Vacuum Trainer Overview


The history of vacuum teaching apparatus goes back to the 1600s. In the 19th and through most of the 20th centuries the common configuration was a pump (hand or motor driven), a glass belljar and baseplate, and perhaps a mercury manometer or other gauge. In the 1980s Edwards High Vacuum introduced a nice educational package consisting of a small diffusion pump and a set of accessories appropriate for the physics lecture hall and lab
In the 1990s a number of two year colleges in USA began to introduce formal curricula to prepare students for process and equipment support positions in semiconductor factories. The "standard" curriculum has included one to two semesters on vacuum and plasma processes. The focus has expanded to include related areas such as nanotechnology and other fields that require advanced manufacturing techniques. A gathering ground for information and curricula is the Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center in Phoenix, AZ.
Since the mid 1990s two companies have been prominent in the supply of vacuum education packages to the colleges, Varian Vacuum and MKS Instruments. A newcomer on the block is The Science Source and its Daedalon unit. The American Vacuum Society also has a long history of providing teacher education and vacuum equipment through its long-standing annual Science Educators Workshops. (Please see the High School topic area for more on this program.)
The following paragraphs provide a brief overview of these systems along with some links where more information can be found.
Vacuum Education at the Tech College Level
Varian Vacuum Products Vacuum Trainer. Introduced around 1995 this system was the first of the "modern" industrial vacuum trainers. The foundation was a Varian turbopump station with an added glass belljar and a variety of gauges. Other features included a leak valve and a controller with an RS232 computer interface. Common additions included sputtering fixturing for RF process familiarization. The Varian system disappeared from the market around 2000. Further information may be found at the following link:
David M. Hata's paper Vacuum Systems Laboratory Development

MKS Instruments VTS-1B Vacuum Training System. This product followed closely on the heels of the Varian trainer and remains in the catalog. The VTS-1B is provided as a set of kits of varying complexity and functionality. A book containing set up instructions and about 30 exercises is included with the system. A companion product is the Plasma Process Training System (PPTS-1A). This is a table-top sputtering system with 6" chamber, 4" magnetron cathode, high vacuum pumping system, flow controllers for gas introduction, gauges and a pressure controller. Further information on the MKS offerings may be found at the following links:

Product Overview at the MATEC site
Student Lab Worksheets prepared by Austin Community College
MKS Datasheet for the VTS-1B
Article Vacuum Training for Manufacturing: Why and How
Article Technician-Level Plasma Technology Training
University of Salford (UK) M. Sc. programme in Vacuum Engineering
The Science Source/Daedalon Vacuum Principles and Applications Laboratory (VPAL-A). This is a newcomer with broad capabilities at a relatively modest price. The datasheet may be viewed here. Now being introduced is a high school level vacuum system the VPAL-B (Basic). Both of these products are supported with substantial documentation.
Vacuum Education at the High School Level
Vacuum equipment is frequently found in high school physics labs, and occasionally will be found in lower grades. Frequently this equipment is in the form of single purpose demonstration equipment (Magdeburg hemispheres, "penny and feather" tubes, etc.) or may consist of a pump with a baseplate and glass or plastic chamber. Documentation is often sparse, especially with the pump/baseplate apparatus and teachers often do not have information with which to more fully utilize the equipment. It's a pity to have a $2,000 asset and only use it to expand balloons and marshmallows. Below are listed some of the more commonly found high school level equipment and resources.
American Vacuum Society Science Educators Workshop. This has to rate high on the list as the AVS has done an excellent job physics teachers through their workshops and equipment grants. Participants in the annual workshops receive a grant for a basic vacuum system consisting of an integrated pump, belljar and mechanical gauge. Program description and link to workshop documentation may be found here.
The following are links to typical vacuum equipment offerings that are offered by science supply companies. (These links may change over time due to the fluid nature of on line catalogs.)
Vacuum Base Plate
Typical Pump/Baseplate Combo

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