The Azenta Cryo Store Pico has won a 2023 SILVER AWARD for Analytical Instrument Industrial Design from Instrument Business Outlook. The annual IBO Design Awards recognize lab equipment and instruments that are contributing to the aesthetic quality and associated functionality of laboratory tools.
“The product not only looks good in the lab but thoroughly meets end-user needs creating an optimal experience. In doing so, the industrial design engages the end-user, enhancing product perception and appreciation,” IBO reports.
The winner of the 2023 IBO Design Silver Award is the Azenta Cryo Store Pico cryogenic storage system. The system is designed for LN2-based automated storage of up to 8,800 2-mL vials at 190°C. It supports cold chain handling and real-time inventory control and features temperature stability during retrieval as well as a 10-day emergency hold time.
Interview with Cryo Store Pico Product Manager, Erica Waller
(Excerpt from Instrument Business Outlook, September 2023)
The Cryo Store Pico’s unique color scheme, sweeping curves, and scooped-out open corner suggest a unique system, ease of use and accessibility. The use of color and the placement of rounded corners in relation to angled edges invite user interaction. An automatic door slides open allowing users to easily submit or retrieve samples.
The design of the Cryo Store Pico marked a different approach for Azenta. “The original design idea for the Pico was a miniature version of our existing product line, the B3C, but as we considered our target applications and users we realized there was an opportunity to do something really special,” explained Erica Waller, Product Manager for Azenta Life Sciences’ Automated Cryo Systems. “We took all the familiar parts of cryo storage, the stainless steel tank, the steps people must stand on to see into the freezer, even the freezer controller itself, and we put them inside cabinetry.”
In this way, the design of the Cryo Store Pico better addresses users’ needs. “Our target users are scientists and clinicians, working to bring advanced therapies to market, with the highest degree of safety, quality and speed possible,” said Ms. Waller. “We realized that these users don’t want to worry about their cryo storage protocols; they want to focus on creating the best possible outcomes for their patients. Taking those familiar visuals away helps bring the focus back to where it belongs: on the patient and on the samples they need for treatment.”
The Cryo Store Pico also marks a first for the company. “This was our first industrial design using our new corporate branding as Azenta Life Sciences, so we had a lot of fun testing out the different color options before we landed on black and purple,” noted Ms. Waller. “Our internal R&D team took it from there, to figure out how to break it into manufacturable pieces.”
Design priorities for the Cryo Store Pico included safety. “The first concern, as always, was user and sample safety. We considered the ergonomics across a variety of shapes and sizes, especially smaller heights to ensure the best possible user experience for anyone working in cryo storage and retrieval. Non-automated retrieval is a very physically demanding process of standing on steps, reaching into tanks full of LN2 and vapor, and lifting heavy racks of samples in and out,” commented Ms. Waller. “With the Pico industrial design, we were able to streamline the process to users simply opening a small door to add or remove boxes of samples. Under the cabinetry, we have our proven automation keeping watch over the samples and ensuring they stay cold and are accessed only with appropriate permission.”
“We wanted users to look at the Pico and feel empowered, knowing that the samples inside are protected and available to authorized users with a few simple clicks.”
A second priority was user interaction. “The Pico is designed to fit where it’s needed, especially in rooms with standard ceiling heights of eight feet, so we wanted to present a clean and streamlined appearance that would be approachable for all kinds of users,” according to Ms. Waller. “When people think about automation, they often think of sophisticated and highly technical machinery that requires special skills to operate.” The design addresses these concerns.
“With the design of the Pico, the visuals of the automation and freezer are replaced by a touchscreen with our intuitive software interface. The experience becomes more approachable, focusing on the sample rather than the details of how that sample is managed,” said Ms. Waller. “We wanted users to look at the Pico and feel empowered, knowing that the samples inside are protected and available to authorized users with a few simple clicks.”
Ms. Waller also described some of the other design challenges. “This was the first time we’d ever built anything like it. Our internal R&D team spent countless hours on the phone with our suppliers to work out how to create such large panels with the proper stiffness to support the weight and curvature to fit all together into a cohesive cabinet design,” she recounted. “The installation and manufacturing teams worked closely with R&D to find the best way to install the assembly to minimize gaps between panels and time to install. At one point, there were parades of people carrying around the frame to simulate the rigors of travel in the back of a truck!” The ultimate result was a more movable instrument. “A lot of love went into this project, and I am so proud of the team who achieved the final result: a system that can be taken through doorways and standard elevators to be assembled efficiently wherever it’s needed.”
Regarding the Cryo Store Pico’s relationship to sales and marketing, she told IBO, “I would say the industrial design has been very important to the Pico’s marketing and sales, it certainly turns heads wherever it goes! The aesthetic of cryo storage really hasn’t changed since the 1950s, with the creation of the first high-efficiency freezers to serve the animal husbandry market.” Thus, it was time for a change.
“As times have changed and the need for cryo storage in biotech has developed, the industrial design has been the last thing on manufacturer’s minds. If you walk into any large pharma biobank today, it would look indistinguishable from the storage facility of a steer breeder,” as she described it. “We think the market is ready for a change, and the Pico is here to challenge the idea that cryo storage must be an eyesore, hidden away in a basement. It can be beautiful, it can be easy to use, and it can be something to be proud of.”
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