Lab Instrumentation Goes Portable, and It Is a $1.5 Billion Market

Portable analytical instruments allow pharma companies and governments to do their job with maximum accuracy, efficiency and mobility.  And it’s big business.

The total portable instrumentation market was just under $1.5 billion in 2018, according to our latest report.  The 2019 Market for Portable Instrumentation: In the Lab & In the Field expects future growth to be driven by security and pharmaceuticals applications, with specific growth rates detailed in the report.

Many portable detection instruments are used in the field, including:  x-ray fluorescence (XRF), arc/spark spectroscopy, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), ultraviolet-visible (UV/Vis) spectroscopy, color measurement, Raman spectroscopy, infrared (IR) spectroscopy, near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, gas chromatography (GC), mass spectrometry (MS), and electrochemistry.  Each is covered in the report by various geographies and forecasted for the next five years.

The applications for these industries are broad:

Government and security testing:  Many security and law enforcement agencies utilize single-use color-based tests for testing drugs and other unknown substances in the field. While cheap, thousands of these tests can be used in a year. Another downside is subjectivity, as the color readings can vary person to person. The U.S. and China are among the nations increasing spending on equipment for security, according to the report. Alternatively, portable analytical instrumentation can be used for many years before needing replacement, and these instruments are more accurate and average out to be cheaper in the long term. IR, Raman, MS, and GC are the most common portable technologies used for government and security testing applications.

Environmental testing: The most common use of portable instruments in environmental testing is testing related to pollution and water quality. Photometers and various electrochemistry meters for things like pH are the most common instruments used, but others like IR or even MS also are used.

Pharmaceuticals: Raw material testing is the main purpose for portable instrumentation in the pharmaceutical industry. Oftentimes, they are used in warehouses to quickly check incoming materials for use in production. Portable Raman analyzers can even analyze materials through their packaging.