Story 33: 10 mL Pipette and Charging Stand Development

  • MPA Series
April 9, 2015

10 mL Pipette and Charging Stand Development
Naoto Izumo
R&D Division 5, A&D Company, Limited

As of April this year, the MPA series of electronic pipettes, which took two years of development, have been on the market for one year. Putting this new product out on the pipette market this past year has been quite the challenge. I traveled from Kyushu to Hokkaido and even abroad to market the product in development as it was decided that the MPA series would have difficulties penetrating markets still critical of electronic pipettes on our existing sales routes.

It was quite demanding to carry out sales promotions while making progress with our various development projects. The only consolation was that I was determined to take responsibility for the results of my plans. The fact that the development of weighing instruments stagnated as a result of investing in pipette development is something I ruminate on time to time.

I was worried that perhaps the MPA series would not sell more than a few hundred units in the first year. However, once sales began my outlook became more positive. I was also surprised at how dramatic the drawing power of our electronic pipette lineup was at exhibitions. Although the real sales expansion has yet to begin I learned there was significant demand for charging stands and multichannel and 10 mL pipettes from visiting the various markets.

Using this information we proceeded to simultaneously develop a linkable single pipette charging stand and a four pipette charging stand. We also produced a charging hanger that allows a device to be placed anywhere as well as a hanger without the charging feature.

Our next development priority was to make a 10 mL pipette. We had two reasons for our swift development of the 10 mL pipette. First the goal of the MPA series was to replace existing sales of manual pipettes, which currently prevail in the market. Secondly some operations on manual 5 mL and 10 mL pipettes place a burden on researchers as they require a great deal of effort to use because of the large diameter of the cylinder and long movements of the piston.

To increase the volume of a pipette, it is necessary to increase the size of the piston. However, if we were to make our existing MPA-1200 piston larger the internal radius of the O-ring that seals the piston would become too big, and the required operational force would exceed the output of the motor. Additionally enlarging the inside diameter of the O-ring would increase the risk of air leakage. So we introduced U-packing (a component with a cross section that looks like the letter 'U' and is often used in hydropneumatic cylinders) to the piston side. My six years of experience with a pneumatic equipment manufacturer helped us make this change to the specifications.

MPA-10000 and Charging stand for single MPA

It is from myriad experiences that people become better able to adapt to challenges that lie before them. Below I'd like to take some time to tell a personal story. When I was in college I went to RIKEN, an independent research facility, for my graduation research. At that time, my lecturer at Nihon University, Dr. Takamatsu, was also a researcher at RIKEN. Through him I was given the opportunity to join the Biological Macromolecular Physics Laboratory at RIKEN. My lab manager was Dr. Fukada who would go on to be the director of RIKEN. I was in charge of experiments dealing with the piezoelectric properties of PVDF (a fluorocarbon polymer). The reason I chose RIKEN was that compared my school in Setagaya, Wakō, where RIKEN is located, was closer to my home. Also at that time I wasn't particularly fond of the school system. As a student who never studied hard and had no major ambitions I was a burden on RIKEN and must have caused them many problems.

Somehow I completed my graduation research. When I was searching for jobs Dr. Takamatsu introduced me to a manufacturer of blood vessels made from fluorocarbon polymers. Not wanting to be a cog in a large cooperation I had the desire to work for a middle sized corporation, so I applied, took the test and interview, and was hired to that company.

Immediately after completing introductory training I was dispatched to a subsidiary facility established three years prior in Okayama. At the interview I was asked "How do you feel about working in Okayama?" to which I responded that I had no problems. Afterwards I found out that out of the 20 people who joined the company at that time, the two that were sent to Okayama were the only 2 that said they would be comfortable going to Okayama.

The thing that was most surprising to me about my dispatch location was that even though it was on a major train line, trains only came to the closest station once an hour. In front of the station was a rundown inn among some residences. After transferring in Okayama I was the only person on the train that led to the inn on the evening before my first day of work. After 30 minutes of riding through the pitch-black night loneliness finally got to me and I began to wonder if I had made a mistake coming to this remote place. Apparently the coworkers waiting for me at the inn thought I had quit since I arrived so late.

During my time in that rural area I remember one occasion when everyone was talking about how I liked ramen noodles. I thought this was strange but then I remember mentioning to a coworker that I have instant ramen for breakfast when there is nothing else to eat. This was my first-hand experience of how fast news spreads in the countryside. The facility I worked in produced waterproofing and breathable material for hiking clothing. One of my responsibilities was that every morning I had to alternate wearing our products and our competitor's products, go running, and write a detailed report about the breathability of the products.

I quit the job in Okayama in December of that year. Thinking about it now, quitting only half a year in because I didn't care for the work or my assigned location was an extremely selfish thing to do. I went to tell Dr. Takamatsu, the man introduced me to that company, that I had quit. He scolded me for quitting the job in such a short amount of time. He said it was inconsiderate to the younger students as many graduates from the lab had taken and failed the entrance exam for that company in the past. Nevertheless, he offered to introduce such an impossible student as myself to another company. But I thought that I would never be able to quit the second time and refused.

I went on to take employment tests for many companies but I couldn't find one that wanted to hire a person who quit their first job half a year in. Eventually I found myself on unemployment insurance. Actually receiving the money panicked me. I thought that if I keep this up I'll never have a future and prioritized searching for a new job.

A few months later I found employment in the engine design department in a subsidiary of the internal combustion engine department of Niigata Engineering, the maker of the first diesel engines in Japan. It was a short two years but during this time I used analytical tools based on the finite element method and analyzed the strength of crankcases and connecting rods. This was the time when PCs were starting to appear in the manufacturing industry. So I read a few books and used knowledge I acquired from them as well as the computer given to me to make programs based on the finite element method. I pushed forward with my work assertively and because I did it from my own volition I studied more during this time than I had any time up until this point in my life.

Niigata Engineering Co. Ltd, a company with 5000 employees and their own health insurance union, went bankrupt some years after I quit. I watched Muramatsu, the head of the internal combustion engine department at that time, acting as the last president hold a conference on bankruptcy on television. Although I had seen it coming, I realized that even large company with a long history and plenty of assets will eventually go bankrupt if profits fail to materialize.

I then went on to work for a pneumatic equipment manufacturer for six years. There were two different people in charge of electrical and mechanical designs. As a result, research could not progress on essential components such as rubber seals or solenoids for electric valves. This was because these components are neither electric nor mechanical but rather their own category. And so, right after entering the company, me, with a background in physics and no area of expertise would oversee research on both types of components. I still remember the puzzled look on my superiors face after immediately accepting the job that no one wanted to do.

I took the "Entry Level Rubber Training" course at the Chemicals Evaluation and Research Institute, Japan (CERIJ) in Mukojima to learn about the fundamentals of rubber. Over several months I received practical training starting with the roller-based kneading of rubber materials. I used this newly acquired knowledge and a finite element method program I made to perform deformation analyses of rubber seals. Subsequently I went on to study magnetic circuits independently and produce a magnet field analysis program and applied it to our designs. After a period of time I became the leading engineer in these two fields of the company. It was here that I came to realize that knowledge from a previous job could be put to work on future job.

Thereafter I joined A&D and managed the development of electromagnetic equilibrium balances as an expert on magnetic circuits. In no time at all 26 years passed. I believe that my positive approach to the work given to me has helped me to understand a variety of technical information. I think that short stays at various companies and the experiences gained from the different environments were good for me and in the end helped to broaden my understanding of technology. From my experiences, I believe that especially when one is young and had no work skills, it is almost impossible to find one's true calling.

If you decide that your work environment isn't right you should move on to the next job without waiting too long. However once your mind has had a chance to mature and you have even a slight bit of interest in work, you should use that chance to try your hardest. It is not a good idea to set out on an endless search to find true happiness; instead I believe it is important to use the environment given to you and work hard until it feels like your calling.

Even though the fruit of your efforts don't materialize immediately, you will gain more confidence and eventually be rewarded. I am fortunate that I was able to learn that through my own career.

Now let's return to the MPA-10000.

In the MPA-10000 we achieved success by using a highly regarded U-packing, lowering the drive force required to move the piston and improving the sealing ability. We originally believed that developing both 5 mL and 10 mL pipettes would be necessary; however, by using the electronic pipette's high base level of performance to our advantage we decided that we could surpass the function of two manual devices with one electric pipette.

The MPA-10000 demonstrates its true power when used for preparing a large number of samples or reagents for analysis, as it is capable of dispensing 100 μL 99 times from a single aspiration. I believe this device will be incredibly useful for researchers and inspection personnel who before had to bear the brunt of the work of dispensing large volumes repeatedly with a manual pipette.

<< Return

Page Top