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The 2008 IBO Design Awards.

Over the past 14 years, the annual IBO Design Awards have showcased the best in analytical instrument industrial design. Industrial design encompasses the appearance and form of an instrument. The industrial design is a fundamental part of a product, helping determine how the end-user will evaluate, use, maintain and value a product, and, indirectly, how an end-user regards the product's brand and manufacturer. As the winners show, strong industrial design effectively communicates the product's purpose, noticeably increases the product's functionality and is a differentiator In the marketplace.

IBO Design Awards are based solely on a product's appearance, not on performance. To be eligible for the 2008 IBO Design Awards, a product must have begun shipping between August 2007 and July 2008. Winners are selected from the numerous new products IBO views each year at trade shows and in press releases. IBO also recognizes excellence in industrial design for lab equipment (page 6) and portable instruments (page 7).

Gold Award

The winner of the Gold Award for 2008 IBO Industrial Design competition is Malvern Instruments' Morphologi G3 automated particle characterization system. The Morphologi G3 is a microscope equipped with an automated powder dispersion device and image analysis software. It measures particle size, shape and count. Priced at 60,000 [pounds sterling] ($118,000), the Morphologi G3 measures 440 x 700 x 760 mm (1.4 x 2.3 x 2.5 ft) and weighs 60 kg (132 lb). It took about one year to develop and was designed in house.

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Asked how the idea for the Morphologi G3's design originated, Ulf Willen, product manager, Analytical Imaging Systems, for Malvern Instruments, told IBO, "The idea behind developing the Morphologi G3 was to make sample dispersion an integral part of the system; maximize the degree of automation; and minimize the manual, user-dependent controls and settings on the instrument."

Key to meeting these requirements was an industrial design that enabled such functions, as well as visually communicated them. "For an instrument like the Morphologi G3, which delivers particle characterization based on high-quality imaging, it is easy to make it look and feel like a microscope--with all the drawbacks of a microscope including manual controls, operator dependence and so on. We have seen this with earlier products," said Mr. Willen.

Indeed, the Morphologi G3 gets high marks for not looking like a microscope, an important feature for a product designed to be easy to use and operated by nonexperts. The microscope is enclosed in an eye-catching, silver metallic exterior, whose soft, curved shape provides a solid and assessable profile that dispenses with the clutter of visible knobs and lenses. The appearance also sets it apart from other microscopy-based particle analysis systems. Tucked in the side, the powder dispersion device is an unobtrusive but salient feature.

These features were also key to the marketing and sales efforts. "The Morphologi G3's industrial design reflects its high degree of automation and operator independence and has made it easier to market as an automated particle characterization system based on imaging, rather than a microscope," noted Mr. Willen. "This has opened up new market segments where manual microscopy has not been a practical solution, but where direct information on both particle size and shape is still important in order to fully understand and control product behavior."

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The design also maximizes access and cleanliness. "For example, the sample dispersion chamber has a one-hand operation 'quick fitting.' The design of the sample cartridge means that it completely encloses the sample when loaded," explained said Mr. Willen. "This will minimize the user's exposure to the sample during sample handling--this is increasingly important in many industries. Secondly all external surface have to be smooth and of high finish to make cleaning easy."

In addition, the design ensures brand continuity. "The concept style has also to be in line with other Malvern products to ensure a strong brand image," said Mr. Willen. "The silver metallic and 'black-blue' color scheme was originally chosen for the Malvern Spraytec instrument. These are widely regarded as 'high-tech' colors and the scheme will be used in subsequent product introductions," he told IBO.

Silver Award

Bruker's SMART X2S X-ray crystallography system is the winner of the 2008 Silver IBO Design Award. Utilizing a minimal features, the SMART X2S cleverly disguises its X-ray diffraction system. The angled top half, prominent touch screen and sample port guide the end-user as to how to Interact with the instrument and creates an inviting, "walk-up" feel. Designed for nonexperts, the instrument's minimal but sharply defined exterior features make the technique more user friendly, highlighting the system's ease of use. Most impressive is the compact size, which allows the system to sit on a benchtop, a first for the X-ray crystallography system and a further selling point.

The SMART X2S measures 94 x 64 x 64 cm (3.1 x 2.1 x 2.1 ft) and weighs 128 kg (282 lb). It is designed to determine a three-dimensional chemical structure. It was developed at Bruker's Madison, Wisconsin facility with the assistance of Peter Steinmetz, a retired Bruker industrial artist.

According to A. Haydar Kustu, marketing manager for Bruker, the design for the SMART X2S grew out of an interest In expanding the market for X-ray crystallography. "Bruker has believed for many years that routine crystallography could be made available to a wide variety of research laboratories and educational facilities by offering a small, automated desktop instrument."

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The instrument's smooth exterior and inviting feel also increase ease of ruse. "The instrument was also designed as a black box. Unlike traditional crystallographic instrumentation, which is visible and easily accessed for manual operation, the SMART X2S offers a fully automated turnkey solution for non-crystallographers," said Mr. Kustu.

The industrial design also highlights the system's turnkey capabilities. "First impressions are very important. The SMART X2S was designed to perform a turnkey solution right out of the box. Unpack it, plug it in, and use it. No adjustments, no installation technician and no assembly required," said Mr. Kustu. He also told IBO that manufacturing requirements did not influence the industrial design. "A separate manufacturing space has been set up for SMART X2S production that will serve as a proving ground for LEAN product development and manufacturing. Manufacturing requirements were possibly more influenced by the industrial design than the industrial design was influenced by manufacturing requirements."

Bronze Award

Aqua Diagnostic's PeCOD (photo-electrochemical oxidative degradation chemical oxygen demand) L100 Analyzer is the recipient of the 2008 Bronze IBO Design Award for analytical instruments. The PeCOD L100 is designed for lab use. The F100 for field applications sports the same design.

A start-up company based in South Melbourne, Australia, Aqua Diagnostic created the PeCOD to overcome the shortcomings of other COD techniques for natural water and wastewater applications. The product works by measuring a photo-current charge emitted by the oxidization of the sample's organic species. It was developed with the design firm Design & Industry. It measures 235 x 236 x 275 mm (9.3 x 9.3 x 14.8 in) and weighs less than 2 kg (4.4 lb).

The product's industrial design is a refreshing take that updates the look of the traditional benchtop COD analyzer and is fitting for a new technique. The streamlined design eliminates buttons, while the angled face allows the end-user to easily read the measurements. The sealed, smooth surface features no cavities to keep out dust and dirt. "The screen is designed and mounted on an angle, so that it is easy to read and will allow spillages or light rain to run off without affecting the internal electronics," explained Greg Roberts, Aqua Diagnostic's Business Development manager.

The PeCOD is also flexible. As Mr. Roberts explained, "it is tall enough to enable sampling from any typical laboratory vessel, while positioned on any level surface--there is no need for pro-pose-built or special-sized containers." The priorities for the product's design included ease of use, portability and ruggedness, said Mr. Roberts, further indicating its flexibility, which allows for use both inside and outside the lab. "The PeCOD COD Analyzers needed to be functional, rugged and stable, while remaining small and light enough to take into the field in environments that can be dusty and wet," he noted.

The look of the instrument also makes a first impression and addresses the visual sophistication of end-users. "Customers, such as those from the Y Generation, are much more specific in their needs and expectations. They expect a sophisticated quality product--this is achievable through mass fabrication technologies," said Mr. Roberts. In addition, manufacturing was a consideration. "While the cost of materials are relatively low, assembly needs to be simple and fast so that labor costs form a small part of the overall cost of manufacture," he noted.

Honorable Mentions

Formulatrix's Formulator Liquid Handler

Millipore's SNAP i.d. Protein Detection System

Ocean Optics' Jaz Spectrometer

Olympus's Advalytix AmpliGrid System
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Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Date:Aug 15, 2008
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