The 2007 IBO Laboratory Equipment Design Awards

Laboratory equipment tends to be the humble workhorse in a lab. While it does not perform the high-profile work of measuring and analyzing samples, research simply could not be done without it. Traditionally, aesthetics have not been a priority in the design of lab equipment. The decision by a laboratory equipment manufacturer to improve the design of its product can increase productivity for the laboratories that use the equipment. This year’s awardees of the IBO Design Award for Laboratory Equipment also demonstrate that mixing, milling and shaking can be done in style.

Gold Award

The winner of IBO’s Gold Award for Laboratory Equipment Industrial Design goes to Q.Instruments’ RIO micro thermo shaker. Olaf Hoyer, CEO and chief of development at Q.Instruments, clearly wanted to make the RIO stand out from its competitors: “It was, from the very first [moment], a main aim of RIO’s design to be distinguished from all other established devices with comparable functionality—regarding size, shape, proportions, contours and colors.” Mr. Hoyer explained that the circular design of the RIO houses a new thermo block system which improves heating performance. The RIO is also compact, measuring 15 x 19 x 19 cm (5.9 x 7.5 x 7.5 in.) and weighing 2.2 kg (4.9 lb.). Pictured here in a pastel yellow, the RIO is available in blue and orange, and other colors are available on request.

The RIO was designed in house by three Q.Instruments engineers, who were able to improve the regulation of mixing frequencies and virtually eliminate the propagation of “nuisance vibrations” from the RIO. Mr. Hoyer explained that one particular design challenge involved in creating the RIO lay in “arranging all moving and nonmoving interior components into the smallest possible space without unfavorable interaction” and in integrating the technical components of the thermo shaker, which are angular in shape, with its curvilinear exterior. Q.Instruments was particularly successful with the RIO’s panel, which is designed to be easily read and is lit by a blue digital display that provides a subtle, unobtrusive contrast to the plastic surface of its body. The electronics behind the panel are masked by a downward slope that extends to the base of the RIO. While Mr. Hoyer acknowledged that the appearance of the RIO was a high priority, he added that “it was, however, just as important to find a form which was best matched to the particular technical realization of the target application (shaking and heating) and which supported ease of use and convenience.”

Silver Award

The Silver Award for Laboratory Equipment Industrial Design goes to Fritsch’s PULVERISETTE 7 Premium Line of planetary mills. The grinding bowls of planetary mills are generally on top of a circular platform, which makes for a boxy appearance. “Sinking the bowls,” as Fritsch puts it, in the PULVERISETTE 7 Premium Line makes the design unique. The lower bowls also allow the mills to achieve rotational speeds up to 1,100 rpm, yielding milling times of four minutes or less and grindings down to 100 nm scales. The PULVERISETTE 7 Premium Line’s grinding bowls and lids are integrated, which is a first, in order to more easily remove and open the bowls. Fritsch also replaced the white exterior of its standard planetary mills with an elegant black surface, punctuated by a brushed aluminum touchscreen. The mills measure 40 x 58 x 36 cm (15.7 x 22.8 x 14.2 in.) and weigh 61 kg (134.5 lb.), including bowls and grinding balls.

Bronze Award

The Vortex Wizard, a new vortex mixer from Velp Scientifica/Neutec, is the winner of the Bronze Award for Laboratory Equipment Industrial Design. This device’s design is dominated by its curves, both in its physical contours and the arrangement of its blue and silver color scheme. The streamlined profile of the Vortex Wizard adds to its unique appearance, and also provides stability during the mixing operation. The Vortex Wizard also offers a unique performance option to complement its design: the mixer is equipped with an infrared sensor that can detect the presence of a test tube and trigger automatic operation. The Vortex Wizard measures 18 x 7 x 22 cm (7.1 x 2.8 x 8.7 in.) and weighs 2.4 kg (5.3 lb.).

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