This is what happens when you start working in a university - people start thinking of you as an experimentalist. I see more of this stuff now, and less of the hands-on overall-wearing stuff I used to do. I don't mind coming in from the rain, and it is all still practical problem solving rather than blue sky research.
In devising the rig I am going to use to test the process, I see that this is also a design exercise. I have to purchase commercially available equipment and materials to make a device to do a specified job to a given degree of precision.
Perhaps the reason why so many of my academic colleagues do not understand design despite having to devise test rigs is because they have technicians to do the rig-building for them, so lecturers can avoid thinking about how to make things which work.
This might also explain the low status in academia of design practice. Despite the politically correct answer which many of them would give if asked, it is very clear from their attitudes that most university lecturers consider themselves a cut above their technicians.
Technicians have told me in the past about the vague descriptions and still vaguer sketches they receive from lecturers of the experimental rigs they want building, which makes it clear to me that that a lot of the thinking which goes into rigs actually comes from technicians rather than academics.
Design looks easy until you try it, especially if you have been watching someone with a lot of experience.
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” ― Yogi Berra