If you are in the process of designing a research and development (R&D) lab, there are a number of key factors you will need to consider. Here at OnePointe Solutions, we specialize in helping clients from virtually every industry to design and build custom laboratory solutions that fit their exact needs and have partnered with countless manufacturers, researchers, designers, and experts to create some of the best labs in the country.
Here, we’re sharing a few basic tips for what to consider when designing an R&D lab and offering our advice for the best solutions to common R&D needs.
What Is An R&D Lab?
An R&D lab is any laboratory where research and development work is undertaken. Many industries employ R&D to innovate and create new products, technologies, and other advances in their field.
During the post-WWII corporation boom in the US, R&D labs were often very large and incorporated into companies as those companies’ research divisions. Today, many R&D labs are independent and the researchers who work there are able to sell their work on the open market.
R&D labs are found in many industries. These include the chemical industry, the communications industry, the manufacturing industry, the materials science industry, the medical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the software industry, and the technology and nanotechnology industry.
Each of these industries requires different things from their R&D labs. Chemistry, materials science, and the pharmaceutical industry all typically require higher biosafety standards due to the volatility of the compounds and other research materials used in these industries.
Manufacturing and technology R&D labs often require highly specialized mechanical tools. If you’re not sure what all your lab will require, feel free to contact us– at OnePointe Solutions, we’ve worked with leaders across numerous industries and can help you determine exactly what your laboratory needs for success.
Ideal Lab Location
An R&D lab can be built as a standalone building, or take space in an existing building. The type of R&D lab you build can determine what space is suitable: an R&D lab that works on nanotechnology or communications can work in numerous locations, but R&D labs that work with volatile chemicals will need to be in a space with fans and intake blowers for ventilation.
The ideal laboratory location meets the following criteria:
- Good lighting
- Comfortable environmental controls, like a thermostat
- Access to water
- Adequate electrical service
- Enough space to work on large projects
Modifying your existing space for a lab is quite possible, and whether you’re starting from scratch or planning to renovate, OnePointe Solutions has the experience and lab design team necessary to complete any lab building project. We have designed labs for many diverse purposes, including materials science R&D, animal research, and volatile organic compound testing; we are well-versed in the design language of labs built not just for innovation but also for safety and efficiency.
We are happy to help turn your space into a functional research and development laboratory.
R&D labs are highly customizable based on your needs, and there is no one setup that all R&D labs must-have. An R&D lab that contributes to the materials science industry will look incredibly different from one that deals with technology.
Because of this, you shouldn’t think in terms of set patterns for how your lab should be designed. Instead, you should optimize ergonomics and workflow in your space, and you should build options for flexibility and expansion into your lab.
Regardless of your lab’s specific purpose, leaning into Lean Design is one way to ensure that your lab serves its purpose and runs easily and efficiently. Lean Design principles have been widely adopted by designers of facilities in every industry since their introduction in the 1990s.
Lean Design facilities are designed with the goal of reducing mistakes and increasing efficiency and productivity, with the efficient use of resources at the core of these principles.
The success of Lean Design is measured with the use of the ‘Magic Triangle’, whose three corners represent quality, resources, and time. These should all be balanced for optimum laboratory design and results.
In essence, Lean Design aims at eliminating wasted steps and redundancies to improve workflow. Implementing Lean lab techniques can help you to produce more consistent lab results, increase productivity, reduce costs, and help your lab attain successful results.
You also must consider the needs of the people working in your lab. A good R&D lab encourages collaboration and discussion amongst researchers, and this can be built into the design of your lab itself.
Adding quality of life upgrades like comfortable breakrooms or coffee areas, ergonomic workstations, lighting designed to reduce eyestrain, and other such features can elevate your R&D lab and improve your technicians’ and researchers’ experience.
Design for Flexibility
While some educational labs remain the same for years, most R&D facilities change the work they do and how they do it frequently. A lab may go from sequencing DNA to testing food products in just a few months and must be able to make the transition from one to the other without needing a full remodel.
Flexible, easily modified labs can keep up with changing needs, techniques, and workflow.
One of the easiest ways to increase the flexibility of your laboratory is to include modular furniture in your design. At OnePointe Solutions, many of our laboratory furniture options include modular features and add ons that make them readily adaptable to changes in your facility.
Items like our lab islands include adjustable height options, modular shelving, and locking and rolling casters for easy reconfiguration of the space.
If your R&D lab deals with biological specimens or volatile chemicals, you will need fume hoods, HEPA filters, and at least one lead-lined sink. All R&D labs require a lot of computational power, which means that they will draw a lot of electric power– most wiring will require 110 volts.
Having your lab’s wiring done by professional electricians is an absolute must. An emergency generator should be available to operate essential equipment during power outages. You should maintain battery backups on all essential computer equipment.
The equipment needed for an R&D lab is complex and often must be made custom to your lab’s specifications. Some of the most important equipment you will need is computer workstations.
No matter what your lab’s purpose is, you will need stations where researchers can analyze results, as well as stations with design technology and other field-specific software and equipment.
Chemistry, Medical, and Pharmaceutical R&D Labs
Chemistry, medical, and pharmaceutical R&D labs can be thought of as “wet” labs, as they deal with many similar materials and safety procedures. Chemistry R&D labs require equipment that can handle caustic chemicals and protect the lab’s users from fumes and negative effects.
The same is true of pharmaceutical labs; many of the raw chemicals used to produce new drugs can have negative effects upon human contact. Medical R&D labs, which may use pathological biological material, also have this concern for protection.
As such, these types of labs have many similarities in what kinds of equipment they need. This equipment may include, but is not limited to the following:
- Analytical equipment
- Beakers, Erlenmeyer flasks, Florence flasks, test tubes, and other lab glassware
- Bunsen burners
- Chemical storage
- Eyewash stations
- Freezer storage
- Graduated cylinders
- Laminar flow hoods
- Mass spectrometer
- Ring stands, rings, and clamps
- Tongs and forceps
- Precision balances
- Refrigerated storage
- Safety goggles and safety equipment
- Watch glasses
- Volumetric flasks
Manufacturing and Materials Science R&D Labs
Manufacturing and materials science R&D labs have many similarities in what they require in terms of equipment. Depending on the materials being tested or the manufacturing processes being developed, highly specialized equipment may be required.
However, as a general rule you can expect to need the following equipment in your manufacturing or materials science R&D lab:
- Analytical equipment of various types
- Exhaust hoods or laminar flow hoods
- Hand tools, both powered and unpowered
- Machine press
- Mass spectrometers
- Precision balances
- Rapid prototype devices like 3D printers and CDC mills
- Raw materials storage
- Rotary hand tools
- Rotary saws
- Test cells
- Safety equipment
- Welding benches
Programming R&D Labs: Communications and Software R&D
R&D labs that work on innovative programming require a different kind of lab setup. There is less physical work in these types of labs, as the innovation is all done on computers.
As such, the sort of equipment you can expect to see in these labs includes the following:
- Computer workstations with diverse operating systems
- Computer hardware and peripherals
- Debugging software
- Programming guides
- Mobile devices
Technology and Nanotechnology R&D Labs
Technology and nanotechnology labs are largely differentiated by the size of the equipment they work with. The equipment these labs require is incredibly precise.
This equipment may include, but is not limited to the following:
- Air conditioning systems for micro and nanotechnology
- AS-Micro thermal annealing machines
- Analytical balances
- Anti-static wristbands and other grounding devices
- Arbitrary waveform generators
- Atomic force microscopy and Raman analysis machines
- Atomic layer deposition machine
- ESD Workbenches
- Laminar hoods
- Laser cutters
- Machine Press
Need Help With Your R&D Lab?
At OnePointe Solutions, we are experts at building custom casework, lab countertops, lab tables, fume hoods, and other lab equipment that will improve your lab’s workflow and efficiency. Additionally, OnePointe Solutions is a leading laboratory construction and design firm, scientific furniture manufacturer, and lab builder.
Our project history ranges from classrooms to Biosafety Level 3 and 3+ enhanced labs. No lab project is too small or too large for our expert design team. Give us a call at 866-612-7312 to speak to a lab design specialist today!