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MultipleXLab

Unlocking Tomorrow’s Growth Potential

Combining science and engineering to unlock new insights in the intricate world of plants

Background

Plant-phenotyping, at the intersection of biology, agriculture, and technology, is a field dedicated to understanding and quantifying the physical and physiological traits of plants. These traits encompass a wide range of characteristics, including growth patterns, size, shape,resistance to environmental stressors, and crop yield potential. Plant-phenotyping plays a pivotal role in advancing agricultural practices,breeding programs, and our understanding of plant biology.

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The Problem / Opportunity Statement

In this ever-evolving field, the fusion of biology and technology continues to unlock new insights into the intricate world of plants, offering solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in agriculture and ecology.The journey of the MultipleXLabs plant-phenotyping device, commenced as a PhD project initiated by a student at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). In its infancy, the project involved the development of a rudimentary device primarily intended for capturing images of individual petri-dishes containing plant growth samples. Over time, this project evolved into a more sophisticated apparatus with the capability to photograph multiple petri-dish samples and allow control over the light they receive. Despite the functional nature of this device, it remained in a state where the underlying technology had not yet matured sufficiently for market introduction.

Product Development Process

Discovery

The Technical Discovery process included two main steps. These being reverse engineering and design conceptualisation.The reverse engineering process commenced with a pivotal first step of engaging in meetings with the client, during which they shared domain knowledge and demonstrated the functionality and nuances of the existing technology. These sessions provided vital in sights into the technology's operation and user requirements. In parallel, our team accessed the client's provided data. With a comprehensive understanding of the technology and access to its digital records, we embarked on dissecting and scrutinizing the existing design files and reports. This examination brought to light a series of necessary design improvements needed. Primary design concerns encompassed a large part count,the need for aesthetic improvement, safety vulnerabilities for users, unreliable electrical connections, Printed Circuit Board (PCB) re-design, and an overabundance of wiring. This practical “elicitation of requirements” set the stage for subsequent phases of development.

Detailed (Alpha) Design

During the initial redesign phase, our primary objective was to address the issues identified during the reverse engineering process. We began by simplifying the internal wiring, reducing complexity and facilitating maintenance. To mitigate the challenges posed by a high part count, we implemented a comprehensive component consolidation strategy, reducing both complexity and points of failure. Aesthetically, we overhauled the design to create a more appealing and user-friendly interface, emphasizing both form and function. Safety concerns were thoroughly addressed through design modifications, ensuring user well-being. We optimized the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design for robustness, rectifying layout inefficiencies from the previous iteration. Additionally, we placed significant emphasis on enhancing the reliability of electrical connections, resulting in a more dependable overall design. The initial redesign phase served as a pivotal stage where these identified issues were systematically rectified, laying the groundwork for the development of an improved prototype.

The journey to a completed alpha design is reached by revisiting the initial concept design and making updates until a satisfactory design is achieved.

Throughout the phase of detailed design, our approach was rooted in a holistic view of the project. Drawing from the initial client information, encompassing their original design and user requirements, along with our preliminary design, we embarked on a journey to identify opportunities for further refinement. We dedicated ourselves to achieving a refined aesthetic that complemented the device's functionality. This fusion of form and function was vital to ensuring that the end product was not only efficient and visually appealing but also a design that can represent a product that is ready to be introduced into the market. In addition, we considered scalability with regards to manufacturing methods and materials. It became imperative to carefully select materials and design components that aligned seamlessly with our chosen manufacturing processes. This dual focus on design and manufacturability was paramount in ensuring that the parts we designed were not only functionally superior but also suitable for efficient and cost-effective production.

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Project Status

Three MultipleXLab units have been completed and testing is in progress at KAUST. These units are destined to be deployed at potential customers for field evaluation. As the unit provides a clear advantage over other plant-phenotyping units in terms of throughput and modularity, it is expected that the commercialization of theMultipleXLab product would follow soon.