Case study: Intelligent valve

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted confidential information in this case study.

Building from scratch an innovative high quality product in the dental industry with the most efficient and simple interaction as possible.

Intro

Simple Grupa Ltd. is a company established with the aim of initiating production of innovative solutions within the area of vacuum technology.

Simple Grupa has been recognized as a desirable business partner based on applying their expertise in advanced materials and technology to innovate and improve solutions valued by their customers and enhance the quality of life for the people all around the world, both for today and for the future.

The network of quality experts enables them an extremely wide range of development and production capabilities with which they can create solutions that go beyond standard features.

Dental techniques are a propulsive industry of high purchasing power which successfully resist global and local economic and financial crisis. Furnishing trends in dental laboratories moves in direction of high-tech interior design. It follows usage of highly sophisticated devices and new materials with their constant development. These makes dental apparatus highly refined tools for material processing.

Intelligent vacuum valves for the vacuum systems used in dental laboratories are the first of its kind in a series of products created by Simple Grupa Ltd.

Intelligent vacuum valves for the vacuum systems used in dental laboratories are the first of its kind in a series of products created by Simple Grupa Ltd. based on the innovative technological solutions of both, the constructive and the electronic components.


Goal

 


Remove all bad things

To come up with an innovative solution that, if possible, permanently and completely removes all bad things.

New technical solution

To create an innovative and modern technical system based on the new modular design with simple interaction as possible.

Amplify performance

Ease of use and protect of all workers, that ultimately leads to higher work performance.

High quality product

To design and produce a leading, high quality product in the dental industry that can’t be compared with any other.

Team

Our core team consisted of the following professionals in their field: project manager (main investor), electro technician, mechanic, architect, robotic technician, product builder, marketing manager and myself as an only designer.

Our core team consisted of the following professionals in their field: project manager, electro technician, mechanic, architect, robotic technician, product builder, marketing manager and myself as an only designer.

Due to the complexity of the project, I have closely worked with all team members, especially with a product builder and project manager trying to find the best solution forfiguration of control unit and product altogether.

I have also developed a close working relationship with marketing manager to develop product requirement document passing all marketing stages.

My role

  • Consulting during all production and design stages: research, interviews, and finally production of the product itself.
  • Creating scenarios, building persona and user task, together with team
  • Creating predictable and simple interaction as possible
  • Inject personality into a brand new product
  • Creating sketches, wireframes, low and high fidelity prototypes
  • Usability testing
  • High-fidelity design
  • Various preparations for prints

Start

Back in 2013, I have developed a close working relationship with the company Director when I have been invited to design Simple Group’s visual/corporate identity.

He was not very pleased with the agency handling all his creative solutions, therefore I have been offered a complete, most detailed brief I have ever worked with to date. The plan was to define visual identity (logotype and standards) and then move forward.

He presented company very thoroughly but he gave me no information about their concretely products not wanting me to be influenced by them in creation of final solution. It was a very challenging project to say the least. However, I have managed to come up with a solution.


Understanding the problem

Once the corporate identity was completed, the next step was to understand the problem, the materials used, the size and shape of the product, its purpose and technologies used for its production.

This was a very new experience to me and I was pleasantly surprised as to how fast one can learn about new industries, and how they operate.

This was a very new experience to me and I was pleasantly surprised as to how fast one can learn about new industries, and how they operate. The key step of Research usually starts with Competitive Research, however we were creating a new product, so the order of research went a little bit different.

We had to start creating something innovative just by having a simple sketch. So, we compared our patent with similar products on the market, taking into account product weight, balance, ergonomics etc...

Creating personas and user scenario

We defined personas and scenarios through careful analysis of dental laboratories researches results and their users. We had all primary market characteristics: geographic, demographic and psychographic and we knew exactly what our market group is and how to reach it.

User task

 

Almost a hundred task analyses were undertaken to define user task and flow.

We considered performance of control unit where we had to decide whether to use LED or graphic, and at all was it necessary to have display on control unit.

All functionalities were discussed and defined. We also had to pay attention how to communicate automatic things such as „full tank“ and warning.

...how the user will intuitively know where to look for solutions, what type of labels we should use and why and how to create the easiest use of the product for all users.

Also, we had to define terminology used, how the user will intuitively know where to look for solutions, what type of labels we should use and why and how to create the easiest use of the product for all users.

Design of user interface

Photoshop and InDesign/Illustrator were used to create dozens of sketches, wireframes, detailed mock-ups and prototypes, thus showing us all problems we were facing.

All the steps taken during Research Phase helped us enormously to understand how the product should be designed, what complex steps it needs to include, what works and what doesn’t, thus resulting in a truly innovative product.

All the steps taken during Research Phase helped us enormously to understand how the product should be designed, what complex steps it needs to include, what works and what doesn’t...

The final solution was: detachable unit LED display and it looked as shown in the image down. We came up with the first solution, but were not pleased due to its complex design and production needed using LED technology.

It shouldn’t be too long when we figured out that this is not solution we are satisfied with. So we threw out all old solutions and started from beginning, this time using knew approach and touch screen control unit that gave us multiple design choices and made complete interaction process much simpler.

It shouldn’t be too long when we figured out that this is not solution we are satisfied with. So we threw out all old solutions and started from beginning.

In a place where simplification of complex systems is essential and accuracy is necessary, a touch screen interface is the fastest, easiest way to interact with technology.

Another important criterion was the universal use with gloves, bare fingers or a pen, so we came up with the touch-based technology which allows usage with a scalpel or another instrument at hand without scratching.



We had the benchmark to work towards and we were all keen to reach it. We started generating various concepts and pushing the boundaries in the design process through experimenting, testing and doing it all over again until we have reached the final design solution.

In this specific case design stages had to take into consideration the following rules when designing a new product:


Touch target size

MIT Touch Lab study found that averages for finger pads are between 10–14 mm and fingertips are 8–10 mm, making 10 x 10 mm a good minimum touch target size.

Visibility zone

Display had to be design in such a way, that apart from being intuitively usable, to also be visually accessible.

Printing on glass

This is where I found out that printing on glass can be a great problem, especially if it’s about small details and gradient. It becomes granulated and difficult to get fine lines.

Software

I also designed software which should be showed on the screen. Development stage for the software Intelligent Vacuum valve had 30 screens.

After choosing and testing different solutions for font our final decision fell on Meta.

The font is one of the main visual elements for any product and Meta has a warmth and readability that results from the humanistic treatment of letter proportions and is an excellent choice for text typography that is comfortable to read.

 

Design of control unit, case and stand

While I was working on the remote display design, the whole team worked on product mechanism design.


The size of the device, the installation and the detachable control unit had to be adjusted for the purposes of meeting the needs of dental laboratories. The product had to be designed to enable quick and simple installing.

The size of the device, the installation and the detachable control unit had to be adjusted for the purposes of meeting the needs of dental laboratories. The product had to be designed to enable quick and simple installing.

We have decided to use a type of metal that functions as both the mask and also to cover it with inox giving it both heavy duty yet elegant look.


The micro-glass surface is scratch-resistant and robust, even sharp objects do not scratch the screen, just as moisture or chemicals have no effect on the function of the product.

We also shaped stand and detachable unit that can be removed from valve and attached to stand if necessary.

Testing, testing and again testing...

Although some touch screens support usage with gloves, bare fingers or a pen it is not common in practice.

For identifying key problem areas in a product, we used usability tests. Through further usability tests and user research based on prototype, we have learned that due to the dusty working environment, touch screen wasn’t easy to use so we decided to quite it and use the knob.

Through further user research and usability tests, based on prototype, we have learned that due to the dusty working environment, touch screen wasn’t easy to use so we decided to quite it and use the knob.

We created a robust and elegant design interface, which was one of our main goals and we were very pleased with the final solution.

The consumer feedback was great, proving we have satisfied the criteria of the target market.

Outcome


It is a great challenge and opportunity to develop new product for specific market.

This project has reaffirmed my belief that the final design is not complete when we may believe so, as it constantly evolves and improves the more we are keen to learn from the end users.

This project has reaffirmed my belief that the final design is not complete when we may believe so, as it constantly evolves and improves the more we are keen to learn from the end users. The final result is simpler, and saves both time and finances of the end user.

Innovative design with modular components was developed and inventively assembled into technically advanced system. This innovative solution (in patent protection phase) incorporates active communication between components and systematically solves problem.

Unique and systematic design also ensured maximum work comfort which permanently protects health of technicians, positively effects efficiency and prolongs working lifetime and maintenance of all equipment and machines inside.

The size of the device, the installation and the detachable control unit designed for the purpose of meeting the needs of dental laboratories. The product has been designed to enable quick and simple mounting.

The simplicity of operation – a simple way of determining of desired parameters on a detachable control unit set in the workplace in accordance with the operator’s wishes, and the intelligent self activation with three different levels of the automatic operation mode.

Desired solution integrated in an innovative design which permanently removes almost all health hazard particles and all other material types of dust from the working space along with saturated air, thus raising the efficiency of work itself as well as ensuring all other human health benefits.