I’ve had a fair number of people ask about support for devices like the 3DConnexion 3D mouse for G-Wizard Editor. I don’t use any such devices, but it has made me curious about how many of you are using something more than just a plain old mouse when working in 3D on your CAD and CAM software.
First, I want to talk a little bit about these devices. The ones I hear most often about are 3D mice from 3DConnexion. Here are some of the products in their lineup:
A collection of 3D mice from 3DConnexion…
What is a 3D Mouse?
The first thing to know is that a 3D Mouse does not replace your regular mouse. They’re designed to be used in conjunction with your regular mouse in a 2 handed style. If you’re right-handed, the regular mouse stays to the right of your keyboard and is manipulated by your right hand while the 3D mouse goes to the left of your keyboard and is held by the left hand. Without a 3D mouse, your lefthand is still normally used to navigate and manipulate a 3D scene–it’s just that it is pressing and holding various keys that modify the mouse’s behavior. For example, G-Wizard Editor is set up to work like Rhino3D when manipulating the 3D backplot of the toolpath. The right mouse will rotate the image, the zoom wheel zooms in and out, and Shift + Right Mouse will slide left/right/up/down.
With a 3D Mouse, a lot more is possible:
– The knob gives you immediate joystick-like control over your 3D model.
– Function keys give you quick access to specific views, Shift-Alt-Esc so you don’t have to touch the keyboard.
– User defineable keys let you assign your most commonly used functions. For example, in the video below they assign Undo, Toolbar, and Virtual Number Pad to enter numbers without the keyboard.
Here’s a short video showing some of these capabilities:
Alternate Input Device Survey
You can see where one of these devices might be useful, but how many of you are actually using one? To find out, please participate in our Alternate Input Device Survey. Just click the link and you’ll participate in a short survey after which you will see the results:
If there is enough interest, I will procure a 3DConnexion mouse and add support to G-Wizard Editor for it.
Took a look at the survey 2 days later. The good news is it is very positive about the idea of 3D mice. The bad news is that participation is pretty low for a CNCCookbook survey. We would normally have gotten close to 100 by now. A pessimist would conclude the non-voters are not interested in 3D mice enough even to say they’re not interested. We’ll see what happens by the weekend after the weekly email newsletter has gone out and more people have had a chance to participate.
Meanwhile, I got a coupon code from 3DConnexion for 20% their 3D mice through end of February. The coupon code is 3DX0220PROMO.
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Bob is responsible for the development and implementation of the popular G-Wizard CNC Software. Bob is also the founder of CNCCookbook, the largest CNC-related blog on the Internet.
These don’t come up very often among machinists, likely because support is relatively thin for even the more common CAM packages. I’ve found they make for a much more natural model viewing experience, and do a good job of separating mouse motion from model motion. More and more, 3D CAD and CAM are blending together, and as both a Solidworks and HSMworks user, i’ve found it equally useful. It’s also become quite useful in both Photoshop and Premiere, certainly ancillary uses I had never imagined when I made the purchase. I also think it could make an excellent gaming device, though again support seems limited.
Personally, I have both a Spacemouse Pro and a SpaceNavigator. I am also partially responsible for the “Spacedock”, a Kickstarter project that attempted to fill the gap between those two products. Unfortunately the project failed, but we went ahead and made them available, and have actually even managed to sell a few.
I can’t really see using one in G-Wizard, but I can’t recommend it enough for heavy CAD users.
Anyone that I have introduced to the use of 3D mouse now states they can’t do without.
It takes a few days to get used to it, but after that it saves oodles of time. (Inventor 3D)
In regards to 3D connection.. Well they are very poor in supporting product drivers. Autodesk changed their interface, and 3D connections simply refused to upgrade their drivers for “legacy” units.. and gave us the advice to buy new units. Now 3D mice will last a bit more then 2 years, especially at their cost.
So we replaced 8 units to Space controllers from http://www.spacecontrol.de/ and saved money compared to 3dconnections, and received perfect support so far.
I will personally not spend a penny with 3D connections ever…
JB, interesting you mention Spacecontrol.
Turns out I tried to order from 3DConnexion using their coupon code. It was kind of a disaster–lots of usability issues placing the order on their web site. I tried twice before I succeeded, got all the way into payment, suddenly saw what had looked like a good discount evaporate due to high shipping costs and bailed out again in disgust. It scares me when a company selling a product designed to improve User Experience delivers a poor user experience, lol.
Looking at Spacecontrol, I see a couple things I really like. First, it’s cheaper without a coupon than 3DConnexion was with one, at least for the high end version–the knob-only devices at 3DConnexion are still cheaper. Second, I really like the ball-shaped control as opposed to a knob-shape. Just seems better ergonomically than a knob.
Now I have to decide which one of these beasts to purchase, and I worry supporting one does not result in support for the other. Oddly, these two companies were one and the same at some point if you look back in history. Not sure what their relationship is anymore. Seems like they had a 3-way split after Logitech had bought the original company.
I actually have two of these 3D mice. They are insanely useful! I also use Autodesk Inventor and when making assemblies, I would have had to pull my teeth out in despair had not been for the 3D mouse. There is no way I can even think of spending 8 hours moving the mouse left and right just to enable/disable the pan/tilt function. But then again I am not a mechanical engineer so I don’t need to spend 8 hours a day designing mechanical contraptions.
Now, these controllers are supremely expensive! I was able to get one for “free” when I did a freelance project for a friend, and the second one I bought used on the CL at a pretty nice price.
I haven’t had issues with 3DConnexion but I truly hope there is none in the near future as I use these puppies quite regularly and I do not plan on cashing out $400-$500 to upgrade. This is hobby for me, not a cent maker!
Hello Bob, I use a new spaceball (far right of your pic)
and the older style spaceball 4000.
I have a extra old style unit your more than welcome to borrow.
let me know if you want to use it.
I use the ball, while most of the others at work selected the puck…. during the day I do occasionally take over on other machines so end up holding a puck,.. after 3 years or so I still don’t like them…
My 10 year old son decided to go ball as well, maybe I influenced him 🙂
I would be surprised if they (3CS/Space controller) share a common interface….
totally agree with Jose, “insanely useful”
I started a long time ago with an HP branded serial Spaceball that shipped with one of their CAD workstations. Also I had some Logitech 3D mouseman that was like a mouse on a stick. I can’t imagine working in 3D without one. As was mentioned 3DConnexion pulled support for older devices, and I upgraded to a Space Explorer from ebay. I think the ball top made more sense than the cap and it’s nice to know of a new source for that style. I was very pleased to find that it even works pretty well in Sketchup. Not quite like Inventor, but good enough.
Good old eBay. Got a SpacePilot Pro for just $279 out the door. Will let you know what I think after it arrives.
I started on Unigraphics in 1993 as a vehicle designer at General Motors. I’ve never used cad software without a spaceball, and I can’t operate without one. I also use it with sprutcam and photoshop. I got my current puck style space mouse for around a hundred dollars. Once you use one you’ll never go back. Especially on complicated models.
Since a year of five I never use a normal mouse again.
Instead of the use of a mouse I switched to a Wacom Intuos tablet.
But even with a tablet is my hand got tired after 1/2 to 3/4 day of work.
So I also was looking for a method to devide the workload over both my hands.
At first I tested the 3D space mouse from 3Dconnexion.
But unfortunally the drivers from 3Dconnexion didn’t support the CAD software that I use.
Switching between the tablet and the 3D mouse was troublesome.
Also a great problem was the fact that the assembly on my screen only rotated on its center off mass. when you working on a edge of a large assembly (in dimensions) it just keeps rotating out of sight.
I got so tired of it that I discard the 3D mouse to a corner of my desk and never used it again.
But on some day I discovered the Shuttle Pro2 from Contourdesign.
This device is normaly used for video editing.
But every button can be asigned to a specific task or a keyboard button.
The wheel and ring are acting in the same way as a mouse wheel.
With a strategic asignment of the mousebuttons and some frequently used shortcuts from my keyboard to the shuttle.
By pressing and holding the middle mouse button on the shuttle on my left hand and moving pen from the Wacom tablet with my right hand I can rotated any assembley or part on my screen in a very simple and direct way.
In this way I can devide the daily workload over both my hands.
I now use the shuttle sometimes even more then 10 to 12 hours a day when I working at my CAD station.
And even then I don’t have any tired feeling in my hands that i previous experienced when I was working with a normal mouse.
The extra bonus of this all is the fact that a Shuttle cost only around a small $110.-.
Agree with all others.
Can’t live with out a 3D mouse working with (mainly) CAD.
Any situation/software supporting the use of similar devices would be a big plus.
My wife got me a space navigator for Xmas last year and I love it! Paired with Rob Lockwood’s Spacedock base it’s an awesome combo. Once you get used to it you’ll never go back. So far I only use it with Solidworks/HSMworks.
The trouble is with the Spacemouse is that you need a third hand for your keyboard. I saw these at an exhibition.