Scientific Instruments: Changing the World of Research

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Phil Simmonds, Chief Executive Officer of EC Electronics.

We are living through an age of technological revolution, where science and innovation come together to achieve life-changing breakthroughs that are helping us to understand the past, improve the present and shape the future.

Scientific instruments are at the heart of these developments, allowing researchers to gain new insights and unlock more secrets from the world around us. And as the capabilities of the internet of things (IoT) and other advanced technologies expand and integrate with industrial equipment, laboratories and other research hubs are becoming more connected than ever before.

These instruments and devices already come in all shapes and sizes — from a simple thermometer to the Large Hadron Collider — and it looks like instrument-makers are only just getting started.

By harnessing modern technology, equipment developers can enhance and extend instrumental functions far beyond what we had previously imagined to revolutionise research and accelerate scientific outcomes.

Creating the laboratories of the future

The technology that goes into scientific instrumentation is becoming increasingly refined, with the miniaturisation of electrical components giving way to new technologies, such as lab-on-a-chip (LOC).

A LOC device integrates several laboratory functions, such as chemical synthesis and DNA analysis, in a tiny chip. The emergence of this technology has had many benefits for research and development (R&D) centres, including reducing sample sizes to create less waste and enable shorter analysis times.

This technological innovation is made possible by the IoT, which gives scientists access to unprecedented volumes of data. IoT sensors facilitate enhanced connectivity between equipment and laboratory information management systems (LIMS), supporting advanced data collection, software analysis and predictive maintenance to improve efficiency in industrial and scientific settings.

Automating these processes can also reduce the risk of human error and allow researchers to spend more time on collaboration and idea development. As much as 70% of lab workers’ time can be wasted on repetitive administrative tasks, data management and preparation work, so mechanising these functions can lead to a significant productivity boost.

Additionally, modern connective technologies allow scientists to access equipment remotely, which has several benefits for the research community. From promoting resource sharing between labs to allowing researchers to conduct their work on the move, the rise of the virtual laboratory could lead to several breakthroughs.

The possible applications for next-generation scientific instruments in the R&D sector are driving significant growth in this market, which is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.9% from 2022 to 2029.

This multi-billion-dollar industry presents several attractive opportunities for product developers. However, it is vital that scientific and industrial instrumentation equipment manufacturers do not compromise quality in favour of affordability in the race to the production finish line…

Manufacturing electronics for scientific instruments

Advanced scientific instrumentation can give researchers a competitive edge, with rapid data collection and analysis speeding up processes to achieve faster, more accurate results.

However, designing these devices involves increasingly complex technical and logistical considerations.

As labs embrace the latest scientific instruments to attain new capabilities, customers see quality assurance as a defining factor — especially as they place more functions in the hands of autonomous devices. So, every equipment component must meet stringent regulatory standards at every stage of the development cycle.

Implementing the latest technologies requires constant troubleshooting and monitoring, meaning every system must generate reliable data and facilitate flawless connectivity. In scientific environments, intrinsic safety and accuracy are imperative, so product developers must guarantee accuracy to prevent faults and downtime from tarnishing results or disrupting progress.

Electronics provide the backbone of the modern tools and equipment found in research centres and laboratories worldwide. So, it is crucial to find an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider with an established track record of developing high-quality products for scientific environments.