ACHEMA Attendance Down; Spirits Ups

Although German GDP fell 6.7% in the first quarter on an annual basis, one would not have suspected it from the convention floor at ACHEMA 2009, which took place from May 11 to 15 in Frankfurt am Main. The various halls that compose the Messe Frankfurt exhibition grounds thronged with visitors and exhibitors. Total attendance reached 173,000. Although this represents a 3.9% drop in attendance from the previous ACHEMA in 2006, the activity at the booths was quite vigorous. Perhaps the occasional light rain showers kept visitors inside conducting business with the 3,767 exhibitors, most of whom seemed delighted by the turnout in a year when gloomy forecasts and results had lowered expectations.

ACHEMA covers a broad portfolio of technologies relating to chemical engineering, environmental protection and biotechnology. Among the thousands of exhibitors were 659 representing the lab and analytical equipment division and a further 343 in process and plant engineering. Many of these companies are familiar names in the analytical instrument industry. But then there was the large number of very familiar companies that were absent from ACHEMA. The absence of vendors like Agilent, Waters (apart from TA Instruments), Shimadzu and Varian remains very notable; although of the four, only Varian exhibited at ACHEMA in 2006.

In terms of geography, slightly more than 2,000 of the exhibitors were based in Germany, although this includes a number of German subsidiaries. There were 300 Italian firms and more than 200 UK companies. Swiss, American and French exhibitors were also well represented. China and India each contributed more than 100 exhibitors.

Despite Pittcon being just a few months ago, there were a number of products unveiled at the show, including several from Thermo Fisher Scientific. Among them was the LTQ Velos ion trap MS, the successor to the LCQ ion trap series. Thermo characterized the LTQ Velos as providing the greatest speed and sensitivity of any ion trap MS on the market. The system acquires 10 mass spectra per second, more than doubling the analysis speed of previous instruments. This and other major improvements in system performance were achieved by combining two linear traps, one at high pressure for collection and one at low pressure for analysis. Thermo also presented the LTQ Orbitrap Velos, a hybrid MS combining the Velos with the Orbitrap. Both new systems have applications in proteomics.

Thermo also updated its rheometer line with the introduction of the Haake Mars III rheometer. The modular system, a complete redesign, is versatile and customizable. It also features an expanded temperature range, improved low-torque performance and all new accessories. Thermo also introduced a number of lab equipment products, including new Heraeus centrifuges that make use of light, corrosion-resistant carbon fiber rotors manufactured by FiberLite, which Thermo acquired last year (see IBO 7/31/08).

At Pittcon, Bruker AXS introduced the D2 Phaser X-ray diffraction system; at ACHEMA, Bruker released its big brother, the next generation of the high-performance D8 Advance powder diffractometer. Compared with the previous D8 Advance, the new system has intelligent plug-and-play functionality. The system also features new DIFFRAC.SUITE software that helps to mediate the hardware and software updates. Although the instrument was not at the booth, Bruker announced the release of the amaZon ion trap MS. The system provides an order of magnitude improvement in sensitivity. Data acquisition and polarity changing are also fast, and the instrument can acquire data at frequencies up to 20 Hz. The system is available in two versions: the amaZon ETD for proteomics, and the amaZon X for small molecule applications.

ACHEMA also served as the occasion for Microtrac (Nikkiso) to introduce the Semtrac mini to the European market, following its Japanese release earlier this year. Although Microtrac is best known for its particle characterization instruments, the Semtrac mini is a tabletop scanning electron microscope (SEM). The Semtrac mini should help broaden Microtrac’s involvement in particle technology into nanoparticles and nanotechnology. The Semtrac mini is manufactured by a Korean firm, and sold exclusively by Microtrac and its distributors.

Fritsch presented its new particle size analyzer, the Analysette 22 MicroTec plus. Previously, there were three products in the Analysette 22 line, covering three distinct ranges of particle size. The MicroTec plus essentially replaces those three products. It can measure the full size range covered by the earlier series at a price comparable with the least expensive model of the series. The diffraction system uses two lasers, green and infrared, to measure particles from 80 nm to 2 mm in size. The wet dispersion unit is available now, and the dry dispersion unit will be released in the summer. The complete system with wet dispersion is priced under €30,000 ($38,961).

Beckman Coulter’s booth featured the PA 800 plus capillary electrophoresis system for pharmaceutical analysis, which had been announced in April. The system incorporates capillary isoelectric focusing technology, which enables certain types of protein analysis, while making the process easy to institute in a QC environment. Several modular detectors are available, including UV, photodiode array and laser-induced fluorescence. The system and software is designed to allow sharing of assays among multiple instruments in multiple facilities to help standardize routine QC testing.

Anton Paar’s booth was dominated by the HTR 301 high-throughput rheometer, an update of a previous HTR system. The system is based on the MCR 301 rheometer augmented by a robot from Stäubli. The robotic system not only presents samples to the instrument, but also carries out an automated cleaning routine for the rheometer plates and cones. The system is customized for customer requirements, and can cycle through a complete routine in a matter of minutes. Although exact prices depend on configuration, the cost of the system is in excess of €100,000 ($129,870).

Krüss expanded its line of surface testing instrumentation with the DSA30 contact angle analyzer. Intended for applications involving surface treatments, adhesion and wetting, the DSA30 uses optical measurements to analyze the shape of drops deposited on a surface. The system comes in three basic models, with many accessories for extended capabilities.

In cooperation with Setaram, the HEL Group showed the Phi-Tec 1 Accelerated Rate Calorimeter, a product released at the end of 2008 as a successor to HEL’s Arc calorimeter. The Phi-Tec 1 is a computer-controlled adiabatic reaction calorimeter, which is compact enough to be used inside a standard fumehood. The system is also available in a model specifically designed for the testing of batteries.

Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum unveiled the TURBOLAB 80 vacuum pump, a turbomolecular pump backed by a diaphragm pump. The system is an oil-free high-vacuum system that can reach 10-8 mbar. With its relatively small size, the system is ideal for laboratory use. The basic model offers manual control, while the more automated system provides additional software capabilities.

ACHEMA is an interesting show that features the full range of equipment and instrumentation. While the meeting lacks Pittcon’s focus, it nevertheless demonstrates the important role of lab instrumentation as part of the development and production process. ACHEMA 2012 will take place June 18–22 in Frankfurt. Analytica will occur several weeks earlier.

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