This will be an unusual blog post and possibly a long one.
If you don’t own any Degassing equipment and/or have never heard of Zeevac or Vuoto UK Ltd, you can probably skip this post entirely.
If you do own, or use, Acrylic Degassing chambers by Zeevac, and potentially also their glass systems, then you probably want to read on.
Who is ZEEVAC?
At the start of 2017 we purchased an Acrylic Degassing chamber from Zeevac (also known as Vuoto UK Ltd). They supply metal, Acrylic and glass degassing systems and claim to be the largest supplier of such system in Europe.
We have no means of verifying that claim but we were persuaded by the Director of Zeevac, a John Ashley, to purchase one of their Acrylic chambers following a detailed discussion of our requirements, our intended use of the equipment, the vacuum pump we were going to use and the regularity that the equipment would be used.
Following that discussion, Zeevac supplied us with a mid-size Acrylic vacuum degassing chamber (about 30 litres) along with a “guarantee” that it was suitable for the task and that “many other companies” in our Industry also used them.
(Until this point, we had used (and still do use) metal degassing chambers such as those supplied by Island Scientific – a very well known and reputable supplier of such vacuum chamber equipment.)
The image below shows the sort of degassing chamber Zeevac sell… ours was considerably larger but the design layout is the same as the image below.
Before purchasing we discussed every aspect of what we intended to do with the degassing chamber with “John Ashley” from ZEEVAC – that included everything we intended to put in it (silicone moulds, with or without polyurethane resin in them) and the Vacuum Pumps (250W 8CFM 3/4HP Vacuum Pump) that we were going to use, including all fitting sizes.
This was to ensure that we could fully degas the chamber within a set period of time – essential when casting large resin items – and to ensure that the chamber was being used in the right way, with the right equipment (vac-pump, fittings, hose sizes and so forth)
ZEEVAC assured us that they had “checked with their engineers” and that it was “more than capable of doing the job”. Indeed, they Guaranteed it.
After about 6 weeks the Acrylic chamber we purchased from ZEEVAC imploded.
Dramatically and whilst in-use.
The implosion threw shards of Acrylic around our workshop at high speed – it also damaged the remainder of the degassing system and the mould components that were in the chamber. Fragments impacted moulds, shelving and all four walls of the workshop – it was a very dramatic and dangerous incident.
Here is a short video of the aftermath of the implosion with the Workshop manager, Chris, showing my wife where various parts of the acrylic shards ended up. It is worth noting that even small shards were moving fast enough to move stacks of silicone moulds off shelves and ended up on shelving 20 feet away from where the degassing chamber had been.
It was only by astonishingly good luck that nobody was injured.
What has followed from then has been a fairly torrid experience that I do not wish to bore you with the details of, however, there are a few relevant points that we feel we should highlight and pass on as they have a high degree of relevance to our warning:
Zeevac has been unable to supply any documentation for their Acrylic Degassing equipment, no Operation guides, No Safety Guidelines and no Safety Certification.
Zeevac has been unable to supply any evidence that the system was tested prior to dispatch to us, no evidence of testing of similar systems, or similar cylindrical degassing methods, using Acrylic chambers of the size we ordered from them, or any others.
Zeevac has been unable to supply us with any manufacturing qualifications or status they have, standards they adhere to and so on and so forth – in short, we have been unable to find any evidence, and they have refused to provide us with anything, that indicates that Zeevac is qualified to manufacture pressure systems, qualified to test them, or have ever tested their equipment under proper testing environments.
Zeevac requested the return of the equipment so that they could replace it “after their engineers had determined the exact reason for the implosion”.
We returned what remained of the system to them as requested, less the hundreds of shards of the broken acrylic chamber which had been cleaned up and disposed of – We had kept them for a while but Zeevac ignored all emails and telephone messages for over 4 weeks after this incident, so we eventually disposed of the shards – the video evidence of its destruction is, however, clear.
Zeevac stated that their “engineers had determined that the system had failed due to ‘improper use'”, but they have not been able to say what that “improper use” was, or how it caused the chamber to implode.
This “improper use” claim was later changed to “Misuse of the equipment” and then later changed once more to “Abuse of the equipment” as a reason why they would not refund us for the cost of the system. Neither would they return the damaged components to us.
Nobody else has approached us to investigate the circumstances of the implosion and we have received no contact from any other persons, companies or organisations regarding this incident.
This is relevant as Zeevac has stated that the implosion had also been investigated by the manufacturer of the acrylic tubing and “they agreed that the equipment must have been used improperly”.
Nobody has come back to us with documentation of any sort, regarding an “investigation” or report regarding the returned components, the circumstances surrounding the implosion, conditions in the workshop, temperatures and so forth, nor inquired about the damage caused, the “risk to life” or the “dangerous occurrence” report. This includes no email transcripts, no word documentation, no letters and so on and so forth from any other party other than John Ashley at Zeevac.
As such – If this was “investigated” by anybody they did so without asking any of the witnesses any questions, and whilst possessing no information other than that supplied to them by Zeevac (aka John Ashley, see next point).
In the process of this, we discovered that Zeevac actually has no employees at all – it is run and operated solely by John Ashley.
We do not know if he is an “Engineer” himself, but he does not employ any… which obviously raises questions about his “engineer” reports and the original “engineers” promises of suitability for the job.
Originally we were told Zeevac would replace the equipment – but as we went through our own investigations we grew ever more concerned about the safety and suitability of any Zeevac equipment – we finally requested a full refund, rather than replacement equipment.
We were told that this refund would be given.
I really do not wish to bore you with the immense difficulties we have experienced trying to deal with Zeevac, just to say that they have been immensely difficult to deal with. The result of dealing with them is the more pertinent aspect of this:
After five months has passed we have now been told we will receive a partial refund for the goods “less damage due to abuse of the equipment”.
We have not been told what that “abuse” was/is, who caused it, what caused it, why the Chamber imploded and so on and so forth. No actual explanation has ever been forthcoming from Zeevac.
We have received no information as to how the amount of the partial refund was determined and have been told that the “guarantee” was voided by our “abuse of the equipment”, therefore requiring no further action by Zeevac.
When we demanded that they inform us exactly what this “abuse of equipment” actually was, they refused.
Draw your own conclusions.
We have not, did not, nor would ever “misuse” “abuse” or “improperly treat” pressure equipment. We have used vacuum chambers for degassing for over 14 years without a single incident prior to this experience with Zeevac equipment.
The equipment was used solely in the manner we had presented to Zeevac, was kept in perfect working order and underwent no modifications.
The vacuum pump used with it was the same system we informed Zeevac we intended to use, and which they stated was fully compatible with their chamber.
As such we have passed details on to Trading Standards who have given us a “Commitment to Investigate”.
We are initiating communication with HSE (Health and Safety Executive) in the full expectation that they will take this up and investigate also.
According to the CACH helpline – provided in partnership with Trading Standards – If a company cannot provide you with any documentation on how to use their equipment, safety guidelines for that equipment, and so on and so forth, then they immediately fail part of the Supply of Goods and Services Act.
Pressure and vacuum equipment (being negative pressure ) is also governed by H&S legislation that requires certain standards and obligations be met and those are further governed by EU regulations.
Nothing we have been shown or heard from Zeevac / Vuoto UK ltd indicates that they are aware of any of those guidelines or regulations, if they do, then they ahve been unable to provide any documentation whatsoever to suggest they abide by any of them.
As such, it behoves us to warn any and all users of Zeevac degassing chambers, especially acrylic cylindrical systems, but potentially also glass and metal systems, that it is quite possible their equipment is untested, uncertified, undocumented and possibly dangerous to the point of being exceptionally hazardous.
If you have a Zeevac Acrylic Degassing system stop using it.
If you continue to use it then it may implode on you with the potential to cause serious injury or even death.