Case study exploring the development of engineered latching for enhanced usability
In today’s highly industrialised and automated world, with increased focus on equipment security and operator safety, the user experience in terms of a human’s interaction with a product or appliance has gained tremendous importance.
When Memmert, a leading manufacturer of industrial and laboratory thermal ovens, was searching for a reliable as well as ergonomically friendly latching solution for its latest generation of appliance, it worked with Southco, a manufacturer of latches, hinges and fasteners, to develop a locking mechanism that has improved the ovens’ quality as well as efficiency.
The previous generation of Memmert appliances incorporated a multipoint latching system into the outer main door, which sealed the door panel against leakage and contamination and helped to maintain constant temperatures.
When working with highly sensitive items, such as blood samples and hazardous chemicals, the end user must have the confidence to deliver accurate results, ensuring there is no probability of contamination. This created the need for a latching system that delivered the necessary level of compression without comprising the aesthetic design or user experience.
“We were looking to improve the functionality and design of our handle and locking mechanism,” explains Christoph Oster, project management R&D, Memmert. “We needed a system that was innovative, easy to use and a lock that provided consistent, reliable performance. It was also important that the door had a smooth push lock system, which minimised vibration that could potentially effect the loading when locking and unlocking.”
When handling sensitive elements in a laboratory environment, accessibility and usability of the equipment is crucial. Therefore, Memmert sought a latching solution that would allow the user to access the interior of the oven without having to use their hands to open the door. However, the latching mechanism was still required to prevent the door from opening accidentally.
“The usability of the latch was a vital element, we needed to create a system that was easy to open and close regardless of whether this is with one hand, knee, etc., which comes in handy during daily laboratory use and gives flexibility in usable height,” says Oster.
The concept for the new oven latch was based on Southco's R5 Draw Latch – a heavy-duty mechanism chosen for its high tensile load, concealed installation and proven functionality in industrial applications.
However, in addition to functionality, the latch also needed to fit a restricted space within the application, without compromising the aesthetic design or the end user experience. Memmert worked alongside Southco’s engineering team to develop a completely bespoke product that met all these design requirements.
The latch design incorporated over-centre locking functionality, ensuring vibration resistance and an integrated secondary latching feature, which created constant compression of the door seal. The latching systems helped to improve and simplify the ergonomics of use by making it easier for the operator to open/close regardless of height or body part, a key objective identified at the start of the project.
The locking and unlocking of the door works smoothly and reliably over the product’s lifespan.
The handle mechanism offers an ergonomic and safe handling for the user.
With regard to production, Southco's solution provides reliable operation, simplified integration into the production process and a pre-assembled design for east mounting and installation, allowing for easy maintenance/service and usability for the end customer.
End users value Memmert’s new generation of appliances because of their overall quality, but also for their ease of use, with the door handle playing an important role in their perception. In sensitive medical laboratory applications, the handle provides safety for tests and allows for smooth operation. For industrial use, it is sturdy enough to ensure longevity for years of multiple repetitive stress tests. Customer reactions have all been very positive.
“The new latching system has been a fantastic addition. The enhanced functionality and improved design has added value to our range of products by improving the quality and efficiency of the locking mechanism and handle,” concludes Oster.