A New Spin on Ergonomics

Many everyday items are designed ergonomically and their handling is pleasant and relaxing. One example is your desk chair that is (hopefully) designed in a certain way to support your back when sitting. A second example are the controls and displays in your car. They are easy to reach and operate for people of different sizes. So, what is the influence of ergonomics on centrifuges and how do you benefit from an ergonomic design?

It’s not much different from the examples just mentioned. Control elements, display, lid and rotor are key elements when using a centrifuge. Microcentrifuges, for example, are used frequently throughout the day. Hence, it’s important that the display is easily to read and basic parameters like temperature, speed and time can be set quickly. Ideally, there is a dedicated key for each function. Multifunctional keys save space but are more difficult to operate, which can lead to incorrect settings. By the way, keypad control panels are easier to clean whereas rotary knob control panels allow for quick parameter changes.

What about your working position in front of a large multipurpose centrifuge? The open centrifuge lid should be within easy reach and there should be no need to exert unnecessary force when closing the instrument. Reaching the open lid can be a challenge if it opens to a 90-degree angle and the user is not tall. Multipurpose centrifuge lids can be quite large and heavy requiring excessive force to lock before starting a run. Many newer centrifuges have sensors that detect when the lid is pulled down getting close to the final locking position. The locking hooks then grab the lid, pull it down and lock it safely – making handling easy and comfortable even for smaller persons. 

The access height of a large multipurpose centrifuge can be an issue as well. Exchanging rotors is often perceived as a hassle and users avoid it if possible. And the larger and heavier the rotor, the trickier. Centrifuges with low access height simplify rotor exchange and less effort is required to lift the rotor. Additionally, light-weight rotors improve handling and operational safety.

Centrifuge 5910 R: All lab personnel can reach the lid and safely work with the centrifuge.

When working in a regulated environment or handling potentially infectious samples, the usage of aerosol-tight caps or lids are recommended. The design of many caps of older design is fiddly, to say the least. In recent years manufacturers have developed better solutions that are more intuitive and easier to use.

Noise (or absence of noise) is a very important aspect of ergonomics as well and is dealt with in a separate article.