Top 6 laboratory design trends
Westlab, a manufacturer of laboratory equipment and consumables, outlines recent industry trends that are changing the face of the modern lab.
1. More open-design, teamwork-orientated labs
With the evolution of education, teamwork and ‘see and be seen’ working cultures are on the rise. More open space, more visibility and more flexibility mean there are fewer individual workstations and private offices, and more collaborative space. This is an increasingly used design in universities, STEM-orientated schools and dedicated laboratories, enabling more collaboration, safety and teamwork, and means learning and researching is embraced. Many labs are also configurable and adaptable to suit the kind of activities undertaken, meaning one area can be dedicated to a particular area of study.
2. More digitised and automated labs
Labs are becoming more computerised. Robotics is increasingly used for difficult and precise tasks and computers are doing very complex arithmetic to achieve what scientists can’t. Also, cloud technology enables remote access to complex equipment and running info on processes and is being used increasingly in labs to store data, processes, cycles, lab procedures, etc.
Automation can complete complex and sometimes slow, monotonous tasks in short time frames for greater efficiency and accuracy. Laboratory automation was very costly in the past but is now becoming much more accessible and affordable, and therefore common. The first fully automated laboratory was opened in the 1980s by Dr Masahide Sasaki and, while costing millions, proved undeniably successful. Automation is now becoming very popular due to the lower costs available in this day and age.
3. Innovative and compact equipment
More compact equipment means more items on your shelves, more room for work, and less need for storage space. This means lab processes can become more efficient by not using as many fluids or chemicals in order to produce a result. This is far more cost effective and thus improves the lab’s productivity.
As well as being small and lightweight, lab equipment is becoming modular and configurable. One-size-fits-all test-tube racks can be used instead of five different rack dimensions and tube sizes, while one-size-fits-all silicone stoppers include ‘pluggable’ holes for any type of experiment. These types of innovations are what save labs money, time and effort, while also improving productivity.
4. Sustainability-focused design
Laboratory design is becoming more focused on maximising sustainability. This includes making use of natural light, reducing carbon footprints, recycling, investing in more efficient equipment, conserving energy and water, and reducing the amount of hazardous or toxic chemicals that potentially harm the environment. This helps to lessen the substantial amounts of energy that are typically used by laboratories, which usually require uninterrupted power supplies, large backup systems, 24-hour access and large amounts of heat generation, containment and exhaust systems.
Another contributor to lab energy use is the need for clean, unrecycled air. Of late, lab trends are showing that sustainability is key, so that design elements contribute to maximum efficiency and that the impact on the environment is minimised.
5. Use of a third dimension
Scientists are using three dimensions increasingly in various ways, which open up pathways to research and learning. 3D printing, modelling and imaging for research and education is proving to be the way ahead. Scientists have printed functioning, living liver cells which lived for up to 40 hours.
An example of one of these labs is the Swedish start-up Cellink, which now produces small parts of tissue with 3D printing. Predictions are that within the decade we may even be able to print fully functioning, replacement organs. 3D modelling, on the other hand, is enabling scientists to gain a greater understanding of what they are studying. This provides graphic, highly detailed imaging to provide an immersive experience, giving the scientist a greater understanding of what is being studied.
3D mapping also affords unique capabilities by opening up another spectrum of study — being able to store data in the form of a near-tangible model. This provides perspective and an ability to store very accurate graphic data.
6. Greater lab flexibility
Now that the world of study is all blurred into one big study, laboratories are now being designed around a particular function rather than an area of study. For example, rather than a lab dedicated strictly to pathology, its function may cater for pathology, oncology and cardiology. This allows for efficient and productive lab use, meaning you don’t have to build one for each department.
With a sustainable design, these labs are saving money and proving effective in fields where one study can be linked with another — in the medical world, for example — thus bringing labours to fruition quicker.
Originally published here.
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