Materials Characterization: Slow Growth During Crisis

Materials characterization instruments primarily analyze the physical properties of samples, including temperature, thermal response, force, hardness, particle size and viscosity, among others. In many cases, the instruments measure the response of one characteristic when another is varied. The information derived from these instruments provide direct insight into the physical behavior of the sample, and this may also be used as a proxy for the chemical behavior. The behavior of materials is an important aspect of many different industries, insulating them to some extent against the worst effects of the global economic climate. Altogether, the market for the techniques in this category reached $2.1 billion in 2008 and is forecast to grow 2.0% in 2009.

For 2009, the technology that will be affected most adversely is physical testing, sales of which are forecast to dip by nearly 4%. The primary cause for the decline in the market is its dependence on the automobile industry, which uses these instruments to test the strength, durability and fatigue process of various automotive components. Sales of automobiles have plummeted, and most, if not all, of the major automobile manufacturers have announced production cuts. As the automakers tighten their belts, spending on test equipment can be expected to diminish.

Metal and semiconductor applications for physical testing can also expect a poor 2009, but demand from other industries will help prevent the losses from being too extreme. Physical testing is the largest individual technology segment within the materials characterization market, and the decline in this segment has a disproportionate effect on the overall market. None of the other markets within materials characterization are as dependent on a single industry in crisis. Thus, although growth rates in the other technologies may fall short of their recent historical levels, their overall growth is forecast to be positive in 2009.

The strongest technology segments within the materials characterization market in 2009 will be particle characterization and thermal analysis, which should both experience sales gains of 5%–6%. Although these markets may experience particular industrial or regional declines, the total markets should remain solidly on the increase. Calorimetry will also remain strong, fueled by demand for ultrasensitive calorimetry intended for research applications.

Petroleum analyzers are highly specialized for applications in the oil and gas industry. Although oil and fuel prices have declined from their recent historic highs, growth in this technology is forecast at 1.2%, with biofuels remaining a hot area of research and activity. Viscometry, which also has important oil and gas applications, is forecast to grow 3.3% in 2009. Food, beverage, polymers and pharmaceuticals remain important and growing end-user markets for viscometers and rheometers.

Unlike most of the technology sectors of laboratory instrumentation, the materials characterization market remains quite fragmented. The top five vendors accounted for 37% of the total market in 2008. Of them, Instron, MTS Systems and Zwick Roell are primarily involved in physical testing, the largest individual market. Shimadzu combines a significant presence in physical testing with a broader range of products in thermal analysis, particle characterization and viscometry. Like Shimadzu, Waters also has 8% of the overall market share in materials characterization. Waters participates through its TA Instruments subsidiary, which is a leading vendor of thermal analysis, viscometry and, now, calorimetry, following recent acquisitions. Other prominent vendors include Malvern Instruments, Beckman Coulter, Mettler-Toledo and the Petroleum Analyzer Company.

Materials Characterization Instrumentation Market Leaders

Physical Testing Instron (ITW), MTS Systems

Thermal Analysis TA Instruments (Waters), PerkinElmer

Particle Characterization Malvern (Spectris), Beckman Coulter

Viscometry/Rheometry TA Instruments, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Petroleum Analyzers PAC (Roper), Stanhope-Seta

Calorimetery Mettler-Toledo, TA Instruments (Waters)

Materials Characterization Instrumentation 2008–09

Market Share Growth Rate

Physical Testing 31.3% -3.8%

Thermal Analysis 23.3% 5.5%

Particle Characterization 19.0% 5.8%

Viscometry/Rheometry 11.7% 3.3%

Petroleum Analyzers 7.6% 1.2%

Calorimetry 7.2% 4.6%

Total 100.0% 2.0%

Chart: 2007–10 Total Materials Characterization Instrumentation Market

2007 2008 2009 2010

Millions $2,002 $2,098 $2,140 $2,297

Chart: 2008 Materials Characterization Market by Product Type


Initial Systems1501

Aftermarket 280

Service 317

Chart: 2008 Materials Characterization Supplier Market Shares

Instron (ITW) 9%

Shimadzu 8%

Waters 8%

MTS 7%

Zwick Roell 5%

Others 64%

< | >