Finalist 2021

CFX Opus Real-Time PCR System

Cobalt Design / Bio-Rad Laboratories

CFX Opus Real-Time PCR System - the next evolution in qPCR from Bio-Rad.

The CFX Opus is a molecular biology instrument used in a wide range of research, diagnostic and industrial applications; from cancers and infectious diseases, to drinking water and food safety. The instrument sets new temperature uniformity benchmarks in quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis, the technique of detecting and amplifying DNA.

BIO-RAD is a trademark of Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc.

Design Brief

The key design challenge in developing Bio-Rad’s next generation qPCR system centred on transforming the instrument’s usability and results consistency. This required deep user insights from observing lab technicians and scientists, to understanding automation integration and connectivity needs.

The target customer input and knowledge was then translated into a physically compact device which would provide higher throughputs, more intuitive usability, consistently reproducible and accurate analysis & highly accessible data.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

Beyond the visually bold aesthetic, embedded qPCR technology and an intuitive UI, the Melbourne & Californian design teams developed unique mechanical and functional elements to deliver class leading lab workflow productivity, and consistently accurate analysis.

  • A revolutionary retractable optical shuttle replaces a traditional pivoting optics head over a fixed sample compartment, improving well-plate accessibility and reducing the working envelope. These aspects and the adjustable touchscreen allows banks of instruments to be conveniently operated in space saving vertical racks.
  • Patented thermal block provides precise temperature uniformity to each well of the 96 or 384 well plate; and across run-to-run and device-to-device.

CFX Opus’ design maximises capacity within laboratories where space is almost always at a premium:

  • Its unique retractable optical shuttle in conjunction with the lid design allows low-height clearance to fit under low lab bench shelving or vertically stacked in multi-unit racks.
  • The device’s back-set centre of mass and footing placement facilitates the CFX Opus touch screen to safely overhang on shallow benchtops.
  • All common user inputs and USB port are front facing. This, combined with the front-to-rear airflow, achieves clear 3-sided access for automated set-ups or relatively close side-by-side device placement without compromising thermal performance.

For in-lab use

  • Touch screen pivots for ideal input/control across a broad range of operator heights or devices mounted in vertical racks.
  • The full width status light wraps around the sides allowing operators to readily scan the cycle progress from across the lab.

Design Excellence

To ensure CFX Opus performs at a high quality in real-world operating conditions, many considerations have gone into the design, assembly, calibration, and serviceability to maintain peak performance with minimal input from users.

Chemically resistant plastics have been used, with high-use touch-points IP sealed to allow for appropriate cleaning and product care. Industry experience has informed components most at risk of damage through use, with these designed to be modular for simple, non-invasive replacement. The unique, superior calibration system ensures high accuracy is achieved prior to shipping, ensuring all devices provide the highest of standards to all users.

As a scientific instrument, safety considerations were paramount in the CFX Opus’ design. CFX Opus has undergone IEC61010 testing for fire ratings, excessive temperature risks, and is designed to eliminate electrical and mechanical hazards.

The retractable optical shuttle is free of pinch points, and unlike traditional qPCR devices, this shuttle design prevents finger contact with high temperature components.

Remote connectivity features minimise time spent inside or moving between labs with strict clean room procedures, reducing personal exposure and risk of spreading potential biohazards, chemicals, and other hazards.

The form of the CFX Opus cohesively resolves several aims:

  • Reflecting its embedded technology while being approachable to operators.
  • Presenting as a thoroughly fresh expression while progressing Bio-Rad’s lineage of life sciences instrumentation.

This was achieved through:

  • Soft surfaces and radiused corners that draw the eye around the product, reducing the visual bulk of the already compact form.
  • Crisp lines and edges throughout, denoting the instrument’s scientific precision.
  • The sweeping, concentric ribbon grille, inspired by the parallel amplification PCR traces generated as a result of instrument runs.
  • A bold, emphatic illuminated strip of colour to unambiguously signal the instrument status.

Design Innovation

CFX Opus’ technology results in improved levels of data accuracy, consistency, and throughput. For example, the thermal uniformity across the full well-plate increases the quantity of results achieved per cycle as all wells within a 96 or 384 plate can be used with confidence.

Common practice with qPCR instrumentation is to use the middle portion of the thermal block where thermal performance is more uniform, thus limiting throughput of these devices.

Mechanically, the instrument was designed to suit all use-case set-ups:

  • Minimal footprint for traditional workspaces
  • Unique retractable optical shuttle sample compartment, and angled display for racked or under-bench arrangements
  • 3-sided accessibility to suit robotic arms for automated sampling/processing

As outlined elsewhere, the CFX Opus’ two most innovative elements are central to its aims of consistent results and efficient throughput. Combined they represent a step change in this category.

Patented thermal block; heats and cools more accurately than ever before, minimising edge effects and ensuring consistency within every well, and every run. The floating shuttle system provides several benefits;

  • Better user and automated accessibility
  • Supports denser positioning within crowded labs
  • Unparalleled calibration accuracy as calibration is performed while the device is closed, instead of open

Design Impact

CFX Opus is a device that global genomic researchers, and health, environmental and quality departments will rely upon. Its consistency, flexibility and throughput are crucial for authorities to quickly examine outbreaks, map clusters, identify super-spreading events, mutant strains, understand behaviours that spread disease or harm, or release drug products. 2020 stretched laboratories performance like never before.

The importance of game changing analytics, like CFX Opus, that can deliver faster, more accurate results combined with high throughput has measurable impact across society as a whole in the world’s fight against COVID-19, cancers and other genetic diseases.

As a high-value, high-performance instrument, the CFX Opus can be maintained over a long service life. Its modularity allows for repairs and replacements to be done on-site, reducing service trips or shipping whole instruments back to central servicing points. Insights into serviceability during the development process highlighted the importance for quick, intuitive, and simple assembly of the outer casings to enable service access to replaceable internal components. A series of interlocking slide features hold plastic panels in place and reduce the need for any permanent or multiple fixing solutions.

Bio-Rad is a global leader of molecular biology instrument brands and CFX Opus will maintain and grow Bio-Rad’s reputation as the technically superior qPCR instrument in the market by exceeding user expectations, enhancing performance and usability to the next level, while improving throughput.

As explained elsewhere, mechanical elements benefit; efficient use/automation; laboratory utilisation (vertical racking), and thermal consistency.

Physical features are augmented by multiple connectivity options, including Bio-Rad’s cloud platform, to ensure results can be shared more easily than ever before; connectivity is a vital function for worldwide collaborations or in times of global health emergencies.

Collectively, these improvements open new customer markets, with the compatibility to automated set-ups increasing its commercial potential.

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