PRODUCT DESIGN, Mechanical engineering, Prototyping
Chemical Detection from
the lab to the field
The FLIR Griffin G510 is a highly portable chemical detection device used in the field or the hot zone of a disaster area to quickly sample and identify a potential threat in any phase: solid, liquid or vapor. The G510 is essentially a mobile lab, using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to identify narcotics, explosives, chemical agents and environmental contaminants so emergency responders or environmental teams can take immediate action.
Products in the chemical detection category are rarely, if ever, touched by industrial designers. This left a void where a well-designed product could the icon of the industry. MINIMAL and FLIR’s engineering team took on this challenge and created the G510.
Since it’s release in 2017, the G510 has received multiple technology and design awards. In 2018, it won an R&D 100 award in the Test/Analytical Category, an achievement given to revolutionary ideas in science and technology. It was a platinum award winner in the Astor’s Homeland Security Awards for 2017, a gold for Best Chemical Detection Product by the Government Security News, a finalist in the 2018 IDSA IDEA awards in the commercial and industrial products category, and a notable entry in the 2018 Core77 awards.
In October 2018, the G510 was awarded a $28.7M contract by the US Army for the Next Generation Chemical Detector (NGCD) program. A modified version of the G510 will form the basis of their Multi-Phase Chemical Detection solution (MPCAD).
Multi-orientation hex form
In order to quickly identify a wide range of chemical threats, the G510 must be hand-carried into the field during and after natural and man-made disasters such as war zones or chemical spills. It is also used in safe environments like a lab.
The multi-use scenario created ergonomic challenges that the design team addressed early in the process. The form needed to be easy to carry and operate for long periods of time. It also had to be versatile for improvised emergency scenarios where a proper work environment is not available; for example, standing upright when set on the ground. The G510 also needed to work in a traditional bench setting, like while sitting down in a lab. The challenge was further complicated by a series of electro-mechanical and thermal components that were limited in how they could be reconfigured, affecting form and balance.
After a series of component architecture studies and quick, full-scale mock-ups, a design based on a modified hex form was the clear winner. This versatile form can be rotated, positioning the display and critical controls in multiple orientations. The mass-balanced, internal configuration allowed it to be easily carried into the field.
Engineering and usability
Sealing against contamination
The device needed to be sealed when down range so internal components were never exposed to contaminants in a hot zone, and the exterior could be easily decontaminated after use by spray down.
To solve this, the design and engineering teams conducted an exhaustive mechanical study to find the best sealing method. The solution had to be easy to understand and operate, create a consistent seal, and an offer an extremely obvious visual cue as to whether the device was sealed or open to prevent accidental contamination.
The final design features an over-sized, bright red plug seal that signals to the operator that the detector is open and exposed to the environment. A strong hex vent pattern reinforces that signal.
military and civilian impact
keeping the world safe
By quickly detecting chemical threats or environmental contamination of all kinds, the G510 keeps the world a little safer. Response teams act quicker, keeping people out of harm’s way and keeping the environment cleaner. In combat scenarios, it identifies trace amounts of explosives and chemical warfare agents in areas classified as hot zones. In civilian scenarios, it monitors the environment around industrial areas for leaks or other forms of hazardous waste. In addition, the G510 is designed to help recovery of natural disasters or other emergency situations.