The articulated piston vacuum pump utilizes the same operating principle as a conventional car engine piston. The articulated piston transfers rotational energy from a motor pulley into a reciprocating motion used to compress air in a cylinder.

As the piston moves down inside the cylinder, air is drawn in through a one-way intake valve. On the upward stroke, this air is exhausted through a one-way exhaust valve. Sealing of the piston to the cylinder is achieved by using two piston rings each backed with a spring to keep them in contact with the cylinder wall. A piston skirt is also used to guide the piston in the cylinder.