cooperation projects

Collux ZIM project funding

By the end of 2020 we will have tog­e­ther with the Chair for tech­ni­cal che­mi­stry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Duisburg-Essen and the Com­pa­ny Cry­Las GmbH from Ber­lin car­ri­ed out a col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve project.

This pro­ject was Cen­tral Inno­va­ti­on Pro­gram for SMEs (ZIM) pro­mo­ted. The ZIM is a nati­on­wi­de fun­ding pro­gram that is open to all tech­no­lo­gies and sec­tors, with the aim of sus­tainab­ly streng­t­he­ning the inno­va­ti­ve power and thus the com­pe­ti­ti­ve­ness of medium-sized com­pa­nies. The tech­no­lo­gi­cal inno­va­ti­on con­tent and good mar­ket oppor­tu­nities of the fun­ded R&D pro­jects are essen­ti­al for appro­val (

By the end of 2020 we will have tog­e­ther with the Chair for tech­ni­cal che­mi­stry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Duisburg-Essen and the Com­pa­ny Cry­Las GmbH from Ber­lin car­ri­ed out a col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve project.

This pro­ject was Cen­tral Inno­va­ti­on Pro­gram for SMEs (ZIM) pro­mo­ted. The ZIM is a nati­on­wi­de fun­ding pro­gram that is open to all tech­no­lo­gies and sec­tors, with the aim of sus­tainab­ly streng­t­he­ning the inno­va­ti­ve power and thus the com­pe­ti­ti­ve­ness of medium-sized com­pa­nies. The tech­no­lo­gi­cal inno­va­ti­on con­tent and good mar­ket oppor­tu­nities of the fun­ded R&D pro­jects are essen­ti­al for appro­val (

The aim of the three-year coope­ra­ti­on pro­ject was to deve­lop a com­pact and eco­no­mi­c­al­ly attrac­ti­ve machi­ne for the pro­duc­tion of metal nano­par­ti­cle colloids.

Col­lo­idal nano­par­ti­cles are tiny par­ti­cles that are very finely dis­tri­bu­t­ed in water or other sol­vents. With the help of a laser beam, the smal­lest parts are vapo­ri­zed from the sur­face of a solid and bound in a liquid medi­um. They are usual­ly very expen­si­ve: gold nano­par­ti­cles cost about 300 times more than the pure pre­cious metal in the same quan­ti­ty in one pie­ce. The­re are almost no are­as of indus­try and rese­arch in which nano­tech­no­lo­gy is not used. The are­as of app­li­ca­ti­on ran­ge from che­mi­stry and mate­ri­als engi­nee­ring to bio­tech­no­lo­gy, phar­ma­cy and medi­cal tech­no­lo­gy to ener­gy genera­ti­on, ener­gy sto­rage and envi­ron­men­tal protection.

A spin-off of the Pro­jek­ter was aimed at right from the start. In this way, know­ledge trans­fer from the uni­ver­si­ty envi­ron­ment to indus­try could be ensu­red. Due to the deve­lo­p­ment, which was ulti­mate­ly patent pen­ding, and the suc­cess­ful coope­ra­ti­on, the pro­ject came clo­ser and clo­ser. The goal is the spin-off at the begin­ning of 2022 (


Division of work areas

The com­pa­ny Cry­LaS GmbH was invol­ved in the selec­tion of a sui­ta­ble laser sys­tem and the deve­lo­p­ment of the electri­cal sys­tem, while the Uni­ver­si­ty of Duisburg-Essen was ent­rus­ted with the pro­cess engi­nee­ring basics and the over­all inte­gra­ti­on of the machi­ne.
Our scope of duties inclu­ded product/design deve­lo­p­ment, device ergo­no­mics, housing con­struc­tion and indus­tria­liz­a­ti­on of the pro­to­ty­pe as well as pre­sen­ta­ti­on creation.

The specification

In August 2018 we star­ted the pro­ject with a com­pre­hen­si­ve mar­ket and envi­ron­ment ana­ly­sis. As the cor­ner­stone of pro­duct deve­lo­p­ment, we were able to work out the requi­re­ments for the device with the pro­ject part­ners and sum­ma­ri­ze the results in a joint spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­on sheet. This inclu­ded ergo­no­mic requi­re­ments, for­mal cri­te­ria, envi­ron­men­tal con­di­ti­ons as well as requi­re­ments for the tech­no­lo­gy and the pro­cess as well as for manu­fac­tura­bi­li­ty and pro­duc­tion costs.

The machi­ne should be ergo­no­mic and intui­ti­ve to use. This rela­ted to aspects of manu­al ope­ra­ti­on as well as ope­ra­ti­on via a digi­tal inter­face. This inter­face should gui­de the user through ope­ra­ti­on and the indi­vi­du­al menu steps in as self-explanatory a man­ner as pos­si­ble.
Alt­hough the­re should be a seman­tic refe­rence to rela­ted devices from the labo­ra­to­ry envi­ron­ment, the tech­ni­cal pro­duct inno­va­tions should be visi­ble to the out­side and stand out as a novel­ty from other neigh­bo­ring devices in the labo­ra­to­ry envi­ron­ment. Sin­ce labo­ra­to­ry devices usual­ly remain in exis­tence over long pro­duct cycles, a design that is as timeless as pos­si­ble and a cor­rect and gene­ral­ly app­li­ca­ble use of pro­duct seman­ti­cs were sought.
The design had to take into account a smal­ler seri­es for mar­ket entry.

laborgeräte_design_ industrial

project flow

In the first pha­se of work, it was necessa­ry to pre­cise­ly defi­ne the gene­ral con­di­ti­ons of the pro­ject. The outer dimen­si­ons of the device housing, which were adap­ted to the cir­cum­s­tan­ces of the envi­ron­ment, were rela­tively clear. Com­pact­ness has been defi­ned as one of the pri­ma­ry goals of pro­duct deve­lo­p­ment, as space on labo­ra­to­ry work­ben­ches is limi­ted and mul­ti­ple devices often have to be pla­ced side by side. This resul­ted in maxi­mum dimen­si­ons in depth and height. A width has not been set for the time being. Basi­cal­ly, howe­ver, it was important to keep the foot­print of the device as small as possible.

At the same time, the team from the uni­ver­si­ty and the com­pa­ny Cry­LaS deve­lo­ped a first pos­si­ble tech­no­lo­gy packa­ge, con­sis­ting of optics and elec­tro­nic com­pon­ents, which defi­ned the mini­mum dimen­si­ons of the housing. For the con­struc­tion of the machi­ne, the fol­lowing app­lied: the more com­pact the housing, the more cost-effective and easy to inte­gra­te the device is in pro­duc­tion and in use.


It was deter­mi­ned that the nano­col­lo­ids should be pro­du­ced with the hig­hest pos­si­ble puri­ty. The star­ting mate­ri­als should be three pre­cious metals (gold, sil­ver and pla­ti­num) and a col­lo­id medi­um (flu­id).

So we nee­ded both an exch­an­ge­ab­le mate­ri­al car­tridge and three liquid con­tai­ners, becau­se in addi­ti­on to the flu­id we also nee­ded a con­tai­ner for the liquid to flush the sys­tem and a sta­bi­li­zer solu­ti­on.
In addi­ti­on, a release quan­ti­ty was defi­ned as a mea­su­re for the inten­ded collec­tion vessel.


While the Uni­ver­si­ty of Duisburg-Essen and Cry­Las were con­duc­ting various seri­es of tests to deter­mi­ne the pre­re­qui­si­tes for opti­mal pro­duc­ti­vi­ty of the abla­ti­on (pro­cess of col­lo­id crea­ti­on), we crea­ted the first ergo­no­mic and topo­lo­gy con­cepts based on the key data known at the time.

For this pur­po­se, the ques­ti­ons had to be ans­we­red befo­re­hand as to which func­tions the machi­ne has and which requi­re­ments must be met in the area of con­flict bet­ween users, envi­ron­ment and technology.

The fol­lowing sub­ject are­as could be defi­ned by the sche­ma­tic drawing of the nano-automatic machine:

  • flu­id delivery
  • Tar­get
  • UI
  • collec­tion vessel
  • inner workings
  • housing con­struc­tion.

In this way, it was pos­si­ble to deter­mi­ne which fac­tors were set and for which sub-areas new con­cepts were required.

To sup­port this, we crea­ted a pro­cess matrix. With the help of the plan, we were not only able to simu­la­te a detail­ed cour­se of action for the user, but also to dis­c­lo­se weak points and poten­ti­al risks in the process.

In order to ensu­re good device ergo­no­mics, a par­ti­cu­lar focus was on inves­ti­ga­ting the inter­ac­tion points bet­ween humans and the device. As a result, we were able to defi­ne are­as of action. The­se inclu­de ope­ra­ti­on via the digi­tal inter­face, fil­ling and repla­cing the flu­id tanks, inser­ting or repla­cing the tar­get housing and remo­ving the finis­hed pre­cious metal colloid.


With the help of ana­lo­gies, for examp­le the ejec­tion mecha­nism of a his­to­ric Nin­ten­do 64 con­so­le, which we trans­fer­red to the device con­text, simp­le and robust ope­ra­ting con­cepts could be developed.

In order to check ergo­no­mics and func­tion, we made mock­ups of three favo­ri­te con­struc­tion vari­ants. At this ear­ly sta­ge of the pro­cess and in the deve­lo­p­ment of the­se ergo­no­mic con­cepts, the "design" in the sen­se of an aes­the­tic, exter­nal design did not play a role. It is important that the func­tio­n­a­li­ty of a device is gua­ran­te­ed first, so that the aes­the­tics can then be matched to the function.

We had the resul­ting models tes­ted and com­men­ted on by poten­ti­al users in the pro­duct envi­ron­ment over a lon­ger peri­od of time. This allo­wed us to cor­rect errors through ear­ly tes­ting pha­ses and ensu­re that our con­cepts worked in the field test.

Our work­shop infra­st­ruc­tu­re also pro­ved to be necessa­ry and hel­pful in this pro­ject. We deve­lo­ped a remova­ble mate­ri­al cas­set­te, which we pro­du­ced in our in-house 3D labo­ra­to­ry using 3D prin­ting. We made the­se avail­ab­le to the uni­ver­si­ty so that the func­tion and tight­ness of the cas­set­te could be tes­ted in the test seri­es and tes­ted in con­nec­tion with the ejec­tion mecha­nism, which we also developed.


"How can we imagine the case?"

In the next step we star­ted with the design and tech­ni­cal imple­men­ta­ti­on of the machi­ne housing. An important step, becau­se up until now we only had a con­cept and, thanks to the pro­to­ty­pes, an idea of how the struc­tu­re would be. The pro­ject part­ners initi­al­ly found it dif­fi­cult to ima­gi­ne how the black card­board boxes would beco­me a real device. What we nee­ded was a sui­ta­ble visua­liz­a­ti­on. In addi­ti­on to the many skills, the designer's abi­li­ty to turn ide­as into real pro­ducts is the decisi­ve factor.

We deve­lo­ped a design for the machi­ne that was aes­the­tic, based on ergo­no­mic know­ledge, met all safe­ty requi­re­ments and was easy to imple­ment accord­ing to the pro­duc­tion method.

The small seri­es of 20-500 pie­ces requi­red pro­duc­tion methods without expen­si­ve mold or jig con­struc­tion. Here it beca­me clear once again that no com­pro­mi­ses in design are necessa­ry, even with major restric­tions in terms of manu­fac­tu­ring opti­ons. Sin­ce we have alrea­dy worked suc­cess­ful­ly on pro­jects with simi­lar issu­es in the past, we were able to draw on our expe­ri­ence in the field of design with bent sheet metal and fold­ed parts.

Taking the requi­re­ments cata­log into account, two design vari­ants were crea­ted. One vari­ant impres­sed with its mini­mal foot­print, while the other vari­ant was based on fron­tal ope­ra­ti­on as a cen­tral fea­ture of the design.
The­se were pre­sen­ted and dis­cus­sed at a pro­ject mee­ting. The main dif­fe­rence is the loca­ti­on of the two flu­id con­tai­ners. The "easy front access" vari­ant con­vin­ced all pro­ject part­ners unani­mous­ly in terms of hand­ling and design potential.


Iteration loops are part of our everyday life

Sin­ce the laser sys­tem used up to that point did not achie­ve the desi­red per­for­mance and the device would not have been suf­fi­ci­ent­ly com­pe­ti­ti­ve on the mar­ket in this con­fi­gu­ra­ti­on, a more power­ful laser beam source had to be used and tes­ted again. The alter­na­ti­ve laser sys­tem final­ly pro­vi­ded the desi­red pro­duc­ti­vi­ty. As a result, the device topo­lo­gy had to be revi­sed and the design and CAD had to be adap­ted to the new, lar­ger instal­la­ti­on space of the technology.

Cor­rec­tion loo­ps are part of the deve­lo­p­ment pro­cess and are valu­able in ear­ly pha­ses, sin­ce the­re is still the oppor­tu­ni­ty to imple­ment them without gre­at expen­se. The­se types of adjus­t­ments and opti­miz­a­ti­ons are also part of our day-to-day busi­ness in other projects.

In par­ti­cu­lar, the aspect of pos­si­ble sca­ling, which was alrea­dy dis­cus­sed when eva­lua­ting the two design vari­ants, now tur­ned out to be a gre­at advan­ta­ge.
In this way, the adap­t­ati­on could be imple­men­ted without chan­ging the cha­rac­ter and the ori­gi­nal design ide­as of the machine.



Our final work packa­ge con­sis­ted of put­ting the deve­lo­ped design in our pro­to­ty­pe work­shop imple­ment. During plan­ning and con­struc­tion, care was taken to ensu­re that the housing can be built back to 100% in the pro­to­ty­pe sta­ge so that any chan­ges can be made after­wards. For examp­le, ins­tead of per­ma­nent wel­ded joints, the housing parts were initi­al­ly screwed tog­e­ther. Later, in seri­es pro­duc­tion, various screw con­nec­tions can be repla­ced by welds, which fur­ther redu­ces assem­bly work and pro­duc­tion cos­ts. After recei­ving the extern­al­ly manu­fac­tu­red housing parts, which we had pre­vious­ly desi­gned in CAD, we were able to start assemb­ling the func­tio­n­al pro­to­ty­pe. Made of bent sheet metal and fold­ed parts, mil­led parts , screws and 3D prin­ted parts , through pain­ting, assem­bly and pas­ting with pro­duct gra­phics, the first two nano ful­ly auto­ma­tic machi­nes were crea­ted step by step.

The con­clu­si­on of the pro­ject was the inser­ti­on of the moun­ting pla­te with the laser sys­tem and the con­nec­tion of the housing and the tech­ni­cal unit.
The result is two func­tio­n­al pro­to­ty­pes that, as plan­ned, can be used to pre­sent the pro­ject idea at tra­de fairs or simi­lar events and for initi­al field tests.


The result

The coope­ra­ti­on pro­ject fun­ded by the ZIM is a good examp­le of how inter­di­sci­pli­na­ry coope­ra­ti­on can work and what a key role indus­tri­al desi­gners can play. The plan to deve­lop a com­pact and eco­no­mi­c­al­ly attrac­ti­ve desk­top device for the crea­ti­on of metal nano­par­ti­cle col­lo­ids was ful­fil­led. The clo­se coope­ra­ti­on was cru­cial, so that a lively flow of infor­ma­ti­on could be main­tai­ned and we sup­por­ted each other with the respec­ti­ve com­pe­ten­ci­es.
We con­si­der the trans­fer of know­ledge and inno­va­ti­ve rese­arch results from aca­de­mia to indus­try to be par­ti­cu­lar­ly important. That is why we are proud to be part of the coope­ra­ti­on and, as an inno­va­ti­on dri­ver and implementation-oriented part­ner, to bring ide­as to the mar­ket eco­no­mi­c­al­ly. We not only hel­ped with fin­ding the shape of the machi­ne housing and its ergo­no­mics, but also made our con­tri­bu­ti­on to the pro­cess opti­miz­a­ti­on for crea­ting the colloid.

The decla­red goal of the spin-off is plan­ned for 2022.
We wish them every suc­cess and are plea­sed that we will con­ti­nue to accom­pa­ny the young start-up as a design and deve­lo­p­ment partner.