News: The 2017 IBO Design Awards: Instrument Giants Get Compact

Every August, IBO conducts its annual Design Awards, a competition recognizing innovative and bold industrial design of analytical instruments. While technical features and performance are the cornerstone of any instrument’s functionality, the IBO Design Awards are based on the physical appearance, aesthetics and design features of the product, which are key in influencing purchasing decisions, as well as brand perception and product loyalty. To qualify for the Awards, the instrument must have begun shipping between August 1, 2016 and July 31, 2017.

The winners of IBO’s 2017 Design Awards for analytical instruments showcase innovation in size, shape and style, with compact footprints and modernist designs. Each winner is unique in its respective technology category, with distinctive features and improved usability complementing instrument performance.

Gold Award

The 2017 winner of the IBO Gold Award for Industrial Design for analytical instruments is the Phytronix Luxon Ion Source, a laser diode thermal desorption ion source. Using fiber-coupled laser diode technology to obtain thermal uniformity, the Luxon is Phytronix’s second generation sample introduction and ionization source. The new design completely reimagines the simple square design of the first generation product, adding curved lines, and the contemporary look and feel of the latest high tech consumer product.

Working in collaboration with design firm Tak Design, Phytronix has revolutionized traditional ion source designs, presenting an eye catching and completely unique looking ion source. As Jean Lacoursière, president of Phytronix, told IBO, “The base on the wheels gives an incredible facility to move, connect and disconnect the instrument on a mass spectrometer.” This ease-of-use-feature allows researchers to move the Luxon comfortably around the lab, increasing time savings and efficiency. The mobility enhances its usefulness for various sectors of research, such as pharmaceutical, bioanalytical, food, forensic and environmental. The Luxon provides continuous operation. Supporting fast analysis of samples, with speeds of one second per sample and uninterrupted throughput is an automated liquid handling and robotic transfer arm and, on top, the integrated LazWell plate stacker, with barcoding for traceability of samples and low-volume delivery of 0.1–10 µl or 0.05–2.5 µl for the Luxon-960 and Luxon-3840 models, respectively.


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With its sheer innovation and unique design of the ionization source, Phytronix has singlehandedly stepped up the design game for MS ion sources.

Silver Award

Illumina’s NovaSeq 6000 is this year’s winner of the IBO Silver Award for Industrial Design for analytical instruments. The NovaSeq 6000 is part of the new NovaSeq series, which is the most powerful sequencer Illumina has released, able to sequence between 3 and 48 human whole genomes in each run, and has surpassed the company’s order expectations (see Second Quarter Results).

With the NovaSeq 6000, Illumina breaks with the design motif of its iconic NGS systems, presenting a floor standing configuration and simplified exterior appearance reminiscent of clinical lab instrumentation. With a modern and compact design, the system emphasizes ease of use, such as the reduction in hands-on time. Although smaller in size than the company’s flagship HiSeq systems, the Novasep adds new capabilities, such as onboard cluster generation.

In addition, although the system is more compact, it provides greater flexibility, including greater scalability for high-throughput genomics research.


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Among the system’s integrated features are a single cartridge for both reagents and buffers, a centrally mounted touchscreen, and on-board waste-bottle storage. As opposed to the company’s HiSeq series, which was larger and had a more stacked-module appearance, the NovaSeq 6000 has rounded corners and balanced lines for a sleek finish, with a design that intuitively communicates its self-contained features and ability to fit in labs of virtually any size.

The new instrument design not only reflects the NovaSeq 6000’s flagship status but the evolution of Illumina’s NGS system into an integrated, routine lab instrument for a wide range of applications. In this way, the system’s appearance and industrial design help tell a larger story.

Bronze Award

The 2017 Bronze winner for IBO’s Design Awards is Shimadzu’s PDA-MF series of optical emission spectrometers (OES), which includes the PDA-MF and PDA-MF Plus. The company’s very first benchtop OES, the PDA-MF series provides rapid elemental analysis of solid metallic samples.

The PDA-MF series was developed in-house at Shimadzu’s Corporate Product Design Center. As benchtop systems, the PDA-MF series is much smaller than previous PDA OES models, boasting a bold black-and-silver color scheme and a smooth, rounded front for enhanced usability and a more compact appearance.

However, these features are not simply for aesthetic reasons, but also support the system’s functionality and users’ practical needs.



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According to Mr. Hasebe, simplicity and intuitiveness were a priority for the instrument’s design. “The main consideration was ease of use, with a primary focus on physical usability,” he said. “Also, the excitation table shape helps create a smoother workflow; its cover-plate can be easily opened without removing the table or using any special tools, which enables simpler routine maintenance.”

With its thoughtful design, and its juxtaposition of usability with clean aesthetics, Shimadzu’s PDA-MF is an exciting addition to OES industrial design.


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