The Design & Development of Complex Instruments

Joe Carter, Vice President of Engineering

Posted on June 12, 2018

What types of design tools and/or new technologies are being used to help customers visualize and/or test their products prior to production?

Some of the most useful tools we use to help customers develop their proprietary technologies are “integrated breadboards.”  Long before a final product is available, integrated breadboards allow us to address functionality by enabling early collaboration and rapid progress in specific areas, such as new chemistries and assays. For human factors and visualization, we use foam core mockups during the initial concept stage. These mockups help customers understand how their new system will be perceived and gives them a better feel for the user’s touchpoints. We also build full-scale foam shapes and functional appearance models that can be shown to end users to obtain an even more refined level of feedback.

Is it common for a customer’s vision to change or evolve over time? How can an engineering design firm help minimize time and cost overruns in this situation?

Yes, product design is an iterative process which requires an ongoing balancing act to manage system tradeoffs. Rarely will a product’s physical specifications remain constant throughout the entire development process. In our business, although a client might have a good idea of what a product needs to do, their idea of what it should look like is often uncertain. That’s why we choose to get involved early in the process. After considering all viewpoints, our industrial design engineers and technical contributors will create an initial design to help solidify customers’ expectations. We call this process “rapid convergence.” Using this approach, late-stage changes that lead to overruns and schedule slips are avoided because time is invested upfront to reach consensus on a clear goal, as well as on a detailed plan to achieve that goal – all while working within the required budget and time constraints.

When designing a new product, how much weight should be given to function versus style versus safety? What other factors are there that also must be considered?

As a mechanical engineer I subscribe to the architectural design philosophy “Form follows function.”  Since safety and ease-of-use are key components of function, they are the top priority.  Form is a close second, and its design should be guided by the Gestalt Principles of organization, which tell us that the human eye likes to search for simplicity and order in complex shapes. Therefore, it stands to reason that the best design is the simplest design that meets all of the customer’s requirements.

How are Paramit’s engineering resources allocated across multiple projects and customers?

Our development teams are multi-disciplinary. Necessary resources are assembled into a dedicated core team, and additional engineers and designers are brought in as the effort reaches peak intensity. Paramit manufacturing and supply chain experts, along with service people from the customer, also are involved every step of the way. This inclusive approach, which we refer to as “Transfer-Less Development,” is an effective way to perfect the design and reduce the learning curve of key players prior to Pilot Production.

Is there anything you can tell us about your background or interests (apart from work) that we wouldn’t be able to learn from reading your professional bio?

I am a lover of history, food, travel, and new experiences. My favorite recent experience was a ride in an open-cockpit WWII era Stearman Trainer up in the Sierra Foothills. Feeling the wind in my face as the plane executed its acrobatic maneuvers was a total rush! And for a hobby, I have a 1966 F100 pickup truck that is slowly becoming a Hot Rod. On a more serious note, I am fascinated by the acceleration of breakthroughs in medicine. These are a result of the convergence of computing power and the now massive amount of engineering resources that is being applied to biology as part of the growing biotech industry. As I get older, I am hopeful that our health will be extended by the amazing technological developments that so many of us are now focusing on. I believe this healthy aging of the population will lead to even more benefits as we create a workforce that has an increasing depth of knowledge and experience to share.

Joe Carter joined Lathrop Engineering in 2013, bringing with him a wealth of experience in the development of new technologies and scientific products. Over the course of a 25+ year career, he has held several senior mechanical engineering roles and acted as a consultant for many leading medical device and instrumentation companies. We’d like to thank Joe for his time and for helping us understand how exceptional products are conceived and designed.