If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Analytical Chemistry

Top instrument firms in 2016

Ranking of scientific equipment makers highlights corporate shifts and changing fortunes

by Ann M. Thayer
March 6, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 10

Photo of Waters ionKey/MS system.
Credit: Waters Corp.
Waters’ ionKey/MS system integrates microscale chromatography directly into the input of a mass spectrometer.

In 2016, growth in the life sciences and analytical instrumentation market kept up the pace of the past few years. Sales rose a little more than 4% to reach about $47 billion, companies say. Combined sales of the top 25 firms tracked by C&EN, which account for roughly half of the total instrumentation market, were up 1.7%.

By the numbers

The top five companies account for 49% of the sales of the top 25.

Instrument sales of the industry leader are more than 25 times that of the company ranked 25th.

Of the top 25 firms, nine are U.S.-based, 10 are from Europe, and six are in Japan.

The field is clearly divided between large and small players. Within the top 25 firms, as ranked by 2016 instrument sales, the top 10 contribute 74% of sales. By itself, Thermo Fisher Scientific accounts for almost 18% of the group total and 9% of the broader market. At 2.8%, combined sales growth for the top 10 was above that for the full 25 but below that for the entire industry because of declining sales at a few companies that restructured in 2016.

Although some of the top 10 firms made acquisitions and jettisoned businesses—Thermo Fisher, Danaher, Agilent Technologies, and PerkinElmer come to mind—the ranking of the top 10 did not change from 2015. However, the electron microscopy firm FEI left the list because Thermo Fisher acquired it, and Merck KGaA did not report its 2016 results in time to appear.

Most of the changes in C&EN’s ranking occurred between positions 11 through 22, largely because of currency-related downturns at Japanese firms and a tough year for the gene-sequencing technology provider Illumina. With double-digit growth, Spectris and Tecan moved up a few slots. Eppendorf and Anton Paar joined the ranking because their financial figures became available.

On average, only about one-quarter of any ranked company’s sales are of analytical and life sciences lab instruments. Some also sell non-research-related equipment, but for the most part, the bulk of sales are in consumables, software, and services. Better transparency on how companies report their sales has improved the clarity of C&EN’s ranking. As a result, figures for Waters Corp. and PerkinElmer have been restated to give a more comparable picture based on instrumentation sales alone.

In addition to creating an overall ranking, C&EN provides short profiles of each of the top instrumentation companies. Beyond the numbers, the profiles offer insight into major company events during the past year and glimpses into where they might be heading this year.

1 Thermo Fisher Scientific

2016 instrument sales: $4.39 billion

Credit: Thermo Fisher
In 2016, Thermo Fisher Scientific opened new global headquarters in Waltham, Mass.
Photo of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s headquarters building in Waltham. Mass.
Credit: Thermo Fisher
In 2016, Thermo Fisher Scientific opened new global headquarters in Waltham, Mass.

Thermo Fisher Scientific continued to set the pace in 2016 among analytical and life sciences instrumentation suppliers. With more than double the equipment sales of its nearest competitor, Thermo Fisher easily stayed at the top of C&EN’s annual ranking. The company also led the industry in R&D spending by investing more than $750 million in the development of new instruments and assays. That said, Thermo Fisher’s instrument sales grew modestly, with acquisitions being a major factor. Since Thermo Electron merged with Fisher Scientific in 2006, the company has made at least 11 acquisitions. Last year, it spent a total of $5.5 billion to purchase Affymetrix, which had about $350 million in annual sales of cellular and genetic analysis products, and FEI, an electron microscopy specialist with $930 million in sales. To leverage near-term tailwinds from the East, the company continued to build on its capabilities in India, China, South Korea, and Singapore. This year, it intends to capitalize on longer-term opportunities in Brazil, Russia, and the Middle East.

2 Danaher

2016 instrument sales: $2.12 billion

Danaher Chief Executive Officer Thomas P. Joyce has called 2016 a “transformative year” for the company. In July, it spun off its $6 billion-per-year industrial technologies and equipment business as Fortive to focus on its life sciences, diagnostics, dental, environmental, and applied businesses. “We believe we have an outstanding multi-industry, science, and technology company that has tremendous growth and margin opportunities,” Joyce said when reporting year-end results. To build in these core areas, Danaher completed about $5 billion in acquisitions last year. Deals included spending $4 billion for the molecular diagnostics firm Cepheid and an unspecified amount for the chromatography supplier Phenomenex. With the help of these two purchases and the 2015 buy of purification specialist Pall Corp., Danaher’s life sciences instrumentation sales are now more than $2 billion.

3 Shimadzu

2016 instrument sales: $2.01 billion

In 2016, the strengthening yen was a problem for Japan’s Shimadzu. Sales were down 4% in the first half if including the impact of currency changes but up 4% without them. For the fiscal year that will end in March 2017, the company estimates that analytical and measuring instrument sales will be up about 5% including currency impact because of expanded sales of high-end products, such as liquid chromatographs and mass spectrometry systems for pharmaceutical R&D. For the past three years, Shimadzu has had a management plan to become more global. To this end, in 2016 it added innovation centers in Europe and Singapore to existing ones in China and the U.S. for doing R&D with research institutions, universities, and companies. Shimadzu opened an instrument manufacturing plant in Malaysia. And it invested $12 million in Brazil to acquire SINC do Brasil Instrumentação Científica, expand a customer training facility, and add a lab for developing analysis methods.

4 Agilent Technologies

2016 instrument sales: $1.89 billion

In its first full year focused entirely on analytical and life sciences instrumentation and services, Agilent Technologies pursued hot trends—such as immuno-oncology, gene editing, and RNA-based drugs—while trying to create one of its own in gas chromatography. During its fiscal year that ended in October 2016, the company invested $480 million in acquisitions, strategic transactions, and capital expenditures. Its nucleic acids business, which grew by 8%, announced that it would double manufacturing capacity for active pharmaceutical ingredients. The company also broadened its offering of CRISPR RNA libraries for functional genomics. And as the supplier of a companion diagnostic, Agilent benefited from wider approval of Merck & Co.’s cancer drug Keytruda. Better-than-expected revenues from its analytical lab instruments business were driven by the introduction of products into the pharma, food, environmental, and forensics markets. In August, for example, the company debuted a gas chromatograph with technology making it easier to use. In line with the broader market, Agilent’s overall instrument sales rose about 4%.

5 Roche Diagnostics

2016 instrument sales: $1.87 billion

Sales of molecular diagnostic instruments and tests by the Swiss drug and diagnostics giant Roche grew 7% in 2016. About 4% of that growth came from the gene-sequencing area. In December, however, Roche canceled an agreement with Pacific Biosciences to develop and sell single-molecule sequencing products for human in vitro diagnostics. Roche decided to do so despite having paid PacBio $35 million up front in 2013 and $40 million in milestones by the end of 2015. PacBio is free to sell all clinical research and products related to the system, called Sequel, that were developed during the collaboration. Roche’s decision left questions about what the future looks like for PacBio and for competition in gene sequencing. However, Roche’s flip-flopping track record—of buying sequencing businesses and later closing some and of signing and then canceling multiple partnering deals—offers few answers.

6 Carl Zeiss

2016 instrument sales: $1.62 billion

Last year was another one in which Germany’s Zeiss Group could celebrate. In 2015, its light, ion, electron, and X-ray microscopy business observed the International Year of Light. In 2016, the company marked the 200th birthday of its founder, the optician Carl Zeiss. Today, the company has more than $5.2 billion in sales. The microscopes that C&EN tracks are part of Zeiss’s $1.6 billion-per-year Research & Quality Technology segment, which also sells industrial metrology. If ranked on microscope sales alone, a more comparable figure to those used for other suppliers, Zeiss would be a few notches lower in C&EN’s ranking. In 2016, Zeiss reports, “the microscopy business group significantly improved its competitiveness and has achieved a turnaround in its business.” The market for microscopes grew slightly as Asian countries stepped up research spending, but Europe and the U.S. spent more hesitantly. The use of industrial microscopes continued to expand in the semiconductor, electronics, and automotive sectors, while demand weakened from the steel, mining, oil, and gas sectors.

7 Bruker

2016 instrument sales: $1.48 billion

Bruker has spent the past three years trying to transform itself through divestitures, acquisitions, and footprint consolidation. Its earnings have improved, but sales were down in 2016, though by much less than the drop seen in 2015. Instrumentation sales declined less than 1% in 2016 after factoring in both the positive effect of acquisitions and the negative impact of foreign currency exchange rates. Excluding these, the decline was closer to 2%, driven by weakness in European academic funding and industrial markets. “We are planning to return to revenue growth in 2017 through a combination of resumed organic growth and contributions from acquisitions,” CEO Frank Laukien said when reporting earnings. Acquisitions, including three already in 2017, have added preclinical imaging, microelectron spin resonance, and nanoindenting products, as well as consumables, assays, and software offerings.

8 Mettler Toledo

2016 instrument sales: $1.23 billion

Laboratory instrument sales grew nearly 7% to account for about half of Mettler Toledo’s revenues in 2016. An eclectic mix, the firm’s instruments include balances, pipettes, titrators, and physical and thermal analyzers used for sample preparation, analytical benchtop work, and materials characterization. The company also sells lab software, process analytical instruments, and automated chemical-synthesis systems. Although 2016 was a much better year than 2015, “we remain cautious in our outlook on the global economy,” CEO Olivier Filliol said when reporting earnings. “While demand in our markets remains solid, we recognize risks exist in many geographic regions. We will monitor closely and adapt our planning as necessary.”

9 Waters Corp.

2016 instrument sales: $1.12 billion

Waters Corp. had an average year in 2016, with instrument sales up 4.5% over the previous year. Sales increased 9% to the pharmaceutical market and 6% to industrial users. But to government and academia, sales fell 4%. Geographically, sales were up across the board, growing 13% in Asia, 4% in Europe, and 2% in the Americas. Services and chemistry consumables continued to be a good source of recurring revenues, increasing 8%. During the year, Waters joined with the U.K. bioscience incubator BioCity to launch an open access analytical laboratory. Located at BioHub at Alderley Park, the lab offers businesses housed there access to liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, informatics technology, and analytical systems. Separately, as the founding corporate member, Waters joined with more than a dozen partners in eight countries to support the International Phenome Centre Network. IPCN is looking to harmonize metabolic phenotyping methods for health challenges such as autism, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and obesity.

10 PerkinElmer

2016 instrument sales: $741 million

In 2016, PerkinElmer made organizational changes to position itself for future growth. As a result, instrument sales fell 12%, while total revenues were essentially flat. In the spring, the company sold its U.S. prenatal screening lab services business to Eurofins Scientific and its lab information management systems to a new company called Labworks. Later in the year, PerkinElmer sold its medical imaging business to Varian Medical Systems. PerkinElmer made diagnostics a stand-alone segment, with a focus on reproductive health, emerging markets, and applied genomics, that serves clinically oriented customers. Its remaining operations were put into a division called Discovery & Analytical Solutions that supplies applications-oriented customers in the food, environmental, industrial, and life sciences sectors. According to CEO Robert Friel, the changes will “accelerate our application and technology development efforts for the benefit of PerkinElmer’s customers as we expand our capabilities to provide more integrated solutions that address critical needs around the globe.”

11 Bio-Rad Laboratories

2016 instrument sales: $731 million

Bio-Rad Laboratories, a provider of a broad range of life sciences research and clinical diagnostic products, saw its instrument-related sales—largely polymerase chain reaction, chromatography, and cell analysis systems—grow 5% in 2016. The year was marked by technology development agreements. For example, Bio-Rad made an equity investment in Genetic Analysis in exchange for rights to commercialize Genetic Analysis’s GA-map technology for detecting microbial imbalances in the gut. Bio-Rad also joined the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, which was established in 2015 by scientists from IBM Research and the food company Mars. This year, Bio-Rad and Illumina launched a system for single-cell gene-sequencing analysis. And Bio-Rad agreed to purchase RainDance Technologies, which has developed methods to study biological reactions in droplets.


12 Eppendorf

2016 instrument sales: $730 million

Eppendorf is a German company that develops and sells instruments, consumables, and services for handling liquids, cells, and samples in the lab. As a private company, it does not break out its instrumentation sales, so its ranking is based on total sales of $730 million, a number that inflates its place in C&EN’s survey. The company’s sales for 2016 are an estimate reported as part of a midyear outlook presented in August. At that time, CEO Thomas Bachmann said he assumes “we will once again achieve growth for the entire fiscal year 2016 that exceeds the projected current industry average of 4%.” He attributed part of his positive view to good business development in China, where the market grew strongly during the first six months of 2016.

13 Nikon

2016 instrument sales: $699 million

One hundred years ago, the company now known as Nikon began producing optical glass and instruments, including microscopes. Today, the company is reporting substantial growth in its semiconductor lithography business but not enough to offset declining sales in the digital camera area. As a result, overall sales are down, and Nikon is going through a restructuring program that will cut more than 1,000 jobs through voluntary retirements. In its instrument business, sales are estimated to decline 2%. Microscope sales were weak, the company says, owing to foreign exchange effects and sluggish market conditions in the U.S. and Europe. However, it reported that sales in Japan and the rest of Asia rose.


2016 instrument sales: $653 million

Japan's JEOL expects a decline in scientific instrument sales of about 4% for the fiscal year that ends in March 2017. As for other Japanese instrument firms, the appreciating yen held back growth. JEOL is in the third part of a three-stage program begun in 2010 to revamp its business structure, set up a stable revenue base, and drive growth through "speed, difference, and change." The company is also trying to fill a gap in its nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy business, which it reacquired in full in 2013, a year before Agilent Technologies exited the market. JEOL's newest tactic is to offer its NMR consoles as replacements for ones from other manufacturers, especially those on aging Agilent/Varian systems. JEOL suggests that upgrading magnets in this way can make NMR systems more affordable.

15 Spectris

2016 instrument sales: $568 million

Despite challenging market conditions, England-based Spectris saw its materials analysis instrument sales grow 15% in 2016. An active cost-control program helped earnings grow by double digits. About one-third of the company’s instrument sales were to the pharmaceutical and fine chemicals area; about 22% to metals, minerals, and mining; and 18% to academic research. Late in 2016, Spectris decided to merge two of its larger operating companies, Malvern Instruments and PANalytical. The company argues that the combined business will become a strong player in the materials characterization market with a more complete range of products and services for a broader range of customers.

R&D spending

Most instrument makers increased their investment in 2016.


Thermo Fisher Scientific

$755 4.1% 9.1%


504 21.0 25.5

Agilent Technologies

329 7.8 -0.3


149 9.2 2.3


147 10.9 10.5

Waters Corp.

125 5.8 5.5


124 5.9 9.7

Mettler Toledo

120 4.8 0.8


61 6.6 7.0


50 9.7 22.0

Oxford Instruments

40 8.2 -16.7

Anton Paar

31 9.9 6.9

Source: Company data

16 Hitachi High Technologies

2016 instrument sales: $510 million

In 2016, Hitachi High Technologies experienced many of the market influences that other Japanese suppliers did, including an appreciating yen. In its science and medical systems segment, scientific instruments and electron microscopy were the two poorest-performing sectors. With the European market down, electron microscope sales dropped 5%. Scientific instruments sales were down 3%. Among the instruments Hitachi sells are thermal analyzers, spectrophotometers, and more sophisticated chromatography and mass spectrometry systems. This year, the company is looking to strengthen its global sales network and establish new research, business development, and manufacturing capabilities in the U.S.

17 Illumina

2016 instrument sales: $470 million

Illumina, the leader in the gene-sequencing market, had a tough 2016. After years of substantial growth, the company saw instrument sales drop 21%. As a result, Illumina fell to number 17 in C&EN’s ranking after having reached number 15 the previous year. Sales of consumables and services helped cushion the decline, and total company revenues were up 8%. “We ended 2016 on a stronger note than we anticipated,” CEO Francis de Souza said. The company anticipates about 11% growth in 2017. Early this year, Illumina debuted its NovaSeq system based on technology that it expects will enable $100 whole-genome sequencing. Although the company says it has a sizable backlog of orders, customers may hold off on buying until they can evaluate the technology, suggests Leerink stock analyst Puneet Souda. Other factors that may limit sales growth, even for a technology upgrade, include overcapacity for sequencing and uncertain funding in academia.

18 Olympus

2016 instrument sales: $344 million

Although the economy is recovering robustly in the U.S. and making modest gains in Europe and China, the scientific solutions business at Japan’s Olympus is not faring well. The company estimates that sales for the business in the fiscal year ending in March 2017 will be down about 12%, or 3% after eliminating currency effects. The business sells to both industrial and life sciences markets. For the latter, sales were down nearly 14%. According to the company, sales of products for hospitals and life sciences research declined in Europe as a result of budget cuts and delays. However, sales were strong in Japan, the U.S., and other parts of Asia.

19 Tecan

2016 instrument sales: $319 million

Tecan is on track to report double-digit 2016 sales growth, the company stated at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in January. In particular, the Swiss firm has been expanding its offerings for diagnostics and life sciences labs. It spent the past year integrating Sias, a supplier of lab automation systems for liquid handling that it acquired in late 2015. Then in August, it agreed to spend up to $60 million to purchase SPEware, a U.S.-based provider of mass spectrometry sample-preparation systems. More than 70% of SPEware’s revenues come from consumables for automated solid-phase extraction.

20 Anton Paar

2016 instrument sales: $312 million

Added to C&EN’s ranking because it made estimated results available, Anton Paar is a 95-year-old provider of lab instruments and process measuring systems. In 2016, the private Austrian company’s sales grew about 7%. Its origins are in a machine repair shop started by the locksmith Anton Paar, who made connections with universities and research institutes. His daughter Margarete Platzer, also trained as a locksmith, worked with Professor Otto Kratky in the 1930s to create the company’s first scientific instrument, the Kratky Small Angle X-ray Camera. After many generations of family management, Anton Paar was donated to its present owner, the nonprofit Santner Foundation, in 2003. The majority of profits are reinvested in the company, but a portion goes to the foundation for charitable purposes, such as the prevention and treatment of addiction.

21 Xylem Analytics

2016 instrument sales: $286 million

There is not much to report about Xylem Analytics, the analytical technology business of the water technology and services firm Xylem, because its parent makes little information about it public. Pieced together from at least 13 small acquisitions, Xylem Analytics focuses on field, portable, online, and lab analytical instrumentation. It serves water, marine, food and beverage, environmental, chemical, and pharmaceutical markets. Sales for the testing area were down 2% in 2016 in light of what the company calls “mixed market conditions.”

22 Oxford Instruments

2016 instrument sales: $253 million

In C&EN’s previous ranking of top instrumentation companies, Oxford Instruments stood out for its high rate of growth. Now it is among firms reporting big declines as its equipment sales dropped 11% for the fiscal year that ended in March 2016. Services revenues were strong, however, so total company sales fell only 5%. The company sells nanocharacterization and analysis tools to both physical and life sciences markets under a variety of brand names: Andor Technology, Asylum Research, NanoAnalysis, NanoScience, Plasma Technology, and a joint venture called Scienta Omicron. Oxford says it expects to make financial progress in fiscal 2017 by focusing on product development, customer service, and cost optimization. It also expects that the increasing role of nanotechnology will continue to yield growth for high-tech tools.

23 Horiba

2016 instrument sales: $237 million

Scientific instruments account for just 15% of sales at Japan’s Horiba and declined nearly 4% for the year. According to the company, sales of R&D instruments and systems to universities and other customers were solid in Japan and China but sluggish in Europe and the Americas, resulting in part from the yen’s appreciation. During the year, the company’s technology reached new frontiers when NASA’sspace probe entered Jupiter’s orbit in July. Two optical spectrometers on board use Horiba’s Jobin Yvon diffraction gratings.


24 Sartorius

2016 instrument sales: $216 million

In 2016, Sartorius, a bioprocessing and lab equipment company, reported double-digit sales growth. The lab products and services division that C&EN tracks accounts for about 25% of sales, and within this, significant but undisclosed portions are lab instruments and consumables. According to the firm, the division has sharpened its strategic focus, especially among biopharmaceutical lab customers, through the 2016 acquisitions of the cell screening technology company IntelliCyt and the bioanalytical firm ViroCyt. Sartorius anticipates that sales for its lab products business this year will increase by 6 to 10%, assuming an overall stable economic environment.

Credit: Qiagen
An applications scientist loads a QIAsymphony lab automation system at a Qiagen site in Hilden, Germany.
Photo of Qiagen QIAsymphony in lab.
Credit: Qiagen
An applications scientist loads a QIAsymphony lab automation system at a Qiagen site in Hilden, Germany.

25 Qiagen

2016 instrument sales: $172 million

As for other companies in the diagnostics and next-generation sequencing areas, instrumentation is just a small part of Qiagen's sales compared with tests and consumables. Nevertheless, the company posted about 4% growth in equipment sales across all customer types and regions. Growth came from customers in academia, pharmaceuticals, and applied testing, as well as from the acquisitions of the sample-prep firm MO BIO Laboratories and the RNA technology company Exiqon. To keep on this trajectory, Qiagen has been expanding in molecular diagnostics. The firm reports that its GeneReader NGS System received a strong reception, achieving a 10% market share for new benchtop sequencers in oncology applications. It also has sold a total of 1,750 of its QIAsymphony lab automation systems, which helped support double-digit consumables sales growth. 

Top 25

Led by European firms, a majority of leading instrument makers increased sales in 2016.

1 1

Thermo Fisher Scientific

$4,386 3.4% 24.0% U.S.
2 2


2,120 -3.4 12.6 U.S.
3 3


2,006 4.6 62.3 Japan
4 4

Agilent Technologiesb

1,891 4.1 45.0 U.S.
5 5

Roche Diagnosticsc

1,873 7.3 16.1 Switzerland
6 6

Carl Zeissd

1,623 8.1 30.0 Germany
7 7


1,481 -0.6 91.9 U.S.
8 8

Mettler Toledo

1,229 6.9 49.0 Switzerland
9 9

Waters Corp.

1,115 4.5 51.5 U.S.
10 10


741 -12.1 35.0 U.S.
11 13

Bio-Rad Laboratories

731 5.2 35.3 U.S.
12 12


730 4.8 100.0 Germany
13 11


699 -1.6 10.1 Japan
14 14


653 -3.9 71.0 Japan
15 17


568 15.1 31.1 England
16 16

Hitachi High Technologiesa

510 -7.5 8.8 Japan
17 15


470 -21.0 19.6 U.S.
18 18


344 -13.8 5.0 Japan
19 22


319 15.0 62.1 Switzerland
20 19

Anton Paare

312 6.8 100.0 Austria
21 20

Xylem Analyticsc

286 -2.1 100.0 U.S.
22 21

Oxford Instrumentsf

253 -11.4 51.7 England
23 23


237 -3.8 15.1 Japan
24 24


216 6.6 15.0 Germany
25 25


172 3.6 12.9 Netherlands

Note: Results are for the calendar year unless otherwise stated. Some figures were converted at relevant average exchange rates for 2016. a Company estimates for fiscal year ending March 31, 2017. b Fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 2016. c Results for instrumentation sales in this division alone. d Fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2016. e Estimate based on company outlook. f Fiscal year ended March 31, 2016.
Sources: C&EN, company data

CLARIFICATION: The description of JEOL was modified on March 14 to better describe the company's actions in the NMR spectroscopy business.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.