Instrument development; from inception to production

A world first product concept, and a brand new supplier handling the project from beginning to end - Cerulean had all their eggs in one basket for the development of Orion.
8 min read
Featuring comments from
Iavor BojinovPortfolio Manager, Cerulean
Faced with developing a world first concept, Cerulean had no starting point for the design and manufacture of Orion, a modern oral-pouch testing station. Cerulean’s customer was mass producing products based on lots of manual operations and measurements. Handling non-uniform/soft samples posed a concern for them along with the requirement for a simple and on-brand user interface.
After scoping out other suppliers, Cerulean conculded that Labman had the engineering expertise to develop a robust handling system for their samples and manage the full project from start to finish. The final solution can weigh, image, measure moisture and physically test pouches.
Orion provides massive a step-change in throughput for users, by completing measurements in a fraction of the time compared to the manual method. From the technical solution, to the custom branded user interface, to the ongoing support from Labman, the collaboration was a great success.


seconds to complete moisture testcompared to 30 minutes for manual operation


development completed in-house at Labman streamlining their process

Cerulean are based at Milton Keynes, UK and are recognised globally as a leading supplier of test equipment, for quality control and product compliance across a range of industries. Looking to bolster their reputation for providing innovative solutions to their customers, Cerulean wanted to stay ahead in the shift towards a more modern market of tobacco-free products. This meant offering their customers a reliable and compliant testing station for modern oral pouches – something which appeared not to exist on the market.

Technical solution

Concerned with the handling of soft, non-uniform samples, product developers at Cerulean visited a number of suppliers looking for engineering expertise in truly custom automation. They were able to present the requirements to Labman and leave the technical side entirely up to them.

"We look internally and we realise we don’t have any resources, knowledge or technology to do this. Labman had the expertise, knowledge and willingness to work with us. This was new for us, it was the first time we used Labman and it was a great experience from beginning to end"
Iavor BojinovPortfolio Manager, Cerulean

They were also faced with a specification and a number of KPI’s form their customer who required an ambitious throughput of 500 pouches in 8 hours. Cerulean’s validation engineer complimented the finished instrument on the pick and place capability.

“Everyone who sees it, wants the light on inside so they can see the movement, because the pick and place is beautiful to watch. It really is a geeky thing but that is beautiful. I can watch it all day long. I have done!”
Keith Bull, Validation and Testing Engineer.

The physical capability and the offering this provided to their customers, was also commended by other areas of management at Cerulean;

“So the existing method of measuring moisture for example would be an oven method, and it would take typically half an hour to get proper results whereas the Orion it can be done in less than 15 seconds so, it’s a massive time saving. The marketing side has actually been easy, because the number of benefits that you have over the manual process, it speaks for itself”. John Campbell, Digital Communications and Marketing Manager

Instrument development

Cerulean had an existing supplier who provided software solutions for their products. Initially they planned to continue with this supplier, who were not based in the UK. However with a preference for a Cerulean branded UI and a desire to keep the project streamlined, they realised that Labman could deliver all aspects of the development from a much more accessible UK base. As a new supplier to Cerulean, and with the added challenge of developing brand new technology, this project was not without financial risk.

“When we started, we realise that Labman not only can deliver the hardware solution, but they have excellent software team. We said OK, one supplier do the complete project from beginning to end, hardware, software, testing, helping us with training, installation, the whole lot.”
Iavor Bojinov.

“We quite quickly learnt that Labman were quite different, they weren’t just doing what we asked them to do, they were thinking about things, they were trying to develop an instrument better than what we originally proposed.” Max D’Souza, Project Manager.

The Cerulean team also commented on the ongoing support provided by Labman for the instruments which are now in production phase. During one particular site visit in Saudi Arabia, Iavor said they were able to call up Joe Robinson or Joe Lillystone, (both direct team leaders on the project) and receive remote technical help there and then. He commented what a huge relief it was to be able to resolve a technical issue in an intense, live situation.


The development of the software and user interface was a crucially important stage for Cerulean. Iavor commented that regardless of the technical capability of an instrument, the user experience is influenced massively by their interaction with it, which is always via the UI. They required a simple, accessible and on-brand interface, for which a style guide was provided.

“It was really nice to see something that I’d created in real life. It’s great to have the Cerulean feel on that user interface. That was a really close communication; I felt that I could input and it was taken on board and actually implemented so I actually felt part of that development whilst the UI was being created.” John Campbell

“You produce this wonderful user interface. Thank you for doing this for us. In your case, you not only followed the guide but you exceeded our expectations.” Iavor Bojinov

The portfolio team at Cerulean have already been in touch with Labman for the development of further products, to enable them to stay ahead of the curve to provide compliant test equipment for industries worldwide.