According to a new study, the microscopy sector is set to capitalise on recent technological breakthroughs, with the large-scale digitalisation and advances in image reconstruction and restoration having a positive effect on the market.
The report, by Frost and Sullivan, details the demand for more sophisticated microscopic instrumentation is expected to rise as companies develop advanced engineering, industrial, and electronic materials. In particular, R&D in drug discovery and research is set to benefit with the advances helpful in overcoming longstanding bottlenecks.
Computerisation of microscopic procedures means that manufacturers can now produce lenses with less distortion, higher resolution, and greater colour rendition, allowing for greater precision in imaging quality.
The report said that increasing R&D would enhance existing microscopy technologies. The resulting product differentiation ability will help participants overcome the intense competition native to this market and further gain/retain valuable market share.
The microscope market includes the clinical and research sub-markets. The clinical market is the biggest and profitable market with clinical microscopes typically having a reversed nosepiece on a desktop frame. They are always binocular and Kohler illuminated. Typical accessory modules include phase or fluorescence. Nikon and Olympus dominate this market, their prices are very close together.
Bio-med research microscopes range from the high-end bench top to the large frame research microscopes. Typically they will have at least one camera. It is not uncommon for a research microscope to have a TV camera mounted on it for documentation and image analysis. The main players in this market are Carl Zeiss, Leica and Japanese manufacturer Unitron.
"Most manufacturers offer consumers options of ready-to-use modular systems from which a researcher can pick and choose the needed components, offer easy modification and flexibility," said Frost & Sullivan research analyst Katherine Austin.
"On the other end, custom-assembled systems, designed to user specifications, appeal to many researchers," she added.
The report was quick to identify custom-assembled systems as a factor that could help combat competition. This is especially in line with the development of a number of microscopy systems used to probe events in living cells, tissues, and even whole organisms. Such systems can incorporate existing workflows or customer equipment.
The theory was that offering custom assembled systems allow end users the advantage of incorporating existing workflows or equipment and hold added attraction over modular tools.
"Many developers are beginning to see the market advantages of integration, offering total systems designed for a particular application," said Austin.
"For instance, non-destructive testing of materials, or live-cell imaging combined with chemical or binding analysis, are some of the cost-effective combinations preferred by researchers," she added.
According to a report from Business Communications Company, the global market for microscopes and accessories is estimated at $1.65 billion (€1.34 billion) in 2004 and is expected to reach $2.77 billion in 2009, an AAGR (average annual growth rate) of 11.0 per cent.
The company said that charged particle microscopes are the largest segment of this market, with over a 40 per cent share, and one of the fastest-growing segments, with an AAGR of 13 per cent.
The second largest segment, optical microscopes have the lowest growth rate, and as a result are expected to lose market share significantly over the next five years. Scanning probe microscopes constituted less than 10 per cent of the market in 2003, but have the highest AAGR (20 per cent) through 2009.
However the report stated that tight research budgets due to government cutbacks and the high cost of instruments are likely to hinder the R&D process of microscopy equipment.
These cutbacks are nevertheless offset by the allocation of billions of dollars by government agencies globally for nanotechnology research, where microscopy instrumentation plays a major role.
Overall, this market was expected to grow consistently, especially following increasing automation and the resulting easy to use equipment. Development in the electron, confocal microscopy, and laser scanning cytometry in combination with progress in the quantum dots arena was expected to drive growth in the sector in the near future.