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It Starts with Understanding Users
Saigo: One of the roles of pathologists, medical examiners and laboratory technicians, who are the main users of this type of microscope, is to identify the causes of diseases based on samples that include the patient's body tissues and body fluids, or to conduct the tests required to do so. Through this work, they support the diagnoses and treatments that doctors give to their patients. We started the product planning for this microscope with an understanding of that system. We conducted field surveys, as well as interviews and questionnaires by phone and email, working with multiple teams. As a result, we found that there was more than the expected number of people who experienced physical strain in their work. We decided to develop a microscope that supports them in focusing on testing by providing more comfort.
Kobayashi: As the designer of the product, I also visited some workplaces. The first thing that impressed me was the sheer number of tests that each person handles every day. Some people have to test several hundred samples, repeating the same procedure in the same posture for a long period of time. As a result, the design elements that I considered critical include tubes that allows continuous observation while keeping a natural sitting posture, a low and compact stage that allows for smooth hand movements during tests, controls that are comfortable to use by hand, and a compact and lightweight structure with sufficient rigidity.
Sato: I shared Kobayashi's design concept, based on the feedback of users, with Hosono. I designed the arm and the stage units. I addressed such challenges as simultaneously ensuring rigidity and lightness, and decreasing the stage height by about 50mm compared to conventional models, all while accommodating critical optical components.
Hosono: I mainly designed the nosepiece, to which the objectives are attached, and the eyepiece tube. As for the tube, it is designed to prevent fatigue while looking through the eyepiece for long periods. The quintuple nosepiece has a status detection function and displays the type and magnification of the objective being used on the LCD screen.
Sato: Kobayashi, Hosono, and I repeatedly discussed many other elements and incorporated the results of our discussions into the design. The purpose of all this is to help the user to comfortably focus on testing and achieve higher performance.
Taking Care of Users, Down to the Finest Details
Saigo: Based on the user surveys, we found that many people experienced eye and shoulder strain. One of the possible causes is that they look into the eyepiece in the same posture for long periods. We therefore thought that an ergonomic design that enables microscopic observation in a natural posture is essential. At the same time, we included a light intensity management function for automatically adjusting light intensity to reduce eye strain. In actual workplaces, a PC and samples are also placed on the desk together with the microscope. We assumed that reducing the footprint of the microscope would allow users to utilize their limited space more effectively.
Kobayashi: When designing the controls, I was meticulous about their sizes, shapes, and positions in terms of making them comfortable for users’ hands. For example, the shape of the nosepiece, to which the objectives are attached, makes rotation easier. When designing the shape and position of the X-Y axis knobs for adjusting the stage position, I paid attention to ensuring that they could be easily identified and operated when touched. In addition, the shape of the specimen holder knobs on the stage were designed so that the user can operate them easily with their thumbs. The purpose of all these design elements is to allow the user to perform various operations without taking their eyes away from the eyepiece.
Sato: One thing that I gave special consideration to in the design was to minimize the number of protrusions and depressions on the stage which the exception of the operating knob on the specimen holder, and to hide even the screws. This makes changing the sample smoother and wiping the stage clean easier when it is stained. I also kept safety in mind, making the corners of the stage round to prevent them catching the user’s sleeves, and covering the gears driving the stage to prevent the user touching them with their fingers.
Hosono: Because the user can see the stage and LCD screen just by shifting their view slightly from the eyepiece, they can check the sample or settings with a minimum of movement. The Digital Sight 1000* microscope camera can be mounted on the tube without the need for tools. When the user rotates the nosepiece to switch objectives, the light intensity is changed to the optimal value recorded, saving them the effort of adjustment. The combination of all these design elements significantly contributes to the support of the user.
*Research use only