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.
The main purpose of this new innovation was to develop a core technology solution to a requirement that was becoming vital to universities who were beginning to explore the possibilities of the emerging UHV (Ultra High Vacuum) technology.
When the chamber of a UHV system had reached its base pressure users needed to be able to isolate it from the pumps that had been used to achieve the UHV environment. Existing valve technology was fundamentally not suitable for UHV applications. A design was required that was free from conventional lubricants and elastomers, simple to install and use, repeatedly re-sealable and capable of withstanding high temperatures.
The CR38 was the first commercially produced valve able to meet these rigorous requirements. The very first true UHV shut off valve.
By the end of the 1960’s sales and the product line had grown rapidly and the company moved to new manufacturing premises in St Leonards on the south coast away from the Charlwoods Road factory in East Grinstead.
Dr Eastwell’s foresight and drive to harness and develop new technology delivered rapid growth in the VG business in the 1970's fueling commercial development of the ESCA lab, Auger and LEED instruments. Commercial success in cutting edge UHV surface analysis techniques funded further rapid growth.
As the organisation grew Dr Eastwell developed a strategy to split technology out into separate VG companies with product champions, giving 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.
This significant period also saw the presentation of a number of Queens’s awards to industry to the VG group for both export achievement and technological achievement further strengthening the business as a high quality global brand.
At its peak between the mid 1970’s and the end of the 1980’s the VG organisation had grown to cover 27 sites producing an extensive range of scientific equipment with the VG team growing to 2,300 staff.
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.
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 and continues to be a world leader in the manufacture of UHV components, manipulation and sample handling systems.