Redbud Labs

NAxtract™: Benchtop Automation

Capabilities
Product Design
Human Factors Design
Problem Solving
Creative Brainstorming
Human-Centered Design
Digital Sketching
Sketch Rendering
Concept Sketching
3D CAD Modeling
Prototype Fabrication
CMF Applications
Photorealistic Rendering

NAxtract automates sample preparation for PCR and sequencing with a simple one-button design. Through the intuitive user experience, the platform minimizes user error, improves testing precision, and eliminates contamination for reliable and consistent sample extraction.

Challenge

Microfluidic Mixing Magic

Redbud Labs developed a technology, called STR™BeadPak, that enabled high-performance sample preparation in microfluidic chips. By using their proprietary technology for microfluidic mixing, combined with industry-standard chemistry, Redbud demonstrated the potential for assays up to 1,000x faster than competing approaches.  

To make this technology available to the life science industry, Redbud Labs developed a fully integrated system for molecular sample preparation. (Sample prep is where a raw sample—say, a nasal swab—is lysed and purified to extract a target analyte—say, the RNA from coronavirus.) Sample prep is a slow process with many pipetting steps, and in many labs, it is still performed manually. NAxtract was designed to automate this workflow, improving speed and consistency, without sacrificing quality.  

Redbud Labs approached Trig after development of their initial functional prototypes. We were asked to develop a visual design for NAxtract. Redbud Labs required a product enclosure that was inviting and unintimidating, yet communicated the power, reliability, and utility of the underlying technology.

Process

Finding The "Feeling"

Efficiency in the lab is critical to performing valuable sample preparation and testing, especially if there's a large amount of samples to run. The NAxtract makes that process even simpler by automating the prepping procedure. With the potential to be an incredible benchtop asset, Redbud Labs was very clear in regard to the “feeling” they wanted the new product to evoke in the laboratory—it was important it communicated both approachability and power.  As was our previous experience working with Redbud Labs, they were a great client to work with (and fun!) throughout our iterative design process in which we were able to uncover the right amount of emotion in the product form to be interesting yet intuitive.  

At the onset of the process, Redbud Labs developed an early functioning prototype built as an open-sided rectangular enclosure. Ready for the NAxtract to be brought to life, they approached Trig to help design + develop a form that would be as exciting to look at as it was easy to use. Our early stage process consisted of inspiration gathering and enclosure concept sketching. For this specific project, we searched for cross-pollinating products with design elements we found interesting as well as characters and animals exhibiting a stance or pose that demonstrated the emotions matching the essence of the NAxtract and embodying the motion and action characteristic of the Redbud brand. Some examples of these were the potential motion felt in the legs of an alert rabbit or the knuckle stance of a Gorilla exuding strength while also strangely inviting you into their cradling presence. As silly as this may sound, we've found this type of process can lead a design down a successful path that otherwise would not have been imagined.  

With the “feeling” of our product beginning to take shape, we continued with several iterations of concept sketching with weekly client reviews. Seeing the product’s form on the horizon, we then entered into what we sometimes call “block CAD” development. This allows us to begin 3D modeling the concept as a basic representative form to make sure the scale, internal volume and necessary component interactions are correct—all of which will be necessary to complete the design for manufacture (DFM). The Trig team and Redbud Labs engineers worked collaboratively to continually exchange CAD files to ensure the surface forms worked with the evolving internal components structure.

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Solution

Solutions For Simplicity

While the field of microfluidics may not be simple (for most of us), the products being used to take on those challenges should be. From the beginning, everyone involved was committed to making the NAxtract as simple and intuitive to use as possible. One tangible experience we aimed to accomplish was a single button user interface. This simple solution allowed the product to be approachable by anyone using it. It was an obvious visual to remove confusion and promote automation.  

Our client made it clear that they wanted no instance of frustration with the NAxtract, and we felt that should begin with the unboxing experience in the lab. An integrated and robust handle behind the screen allows the user to cradle the enclosure and easily lift it from the box. At roughly a desktop printer size, the NAxtract isn't miniature (after all, there is some high complexity microfluidic sample prep automation going on in there), but with this simple “scoop” of a handle placed right above the center of mass we were able to create a delightful experience as the user moves  the NAxtract from box to benchtop. As it's placed on the benchtop you then find the screen perfectly angled up to you, almost smiling, inviting you to safely load your samples and press start.

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Result

Automated Advancements

After loading the cartridge and pressing the start button all you have to do is walk away. The NAxtract then automates the sample preparation process. This automated platform is an advancement in the field of microfluidics, immensely minimizing user error, delivering improved precision and eliminating contamination when processing handfuls or hundreds of samples. Trig is proud to have assisted Redbud Labs in bringing their second physical product to life with a design that invites you into its presence and simplifies the sample preparation experience.

Additional Case Studies