Introduction: Vacuum Pickup Tool for Lenses and Lamps

About: I'm the guy in the back of the warehouse who fixes all the stuff that people break. Right around those shelves full of parts and newly broken things. Theater lighting is my day job.

Looking for a sucking tool to save some time handling smooth objects.

Step 1: The Problem.

I work for a theatrical lighting company as a maintainance technician. One of the frequent tasks is doing things like changing lenses or cleaning fixtures, which requires removing lenses from fixtures. One of the ubiquitous tools of the theater lighting world nowadays is the Source 4 PAR fixture, and specifically, the Source 4 Multipar. I had to clean a bunch of these recently. The problem is that the lenses are held in by a pair of spring clips. The designers at ETC assumed that these would only be worked on when they were hanging in the air, and gravity would pull the lens down once you pushed both spring clips out of the way. I've got them laying on my workbench.

So, I need to find a way to pull the lenses out without resorting to a hammer. Besides, I think my boss would get suspicious if I told him that I had dropped all of them and broke the lenses. As it turns out, there is enough looseness in the lens mounting ring to allow it to be rotated, but not enough to fit a tool behind the lens to pull it out. Especially since the lens needs to be pushed in and rotated to a position where the spring clip will actually push out of the way.

I experimented with gaffers tape, a variety of picks and levers, contemplated the hammer again, and then thought of suction cups.

Step 2: Boy, Does This Suck.

So I went to the orange depot store and bought a small suction tool in the plumbing section. This was a smaller diameter one for sink drains than the standard size one for the euphemism. As it turned out, the rough surface of the lens leaked enough air that it wasn't sticking for more than a moment. Until I realized I had a shop vac that I was using to vacuum out all the confetti, dust and broken glass already. So I cut the end off the handle of the thing, slid it into the end of the vacuum hose, and it worked.

It allowed me to get a grip on the lens, rotate and wiggle it around to a position that let the spring clip release the lens, and remove it without worrying about dropping the thing. No sticky residue on the lens to clean, and doesn't leave any marks or scratches.

This could be adapted to use in the shop for picking up all sorts of medium sized objects that don't have any convenient attachment points. It also occurs that one could use vacuum and pressure on a workbench surface for handling large sheet goods. Basically turn the top of your big workbench into an air hockey table. with lots of little holes drilled in it. Underneath you have a small shop vac and a valve to allow you to either suck or blow. so you can easily slide that entire sheet of plywood to exactly the right position, then kick the valve over to suck and now it will not move and no clamps needed.

I hope this is useful.