If you're a furniture builder who likes the vacuum clamping set-ups we looked at, but don't have the four- and five-figure budgets to add them to your own shop, there are lower-cost alternatives. Schmalz is a Germany-based global company that's been in the vacuum technology game for some 30 years, and they manufacture everything from high-end vacuum clamping tables used in CNC operations to small desktop units. Their Multi-Clamp VC-M is the entry-level product, aimed at the lone tradesperson who wants to bolt it to their own workbench in place of a vise.
The benefits of vacuum-clamping versus a vise or mechanical clamping are manifold: You don't need to take any protective measures to shield the piece from the vise's jaws or the clamp surfaces, you can get at five sides of a piece at once, and the articulating nature of the clamp means you can quickly reposition the piece—for example, to go from sanding the face to one of the edges—without having to unclamp and reclamp. And the second-tier version of the VC-M can not only be tilted, but rotated and swiveled as well.
If you're not looking for the tilting functionality, you can even buy just the suction plate for around US $225:
The VC-M can be had in versions that run off of either air compressors or proper vacuum pumps, starting at US $850 and $890, respectively. The price point will keep this off of the hobbyists' shopping lists, but for a production shop looking to increase efficiency over time it seems like a steal. For those interested in how you set the system up, there's a longer, amateur video here shot by a guy in Texas. And for U.S. distributors, we found these folks.