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Cautious Optimism Permeates Pittcon

Instrumentation: Firms at annual conference anticipate slow but steady sales growth

by Marc S. Reisch
March 10, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 10

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Pittcon drew more than 15,000 attendees to Chicago, organizers say.
Attendees at Pittcon examine an instrument.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Pittcon drew more than 15,000 attendees to Chicago, organizers say.

Scientific instrument makers that exhibited at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon) last week expect 2014 to be a good year but not a great one. Executives attending the conference, held in Chicago, anticipate diminished economic headwinds in 2014, but they also noted that business in China is slowing.

Instrument makers at the gathering also showcased some new tools, but the focus was on incremental improvements to instruments and products to make labs more efficient.

“China is not as buoyant now as it was last year,” said Rainer Blair, president of AB Sciex. Europe’s economy is improving, however, and even a slight uptick in such an important market is a good sign for the year ahead, he said.

Academic spending in the U.S. is still tight, noted Arthur Caputo, executive vice president of chromatography expert Waters Corp. , but prospects are improving, particularly in health sciences. The firm, which is marking the 10th anniversary of its Acquity ultraperformance liquid chromatograph family, continued to emphasize UPLC systems to improve workflow and reduce solvent use.

Jakob Gudbrand, vice president for chromatography at Thermo Fisher Scientific, said customers remain cautious because of the economy. Their interest is in tools that allow them to be more productive and analyze samples faster. The firm updated its Chromeleon software to expand the number of instruments it controls. It also introduced a vial label system to reduce errors caused by handwritten identifications.

An unusual exhibitor at Pittcon was Texas Instruments, which showed a light-projecting optical semiconductor optimized to emit near-infrared light. The company is working with Ibsen Photonics, a Danish spectrometer component maker, to develop the chip as a software-controlled light source for portable and manufacturing-line spectrometers.

In another technology advance, Bruker said it has installed at the University of California, San Diego, what it calls the first-ever single-story 900-MHz magnet for a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. A built-in refrigeration and helium capture system nearly eliminates the need to add scarce helium to keep the magnet cool.



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