Thursday, August 1, 2013

poor lad's vacuum sealing hack using vacu vin pump and wine stopper, and 3D printing

It has been two or three years or so i have been dabbling in sous vide cooking with my hackish sous vide cooker. The PID controlled cooker is only one half of sous vide; the other half is with the vacuum sealing. It is like the yin and the yang in sous vide cooking. For years I have the cooking part, as for the sealing part, I just make do with water displacement technique. What makes sous vide so prohibitively expensive to enter is the upfront equipment cost for the cooker, and not forgetting the vacuum chamber for packing and sealing the food. I shall not dive into the details of the benefit of packing food in vacuum for prolong shelf life.

As for the sealing portion, I have gave some serious thought on heat sealing, experimenting with the temperature for the plastic would melt but will not burn. Somehow, the thought of toxic from burnt platic made me drop the idea of heat sealing. Afterall, there is still room for scientific research to prove the hypotheses of melted plastic will have an adverse effect on human. Thus, I shall stick with mechanical sealing if possible

I have been hacking for a vacuum sealer for some time. As an engineer, I broke down this problem into 2; the vacuum portion, and the sealing portion. For the vacuum portion, I have hack a usb vacuum drive  , and BBS a vacuum pump to use with my own vacuum chamber made using 1" thick polycarbonate sheet, a frying pan, and used bicycle inner tube.

As I give a lot of thoughts on how to build the vacuum sealing solution, I am hitting it from an engineering point of view. Which potentially can be a blind spot for an elegant and simple solution. I knew I have been hitting that blind spot, because the solutions that went through my head is getting intrinsically complicated than ever. When a engineer sees a problem, he/she solves the problem. Human or computer problems alike. Hence, do not let engineers handle human relationships or potential love affairs.

Few days ago, the design and idea just struck me. What I really need is a cheapo and hand operated vacuum pump, a check valve (to ensure single direction air flow), and a "double bag method" for me to take my own sweet time to vacuum seal the packaging mechanically via zip lock bags, the bags I have been using quite a lot. Since I already have a vacu vin vacuum pump (I hacked one using a  £1 bicycle pump, but it does not work as well as expected), vacu vin wine stoppers (essentially a proprietary single check valve with pressure release). What I need to make the whole thing work is to fabricate a stand of some sort to house the vacu vin wine stopper (check valve).

Just two days ago when I was shamelessly stealing ideas from and I came across this design and straight away I knew i have to remix this as a hack for vacu vin pump and stopper. the remix is available here: Courtesy of the 3D printers at institute of making, fabrication of the stand is in a jiffy.

The rest are just history.

close up view of 3D printed base and vacu vin wine stopper.

puncture a hole on the bigger outer bag where this hole will be aligned to the hole on the 3D printed base. plug in the vacu vin wine stopper. Insert a smaller bag with food and partially seal the zip lock. seal the zip lock of the outer bag.

Pump away with vacu vin pump. Good exercise I would say.

not true vacuum, but nonetheless simple and elegant design as a solution


Ridge Annie said...

Hello! I'm Annie Ridge .I have never been hacking for a vacuum sealer before so I really like your tips. Thank so much!

Rocky Md said...

I think so too, Annie Ridge. I will be sure to let you all know in a future at the same vacuum sealer blog post. I have a good more idea of vacuum for on:

Wanda G. Fields said...

Great tips! I have 2 vacuum sealer and never know about this. Thanks for sharing.

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ROSE R said...

Awesome tools.I am following your tips and tricks! I am also give a lot of thoughts on how to build the vacuum sealing solution, I am hitting it from an engineering point of view. Which potentially can be a blind spot for an elegant and simple solution.To know more click here.Thanks a lot!!!

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