PI recently attended the third annual SLAS show in San Diego, which showcases the latest in laboratory automation, instrumentation, robotics, and consumables.  Although only a few years old, SLAS has become one of our most anticipated shows of the year as it gives us a chance to stay in touch with our clients in the industry and keep up to date on the latest trends.

Aside from the fact that the weather is fantastic in San Diego, here are a few of the takeaways for us from this year’s show:

Industry is booming

We seemed to hear the same refrain from almost every booth we visited – business is booming.  While other sectors of the economy continue to struggle and sputter along, this industry’s connection to growth sectors like healthcare and medical research has apparently kept demand high for lab automation equipment.  Though a comparatively small (and young) show, walking the aisles gives one the sense that this is an industry on the rise.

Design makes a difference

It was interesting, and certainly encouraging, to see so many forward-thinking companies embracing the principles of good design.  Improved usability and ergonomics were the focus of several new products on display.  Bright colors and bold patterns, not traditionally at home in the lab, could be seen on many products, especially on those from some of the smaller companies looking to make an impact.  Many of the larger players also displayed their commitment to design.  We were honored to have clients at the show, including Thermo, exhibiting products that we helped bring to life.

Another trend we noticed at the show was a shift toward de-emphasizing safety enclosures around robotic motion controls.  Many new devices featured enclosures with large expanses of see-through (often tinted) plastic with minimal structure, giving them a fresh, light appearance and helping to highlight the technology inside.  The advent of “inherently safe” robots (those that automatically stop when any contact is sensed) has allowed some to do away with safety enclosures altogether.

An interconnected industry

As we walked the aisles, we would often see one company’s products on display in another company’s booth.  You would never see this at most tradeshows.  Though this may seem counter-productive at first, it actually speaks to how complex, cooperative, and interconnected this industry truly is.  Most of these companies, and the products they develop, are so specialized that they must be used in concert with other company’s products to function.  Having seen this firsthand with some of our own clients, we recognize that this can be challenging at times.  But it’s also one of the reasons why we find working with this industry so interesting and rewarding.

Looking forward to SLAS 2015 – we’ll see everyone there next year.