Microscopy encompasses a wide range of techniques. There are dozens of ways to dice and slice this marketplace: visible, ultraviolet, infrared, X-ray, Raman, 2-D, 3-D, electron microscopy, fluorescence, confocal, and probe-based are the most common, each having numerous variants. Instrument and method abbreviations arguably make up the most confusing “alphabet soup” in all of analytical science. According to data from Companies & Markets, microscopes and accessories were a $3.2 billion market in 2011. With expected compound annual growth of five percent, the research firm estimates the 2016 market at $4.1 billion. For microscopes alone the figures are $2.7 billion in 2011 sales and $3.4 billion in 2016.
Microscopy originally captured the imaginations of scientists for its life sciences applications. Microscopy was the basis for discovery of cells and microorganisms and for practically everything known about microphysiology and the biology of tissues.
As industrial R&D picked up during the past 150 years, microscopy has been adopted by nearly every industry. Today high-tech semiconductor, materials, and forensics industries are big customers.
Deepak Sharma, PhD, senior marketing manager at Bruker Nano Surfaces Division (Santa Barbara, CA), explains that 3-D microscopy has become an enabling technology in the manufacture of current-generation electronics, including microchips, displays, and MEMS (microelectromechanical systems). “We sell 3-D microscopes to labs analyzing wire bonds for multichip modules, the architecture of touch screens, and many related applications.”