuum seal. When a suction cup is placed on a surface, the air between the cup and the surface is pushed out, creating a low-pressure area. This low-pressure area is what creates the vacuum seal that allows the suction cup to grip onto the surface.

The atmospheric pressure, which is the weight of the air pressing down on the Earth’s surface, plays a key role in this process. When the suction cup is connected to a vacuum generator, air is removed from the area between the cup and the surface, causing the air pressure in that space to drop. This creates a pressure differential between the atmosphere and the space between the cup and the surface. The higher atmospheric pressure then presses the suction cup against the surface, creating the vacuum seal.

The suction cup maintains its grip as long as the vacuum seal is maintained, preventing air from entering between the cup and the surface. When the vacuum is released, either intentionally or due to a loss of vacuum pressure, the suction cup loses its grip and falls off the surface. Proper maintenance and cleaning of the suction cup are important to maintain the vacuum seal and ensure the suction cup’s effectiveness in lifting and moving objects.

Physical principles of vacuum force

The suction force of a vacuum lifting system can be calculated using the formula F = ΔP x A. In this formula, F represents the holding force of the system, ΔP is the difference between the ambient pressure and the pressure of the system, and A is the effective suction area, which is the area of the suction cup that is under vacuum. By using this formula, the holding force of a vacuum lifting system can be determined based on the difference in pressure and the effective suction area of the suction cups.

  • Vacuum force equation: F = ΔP x A
  • Vacuum pressure equation: ΔP = (F/A)
  • Air flow rate equation: Q = AV 

Technical data and specific calculation examples for real-life applications are available to assist with the design of individual components. The vacuum suction cup portfolio from EUROTECH provides valuable information on selecting the appropriate vacuum suction cup, including important factors to consider.