The History of VACGEN

In 1964 the Vacuum Generators company was formed in East Grinstead, England by Dr Bernard Eastwell and Vic Treasure with a single product - the CR38 all metal right angled valve

1960s: Early years and Innovation

Existing valve technology was fundamentally not suitable for Ultra-High Vacuum (UHV) applications due to the inability to isolate the base pressure of a UHV system from the pumps that had been used to achieve the UHV environment. This was becoming increasingly vital to universities around the world who were beginning to explore the possibilities of the emerging UHV (Ultra High Vacuum) technology.

Vacuum Generators were the first commercial producers of such a component with the CR98. Dr Eastwell and Vic Treasure’s design met the rigorous UHV requirements of being free from conventional lubricants and elastomers, simple to install and use, repeatedly re-sealable and capable of withstanding high temperatures. The CR98 was the very first true UHV shut off valve.

1970s: Growth and Cutting-Edge Technology

Dr Eastwell’s foresight and drive to harness and develop new technology delivered rapid growth in the VG business during this period, fueling commercial development of the ESCA lab, Auger and LEED instruments. Commercial success in cutting edge UHV surface analysis techniques funded additional rapid growth.

To accommodate this, Dr Eastwell developed a strategy to split technology out into separate VG companies with product champions. This gave talented dynamic people the opportunity to develop and head up these embryonic businesses. The strategy was highly successful yielding a raft of new companies to take Vacuum into a new age. This also allowed the many staff employed by the Group to feel truly part of something special and provided a real sense of connectivity as part of the Vacuum Generators community.

1970s continued: Awards and Recognition 

This significant period also saw the presentation of a number of Queens’s awards to the VG group for both their export achievement and technological achievement within the industry. This further strengthened the business as a high-quality global brand. 

1980s-1990s: Mass Spectrometry and Epitaxial Growth Techniques

In the 1980’s the Group established businesses in the mass spectrometry field and were moving into the new epitaxial growth techniques, becoming a leading player in the production MBE (Molecular Beam Epitaxy) field in the 1990’s. Much of the product output across the group required UHV components and systems. This core technology requirement was continuously supported by the innovative product development and manufacturing excellence from the original VACGEN plant in St Leonards, Sussex.

The VG Group Today

In subsequent years the VG group of companies have continued to morph and develop, today there are companies in most of the leading scientific research technology businesses that have a former VG company at their heart. VACGEN represents an unbroken line of continuity running through the rise and success of complex equipment manufacture worldwide that has exploited cutting edge UHV technology for over 50 years.


The VACGEN plant is now located in a purpose-built factory and research facility in Lower Dicker, England and continues to be a world leader in the manufacture of UHV components, manipulation and sample handling systems. VACGEN are a key supplier to numerous industries which require vacuum, from the Semiconductor Industry to Research Facilities and Synchrotrons around the world.