Modern science and technology have provided mankind as a whole with many ingenious and useful tools which make many common tasks much easier and more efficient. In many cases, the tools that work the best make use of basic principles of physics, and also feature simple yet effective designs.
One of these modern tools that is useful in many situations is known as the suction cup. Modern suctions cups are used in quite a few ways, and the applications for these simple yet supremely handy instruments are many and varied.
Not all suction cups are created equal, some being used in situations where industrial strength performance is needed, and some being applied in situations where the standards of performance are less stringent. Being able to rate the suction cups based on the job that needs to be done is a valuable skill to have, and that will be the focus of this article.
The subject of suction cups and their performance raises some interesting and relevant questions. What is the history of the suction cup? How do suction cups work? What are some applications for suction cups? And, how does one rate the performance of a suction cup? Let’s answer these questions.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE SUCTION CUP?
Due to the fog of history, it is not possible to know exactly who first used a man-made suction cup. Certain animals, such as the Octopus and Squid, have suction cups on their limbs, and it is likely that ancient people noticed this fact and used these creatures as inspiration for creating artificial suction cups.
In any case, some of the first recorded human use of suction cups occurred in ancient Greece. The Greeks from this time period believed that many ailments could be cured by the practice of bloodletting, and to this end, suction cups made from gourds that had been split in half were used for this purpose.
Later on in history, the Chinese developed the well known medical discipline known as Cupping. This involved heating cup-like containers to suck the air out of them and stick them onto the body, with the intention of drawing out toxins.
In more recent times, primitive versions of the modern suction cup received patents in the 1800’s. These early suction cups were used mainly to hold and handle photographic plates. Ever since then, the materials and designs used to create suction cups have become many and varied, and this is due to increased understanding about the physics behind suction cups.
HOW DO SUCTION CUPS WORK?
Suction cups take advantage of certain principles of physics to do their job. Everything on the planet is either surrounded by water or by air. Water and air both apply constant pressure on the objects that they surround. When the arched circle of a suction cup is put on a smooth surface and pressed down on, the air or liquid that is under the cup is expelled around the edges. This leaves a small area under the cup that is in a partial vacuum. This means that the air pressure under the cup is much lower than the air pressure outside the cup. This greater outer pressure pushes the cup against whatever surface it is attached to, holding it firmly in place.
If the surface that the suction cup is attached to is clean and smooth, and the edges of the suction cup are relatively airtight, the suction cup can not only hold a remarkable amount of weight, it can stay fixed in place for very long periods of time. This capability makes suction cups uniquely useful for many types of applications.
WHAT ARE SOME APPLICATIONS FOR SUCTION CUPS?
Suction cups are so simple to use that they have found applications in almost any situation where one needs to attach a device to a smooth surface. They are unique as fasteners because they do not require any kind of drilling or adhesives to fasten to surfaces.
They are widely used to handle and maneuver glass panels for use in buildings and automobiles, and well as finding use in many industrial applications. They are used to hang or hold objects onto floors, walls refrigerators, and even in some cases roofs. Due to the fact that many bathrooms are fitted with porcelain or tile, they have been put into service to secure things like non-slip bathtub mats, towel hooks, dryers, and much more. Only the imagination of the user limits the possible uses these versatile devices can be applied to.
HOW DOES ONE RATE THE PERFORMANCE OF SUCTION CUPS
Suction cups come in many sizes and designs, and are made to perform different jobs on different surfaces. Some are made to operate in environments that may be hotter, colder, or wetter than normal.
With parameters of this variety, it is vital to select the proper suction cup for the situation, and to be able to rate its performance to ensure proper operation.
Two measures that are commonly used to test the strength and durability of the suction cup are the weight test and the time test. The weight test involves attaching the suction cup to a smooth, non-porous surface and attaching an object to it that weighs a measurable proportion of a kilogram. This weight can be from a fraction of a kilogram up to five kilograms. The suction cup is observed to find out how well the seal is holding, and how easily it is able to hold the given weight. This will give the user an idea of the working load that the suction cup can support under normal conditions.
Another measure of cup strength is the time test. An object of similar weight of up to five kilograms is attached to the suction cup, and the cup is observed to find out how long of a time period the weight can be supported with no loss of suction or separation from the surface. This test should give the user a good idea of the amount of weight that the suction cup can support for a given amount of time with no loss of performance.
Testing the suction cup in this way will ensure that it is of the proper size for the intended purpose, and that is performs its given tasks properly and safely.