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Market profile: labware washers.

Long a laboratory workhorse, the labware glassware washer plays a trusted--if behind-the-scenes--role in the daily activities of scientists and, as a result, are made to careful and exacting standards. Although today's lab washers are frequently adorned with digital displays and the impressive metallic mirrored sheen of commercial appliances, they are not glamorous machines, and this seems to be exactly the point their manufacturers wish to make. Underneath attractive, minimalist styling, modem glassware washers are regularly called upon to scrub and sanitize instruments caked with waxes, resins, polymers, tars and a host of other unpleasant substances. They are expected to handle instruments from pipettes and volumetric flasks to petri dishes and BOD bottles.

Manufacturers can get away with designing simple functions for home dishwashers: hot tap water and a mild detergent are usually adequate for dissolving most food scraps. But because laboratories employ such a wide array of chemicals and materials--many of which are not water soluble--glassware washers must not only be versatile, but also extremely powerful. To accommodate scientists' needs, most washers feature programmable cycles, some offering as many as eight or more washes and rinses during a single load. Depending on the desired dis infection, water temperatures can be adjusted from a cold spray to a sizzling 200 [degree] F, or even hotter.

Aside from the aesthetic considerations of using clean labware, unwanted contaminants and residues on beakers and test tubes can interfere with the control parameters of an experiment, skewing results and, in the process, costing a laboratory potentially large amounts of money. To improve the comprehensiveness of its machines' washing ability, Miele, the largest worldwide manufacturer in terms of vendor market share, incorporates dual circulation pumps in its models that can shoot water into the cleaning chambers of its largest washers at 700 liters per minute. The water jets, though powerful, are designed not to damage fragile glassware.

Because washers are used in such a large number of industries--academics, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical and veterinary environments, to name a few--they come in an assortment of sizes. Scientists can choose from mobile and undercounter models, in addition to the larger freestanding ones. Lancer USA, the second-largest washer manufacturer, recently introduced its LABEXIA 815 LX undercounter washer, which contains features also in its larger editions, such as independent wash levels, microprocessor-controlled programs, an insulated chamber and self-diagnostic software. Other major manufacturers include Labconco, Sanyo, SMEG Instruments Corporation, Yamato, Scientific STERIS and Hotpack/SP Industries.

While water-based machines are still by far the most popular washers, a few companies are experimenting with alternative cleaning methods. Tempyrox' PYRO-CLEAN uses pyrolysis oxidation, a solvent-free thermal technique that sterilizes glassware at 800-900 [degree] F without the worry of neutralizing conventional detergents. Yamato has developed an ultrasonic pipette washer. Although its AW-31 model is small and limited in scope, it offers promising innovations for future washers.

The worldwide market for labware washers was about $55 million in 2002. IBO estimates modest worldwide growth of less than 2% a year for the next few years, with the regions outside North America and Europe providing the largest boost in demand, especially in the agriculture, food/beverage, environmental and biotechnology industries. While the labware washer market is largely replacement oriented, much higher growth exists for special detergents and other consumables.
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Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Article Type:Industry Overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 15, 2003
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