The market for cartridges used to purify liquids climbed steadily from 2002 to 2008, reaching $13 billion, but demand has languished since, according to a report by McIlvaine Company. However, by 2012, McIlvaine predicts the cartridge filter market will be back on track with forecasted revenues (at the manufacturer level) of $14 billion.

McIlvaine says while 2009 was a down year, Asia managed to raise its percentage of the total market to 32 percent and top suppliers remain in the United States, with some non-U.S. suppliers, such as Siemens, actually operating from a U.S. base (the former USFilter). The top three suppliers in the cartridge market in 2009 accounted for 20 percent of the total world market. The top 14 suppliers accounted for 43 percent of the market, and top supplier, with $1.3 billion in cartridge sales, captured 10 percent of the world market.

McIlvaine says, the top 30 companies accounted for 55 percent of the total market. However, they only captured 25 percent of the residential market and 20 percent of the commercial market. They dominated the pharmaceutical market with a 68 percent market share. They did even better in the power segment with a 70 percent market share. The pharmaceutical segment requires high performance cartridges and, in many cases, requires expensive testing and validation. As a result, McIlvaine reports that Pall, Millipore and a few other big companies dominate this market. Power also requires high performance cartridges in boiler feedwater and turbine lubrication systems. The applications are nearly identical from country to country; therefore the international suppliers have advantages.

There is also the desire to standardize designs in all plants around the world, so large semiconductor suppliers, such as Intel, will lean toward an international supplier for their ultrapure water cartridges. This is less true in the chemical industry due to the fact that the processes vary from plant to plant.

Global manufacturing is another trend in the industry. The international suppliers of roll goods for cartridges have located plants in China and other parts of Asia. This encourages cartridge manufacturers to also locate in this region where both the market and the supply are available. String-wound and other low-cost cartridges need to be manufactured close to the end markets. This is due to the high cost of transport as a percentage of the total selling price. The opposite is true of membrane cartridges, whose value per unit volume could be orders of magnitude greater than a stringwound cartridge.

The cartridge market will continue to grow at a rate slightly higher than the GDP, according to McIlvaine. This translates into very healthy growth in Asia where the GDP is growing much more rapidly than in Europe and the United States.

McIlvaine says there are more than one million purchasers of cartridge around the world. However, some 5,000 companies are purchasing the majority of the cartridges. These companies are identified in the McIlvaine report, along with their addresses. Contacts at these plants are supplied in a separate report.

However, the report does include contacts at the original equipment manufacturers and the specifying engineers. Suppliers of ultrapure water systems, boiler feedwater systems, food processing plants and other companies supplying equipment are often the original purchasers of cartridges. A string-wound cartridge in a paint manufacturing plant could be replaced after several hours, so the big market is in replacement rather than in initial supply. These high-volume, low-cost cartridges are typically sold through distributors. The high-performance cartridges are more likely to be sold directly.