Materials characterization instrumentation brings together a number of techniques that probe various physical properties of interest. These include thermal properties, hardness and durability, viscosity, and the physical dimensions and properties of particulate matter.
The global market demand for materials characterization instrumentation reached $2.7 billion in 2016, and is forecast to grow 3.8% in 2017. Although slow, this represents faster growth than this market has achieved in recent years. The global economy continues to slowly build steam, helping provide growth in the more industrial markets. Meanwhile, life science applications for some of these tools are experiencing even faster adoption, with samples as diverse as pharmaceutical formulations and medical devices.
Thermal analysis will see the greatest gains in 2017, with growth in demand for the year estimated at 5.0%. Growth is supported by a broad range of applications from polymer science to pharmaceuticals. While many tools are used for quality control applications, more emphasis is also being placed on initial product R&D. For similar reasons, the calorimetry market is also set to grow well, with growth estimated at 4.5% for the year. Sensitive calorimetry has become an invaluable aid to understanding molecular interactions, particularly for the pharmaceutical industry.
The largest individual market is physical testing, with sales set to exceed $800 million in 2017. These instruments measure the strength, hardness, durability and fatigue properties of materials, consumer products and components. Growth is starting to accelerate in this market, and the year should see gains of about 3.8%. Like thermal analysis, there is a good mix of both quality control and product development applications helping expand the market. The particle characterization and viscosity markets will also experience growth, while demand for petroleum analyzers should remain relatively flat, although this represents an improvement over a terrible 2016 for the oil and gas industry.
Waters, by virtue of its TA Instruments division, is the leader in the materials characterization market, with significant positions in thermal analysis, calorimetry and viscometry. Instron (Illinois Tool Works), MTS Systems and Zwick Roell are primarily involved in the large physical testing market, and do not strongly compete in the instrument industry generally. In contrast, Shimadzu has a significant position in physical testing, as well as several other areas of materials characterization, and obviously is a significant player in the overall analytical instrument industry. Malvern Instruments (Spectris) is the remaining vendor in the top six, with important businesses in particle characterization, viscometry and calorimetry.