Microelectronic technology in the 80’s was little more than a calculator and word processor. The Microtox combines electronics, and luminescent organic bacteria, working together in a cause and effect dance to test water. Instead of using fish, like it has been done since time began, the biologists at Beckman discovered a glowing micro organism that was particularly sensitive to all kinds of toxins. They devised a method to package the luminescent bacteria in a little bottle. To check the toxicity, the solution is mixed with a water sample, and the rate of glow fall off is measured using a photomultiplier, which is then processed by the microprocessor and the toxicity of the water can be determined. This concept promised a revolutionary method to test water fit for human consumption — safe water.
Here’s how Microbics CEO Dr. Don Eisenberg, explained the Microtox when we met — he was previously one of the chief scientist with Beckman Instruments, who invented the technology. Beckman had difficulties making the system commercially viable, due to the cost of the electronic instrument, a critical element in the product. So Eisenberg made the Beckman president an offer that he couldn't refuse and Dr. Eisenberg departed Beckman Instruments, took the technology with him and started his company Microbics Corporation. With a mission to improve water quality for human consumption. Instead of taking the Microtox the popular route — off shore manufacturing, to capitalize on low manufacturing and labor costs, Dr. Eisenberg took the whole project to ROGOV DESIGN, with a mission to rethink the entire instrument — its cost, materials, performance and user experience.
The original Microtox was made out of sheet metal, powder coated in an industrial beige color and weighed in at about 80 lb. From a first-time-user's approach, the instrument felt intimidating (particularly with that name). Testing water looked complicated. It took up a lot of space for what it could do, it was labor intensive, it was made from many parts, highly engineered for sheet metal and custom machined parts, with a molded plastic face-frame. The active Lab technician’s interactive parts was a black hand-crank turret mechanism where you put in the cuvette and hand crank anti-clock-wise to shut off unwanted light, which was a discomfort on the wrist after only a few uses.
The other things to notice other than the unfathomable control panel, was the user manual. With about 120 pages in a three ring binder, written in a very scientific manner, we found a way to explain the mystery away in an 8 step Quick Guide. Doing that, took the light away from being a high science system to something that a lab person could do without the need to study the long user manual.
Coming from a consumer-centered background and experience with materials and processes honed during designs of coolers for Coleman, exotic seating for Aston Martin, musical instruments for CASIO, opened a whole new world of possibilities to introduce new materials, process and thinking to cut costs, increase performance and advance a valid, easy-to-use user experience.
The result produced a simple two piece molded clamshell housing to contain everything, the hand-crank-turret was replaced by an electrically automated cuvette feed mechanism which relieved th operator of hand cranking mechanism ― quadrupling through-put while slashing material and manufacturing costs.
The result: a system who’s ease of use, “one button” process has validated the Microtox as the "industry gold standard." In is the Brand-of-choice in applications that include the testing of samples containing biological toxins, industrial effluent, industrial process waters, municipal effluent, drinking water, eco toxicological samples, hazardous waste, soil, sediments, storm water and chemical, pharmaceutical and medical products for bioactivity.
Microtox® M500 Test is sensitive to more than 2,700 different simple and complex chemicals. Results are available in as little as 15 minutes** Cost effective and easy to perform tests
The Microtox® M500 analyzer is a laboratory-based, temperature-controlled, self-calibrating photometer that measures acute toxicity. Sold worldwide, the Microtox® toxicity test system is the industry gold standard for rapid toxicity screening and analysis.
The Microtox® rapid-toxicity detection platform remains a leader in rapid toxicity detection in drinking water and wastewater. Its contaminant detection technologies allow customers to rapidly, cost-effectively and accurately identify the presence of hazardous chemicals, including those from the USEPA Priority Pollutants List, and other contaminants that can compromise human or environmental health and safety.
Sold to industrial and environmental customers and are trusted by government agencies and researchers around the world.
Simon Humphrey, Chief Executive of Modern Water, said “We are delighted to announce the acquisition of Microtox, the leading worldwide brand in water toxicity monitoring. There are clear synergies between our existing portfolios of water ... and Microtox. In a 2011 Press release.
We explored structures and materials which could contain all the components in a compact and cost efficient manner.
Following an aggressive schedule, we were able to plug in our affiliated vendors, metal processing and parts finishing houses, as components moved through engineering to the appropriate level of detail and specifications.
29 years later Microtox, has passed through numerous acquisitions and as recent as 2011 was acquired by Modern Water plc, a British based water monitoring company. Ironically, The Rogov designed Microtox from San Diego has migrated to Modern Water PLC, a company based out of Guildford Surrey, UK, the town where VLadymir Rogov went to engineering school and Art College. What goes around comes around and with the short lifespan of modern technology, 25 years in the market has earned Microtox a reputation of “Industry Gold Standard”.
Product design and Brand development., Industrial Design Prototype to manufacturing partner.
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