Mass Spectrometry: Still Indispensable

Mass spectrometry (MS) enjoyed a very good 2014 as revenues exceeded 7%, a nice improvement from 2013, led by LC/MS systems, both quadrupole and time-of-flight (TOF) MS instruments. On the other hand, demand for portable, in-field and magnetic-sector MS instruments was anemic, growing less than 3%. This year, the total MS market is expected to experience slower growth, increasing 5.8%.

All seven technology segments of the MS market are forecast to post slightly lower growth in 2015 due to global economics and negative exchange-rate effects. However, demand from applied markets including environmental analysis, food testing and clinical diagnostics, will continue to be growth drivers for selected segments.

The MS market is significantly concentrated. The three largest MS vendors have an over 50% combined market share. With over 20% of the market, AB SCIEX (Danaher) is particularly strong in the triple-quadrupole LC/MS, TOF LC/MS and matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization (MALDI)-TOF/TOF MS market segments. Thermo Fisher Scientific and Agilent Technologies vie for second place in the total MS market, with 19% market share each. Bruker and Waters are also well represented, with each having around a 12% share of the total MS market. Shimadzu has a 7% share.

The quadrupole LC/MS market consists of both single-quadrupole and triple-quadrupole MS systems and thus makes up the largest MS technology segment. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology labs require technology improvements, leading to continued innovation in this market. The largest quadrupole LC/MS vendors are AB SCIEX and Agilent.

The GC/MS market has been growing at mid-single digits with a stimulus from the double-digit growth in demand for triple-quadrupole MS systems. The largest portion of the GC/MS market is single-quadrupole GC/MS, which is particularly useful for environmental, hydrocarbon-product analysis and food testing, although single-quadrupole MS systems are now largely viewed as replacement sales. Single-quadrupole MS systems have lower growth potential as they are being replaced by more-sensitive triple-quadrupole instruments, especially for trace analysis in food and water samples.

Within the GC/MS market, GC-TOF MS systems, such as Q-TOF GC/MS technology, are expanding the market. Q-TOF GC/MS also competes with triple-quadrupole MS. Demand for GC/MS is expected to increase just 3.4% in 2015 due to lower capital investments by the oil and gas industry.

The Fourier transform (FT)/MS and ion-trap MS market represents about 17% of the total MS market. This market is estimated to grow 6.5% in 2015, led by the Orbitrap segment of the FT/MS market. The FT/MS and ion-trap MS market is dominated by two vendors, Thermo Scientific and Bruker. Bruker is the leading supplier of FT ion cyclotron–resonance MS systems.

The TOF LC/MS market is expected grow 5.4% in 2015, a relatively modest growth rate as demand is being negatively affected by slowing growth in China, global economic factors and competition with Orbitrap MS systems. MALDI-TOF MS demand will lead all MS markets in growth this year, rising 7.7% as clinical labs further adopt the technology.

In the magnetic-sector MS market, revenues are growing modestly for isotope-ratio MS but declining for double-focusing units, which nets to an overall annual decline. Thermo Scientific and JEOL are the leading vendors in this technology segment. Due to government support for defense and domestic-security requirements, the portable and in-field MS market should grow about 7% this year.

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