AEK Isolation Enclosure

Oxford Instruments - Asylum Research

Researching the researchers

Designing an enclosure that enables scientists to perfectly configure the environment for atomic force microscopy, was no small feat (pun intended). We began with extensive research into how scientists and laboratory technicians operate in their work space, the laboratory environment, and getting to know their objectives when conducting this type of work. Shadowing them throughout their day and observing various demonstrations of common tasks we began to learn about the nuances and incredible precision that goes into the workflow.

From the research and observation, we created experience maps and storyboards that highlighted key interactions and pain-points in current laboratories to help point us in the right direction. We discovered a number of opportunities for improvement and innovation that we used as a jumping off point for the following ideation phase.

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Testing with the testers

After generating a wide range of ideas to address the pain-points and opportunities we observed, we narrowed our directions down to a few of the most promising human factors concepts. We tested these with the use cases we observed in order to discover the strengths and weaknesses of each idea. Factors such as ergonomics, access, scalability, reliability, manufacturing, etc…were heavily scrutinized before choosing a concept to further develop.

During one of the mock-up review sessions with our client we discovered that actually tuning one of the mock-ups on its side provided the most access and ergonomics using one of the most reliable mechanisms. Having happily discovered this, the concept was mock-ed up and validated before moving on to being developed into the final product.

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Form follows Function

All throughout the development of the enclosure from a use and experience standpoint, work was simultaneously being done to ensure that the look, feel, and branding was inline with the product positioning. Due to the nature of the isolation enclosure, we explored using a wide range of materials that would function to separate the unit from the outside world. One of the more noticeable features of the product is the large granite section that bisects the enclosure horizontally providing excellent isolation being one of the most vibration dead materials available. This feature presents a beautifully warm and natural texture in the midst of the surrounding cold sheet metal components.