We first saw this in Germany where it's been out for years, and now Festool is finally bringing it to the 'States: On March 1st they're releasing their Vac-Sys vacuum-clamping system here, which will allow North American craftspeople to firmly hold their work in place without using clamps, holdfasts, or that gangly new kid in the shop whose name is either Tommy or Timmy (you'll remember once he starts producing work that's worth remembering).
The benefits of a vacuum-clamping system over traditional hold-down methods are manifold; clamps get in the way and prevent operations like routing a profile around the entire perimeter of a workpiece, for instance. And if you daisy-chain two of the vacuum pods together, you can hold big-ass things like doors, as you'll see in the demo video below:
For those of you who'd prefer to see the system without the Dude-listen-to-this-awesome-demo-by-my-brother's-band soundtrack, here's the older international video running through the operations:
Come to think of it, I'm not sure that music's any better; I bet that's what Tommy, or is it Timmy, listens to in his crappy Hyundai Elantra while he's driving home from the shop. Anyways the vacuum unit in that second video appears to be an older version of what's shown in the first video, but we believe the clamping-end features are all the same.
Like all things Festool, the Vac-Sys ain't cheap; buy-in starts at $1,300 for the pump and one clamping module. An additional $500 will get you a second clamping module, and then you can set TommyTimmy to sweeping the floor as your large workpieces can now be held without the pleasure of his company.