Designing the world’s most advanced mobile analysis instrument

Cobalt worked with Agilent Technologies in the US to develop a materials analysis instrument that’s mobile, accurate, intuitive, and most importantly- comfortable to use. This was a significant challenge, given Agilent’s impressively light and miniaturised technology still weighed 2kg (over half a house brick). Our approach was to balance the weight around the hand to reduce fatigue, and complete engineering development of the casing assembly through to production.

The resulting instrument is designed for a broad range of users ranging from archaeologists to technicians and anyone in between to get the same level of accuracy as scientists.

These users can easily analyse materials, minerals or even aircraft fuselage welds in-situ without disturbing or taking samples back to a remote analysis laboratory. This allows high fidelity results to be collected instantly and directly from almost anywhere- be it a smartphone assembly line, an art museum or food processing plant. The product has received several design and industry awards and is expanding sales into diverse and previously unserved markets.


  • World’s lightest FTIR spectrometer
  • Center of gravity close to user’s hand, eliminating forward twist and reducing fatigue
  • Enclosure consisting of 25 unique moulded parts with most fasteners concealed


  • Sales exceeded predicted interest
  • Solidified Agilent’s presence in emerging mobile analysis market
  • Position Agilent with a unique product to existing and new markets


  • Design strategy
  • Industrial Design
  • Product Engineering
  • Scientific Device Design
  • FEA (Finite Engineering Analysis)
  • Prototyping
  • Tooling liaison
  • CG visualisation
  • Brett Capron
  • Libby Christmas
  • Marcus Krigsman
  • Daniel Booker
  • Andrew Beard

Technology & Performance infused with Human Factors 

As an all new generation model, Agilent 4300 FTIR, Cobalt’s scope involved a full NPD (new product development) process from the initial brief to final production.

Through initial mock-ups we confirmed that positioning the product’s center of gravity close to user’s hand reduced the perceived weight. On closer review and weighted prototypes, we at Cobalt found that if the instrument’s weight was slightly closer to the user (over their wrist), forward twist and fatigue was further reduced and maneuverability increased. These insights drove the positioning of the core mechanical components and batteries.

As well, the project involved developing a casing design that was rugged to protect finely calibrated optics but which couldn’t be confused with a common power tool. Cobalt developed integral thermoplastic-rubber details which envelope the product. And although its silhouette is reminiscent of a cordless drill, in the flesh its form language expresses both robustness and precision, and details such as concealed fasteners and the pivoting touchscreen clearly mark it as a scientific instrument.

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