How a car is created. One would think that designing a car would be a process of creating drawings and then transferring the drawings to sheet metal. Which is. But there are some intermediate steps to the process and the best way that car designers have found over the century or so of designing cars is to first create the car in clay.
I want to talk about sheet metal and making sheet metal parts. Now for a variety of reasons the maker community has avoided using sheet metal in their project and that’s a mistake. I see a lot of maker designed machines that use thick plastic panels where I, as designer would have used a formed sheet metal panel.
What is good design? Reading the article below, Mr. Dyson would have you believe that good design mean paring things down, being energy efficient as possible, being green even at the expense of lower costs. I’m not sure that that’s always the case.
Cameras and everything else. Nikon has historically been known for it’s design excellence for good reason. The company has a good record for producing the kinds of products that have done well. What’s interesting is that unlike so many companies Nikon hasn’t tried to diversify our of it’s strength in optical products. They are, though very good at what they do.
Ben Einstein goes through the process for a relatively simple product. This is a good study how his company Bolt, has a process for product development. Is his process perfect? No, I would approach things a little differently, but his techniques certainly lay out how a well developed process works. In my experience, no matter how good you are, always have your hair fire extinguisher ready.
One thing about this is that a TOF mass spec can cost as much as a home, so it’s very understandable that reliability and maintenance are very important. From a design standpoint it didn’t seem like that was as important to the manufacturers of said mass spectrometers.
In many ways a lot of laboratory instruments seem to be designed and constructed more or less ad hoc from the prototypes the people creating the instruments use to test out their ideas. There seems to be a tendency to be in such a rush to get the instrument out and being used that people forget that another design round is required where the instrument actually gets used in the environment that it will be used in. But the instrument first of all needs to be manufacturable and second, needs to be usable, day in and day out.
That means things like considering how long it takes to change the sources, replace capillaries and clean the skimmer. How often the vacuum chamber needs to be cleaned. These are the things that are important to the mass spec users, yet it’s those exact things that get neglected by designers and project managers. When you in the development process, it’s all too easy to chase performance and get caught up in the pressures of product release.
The thinking seems to be that if you skin the instrument with a pretty case and make it look good, the lab people will march up and hand you money. I’ve seen some stuff that made me cringe marketed at high prices to laboratory people. I think that the problem is that nobody seems to want to offer alternatives. Nobody seems to understand that there is a market for turnkey machines that work well and are reliable. Yet the survey shows that that is exactly what laboratory mangers want.
Forget the fancy industrial designed skins. Make the source flexible and able to switch multiple probes quickly. Make replacing the capillary a snap and make it so that the skimmer can be cleaned without taking the entire mass spec apart. If I ever get the chance to do another mass spec those are the things that I would address first.