Direct CAD News & Views from Kubotek USA

CAD Direct Modeling with the 3Dconnexion SpacePilot Pro 3D Mouse

Posted by Chelsea Gammon on Fri, Apr 30, 2010

When I first saw this product's box on my desk, I felt like it was Christmas morning. Here's why.

At a previous job, actually my third co-op while attending Northeastern University, one of the industrial designers in the company had one of 3Dconnexion's smaller, more basic 3D mice. Now I know it was the SpaceNavigator mouse. A black rotation knob encased in soft-touch rubber-like material that sat on a chrome-like silver circular body, with a constant soothing blue glow being dispersed underneath. What was this, 2035? Where had this come from? I always loved high-tech gadgets from a young age so I suddenly felt out of the loop.

I thought it was the coolest piece of technology, and was admittedly in awe of it. It looked like some sort of spaceship or alien disc. When I first noticed him using it, I was almost nervous to walk too close to his desk, fearing the thing would shoot something at me or say something to me, like Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey. This designer's desk was immediately behind mine, so I tended to sit and stare at it for a bit each day. He must have eventually gotten used to this.

This illusive creature didn't show up again on my radar until a bit later. I've been to several CAD software rollout seminars over the years and at the more recent ones, they had these bad boys out on display for test drives.  I was usually one of the first people to unabashedly sit and give them a shot because I think they are things of beauty. I always dreamed of getting my hands on one for a couple hours, if not owning one. This was the first time I saw some of Connexion's larger, more complex 3D mice. These were amazing specimens, comprising the same basic rotation knob as the SpaceNavigator, but surrounded by a zip code of buttons, sometimes a small LCD screen. Amazing.

About a year and a half later. Two months deep as an applications engineer at KubotekUSA, Inc. The white shoebox-size 3D Connexion box awaited me beside my laptop. I eagerly opened the box, and immediately took everything out and peeled all protective wrappers off the product (which my father always said should never be removed from ANYTHING you've just purchased. My parents purchased and installed a new dishwasher about two years ago, and I think the bright blue commercial protective plastic wrap still covers the front. A white dishwasher. Blue wrap. Please.)

I looked at this new SpacePilot Pro mouse. I felt like someone had just given me a new car. I sent a close friend (a non-engineer who had never heard of a 3D mouse) a picture of my new toy. He responded saying he was seriously intimidated by the thing, and that it looked like after it would make him coffee, it would proceed to read his mind.

About 9" in full length, the base of this charcoal and black-hued mouse is shaped like an undulating wave, very ergonomic for hand and wrist placement. A thick strip of a soft-touch gripper area cuts down the middle of the mouse so your hand and wrist don't slide around while in use. The rotation knob lies in the center, above which is an LCD screen similar in size to that of the common digital camera. The LCD screen displays the customizable functions attached to the plethora of buttons on the mouse's, what I like to call, ‘dashboard'. In addition to this, the screen also displays Outlook emails, opens up web browsers on your computer screen, opens and controls your computer's music player, and I could go on.

I really appreciate that with a barely perceptible flick of the finger or wrist I can quickly execute both menial and complex tasks in KeyCreator, when using the SpacePilot Pro mouse. This thing has 31 programmable/customizable buttons, to be exact. I have programmed every single one (which, incidentally, was easy).

Some of the mouse button functions that I have customized to be most easily selectable (because they are larger, or because of their location) are Delete Multiple Entities, Escape, Delete Dimensions, Direct Dimensional Edit, Construction Planes, Undo and finally... Autoscale. I am addicted to this function. I've programmed it to a button larger than the others that is set apart from the rest. Some of these buttons will soon be super smooth and label-less due to abuse.

Utilizing a 3D mouse with programmable buttons does, indeed, decrease the time it takes to build a model in KeyCreator. I can plow through tasks with lightening speed, without even thinking about it. My fingers have trained themselves to remember when to shoot over to which buttons to do which tasks. It was like learning an interesting unilateral version of touch-typing. Admittedly, it took some practice and getting used to, remembering what buttons were programmed to do what; however, once I reached a comfort level, my speed quickly increased. This mouse omits the necessity of excess mouse travel with your right hand, excess hand travel of your land hand (i.e. selecting Esc, Shift, Ctrl, Spacebar etc), and thus reduces design time. Amazing multitask tool.

Before I had the SpacePilot Pro, I had the more basic SpaceNavigator orb model. Although it lacks all those programmable buttons, it still significantly decreases mouse travel and design time. It's also very portable due to its size, and perfect for tradeshows and quick demos. After manning a booth at two tradeshows while using both of these models for demos, I can say they attract some attention. Show attendees would walk up saying, ‘What on earth is that?' The combination of demonstrating KeyCreator in conjunction with these 3D mice has been enjoyable. It augments the capabilities of our CAD software, making it more powerful.

There is no ‘honeymoon period' with the SpacePilot Pro mouse. This will be perpetually beneficial. I cannot wait to see what 3Dconnexion comes up with next, because it will likely further augment the CAD software industry.

If you are interested in buying a SpacePilot Pro, check it out on Amazon: 3Dconnexion SpacePilot PRO - 3D motion controller - 31 button(s) - wired - USB

Topics: Direct Dimension editing, 3D Direct Modeling, 3D Mouse

New Manufacturing CAD/CAM/Machining Paradigm - CNN Video

Posted by Scott Sweeney on Mon, Apr 12, 2010

 I was at the gym as usual during my lunch hour and was watching the various TVs as they peaked my interest.

I saw a promo on CNN for their upcoming feature on high tech jobs replacing the old low tech manufacturing jobs.

They featured a South Carolina Machining Company, Adex Machining Technologies. The company focuses on the machinists who are designing fixtures using CAD and developing toolpaths using CAM and they are actually the ones on the floor machining the parts!

The point to the story is that these a well paying jobs and they are skilling jobs and not the dirty, unskilled manufacturing jobs of the past. (CNN called it lean manufacturing.)

The other point is that one person can do all jobs required to get the parts made. There is no division of skilled and less skilled workers. This is the essence of what we have been "preaching" at Kubotek.  That is why our tools are very practical. They are perfect for the manufacturing plants of today and tomorrow, where the traditional design/manufacturing/plant barriers do not exist and where one person or teams can truly do the whole job.  We salute CNN for running the story and ADEX Machining for being the manufacturer of today and of the future.  If you want to watch the clip, I've included it here.  CNN The-new-face-of-blue-collar.

Thank you for reading and I covet your comments.


Topics: Manufacturing, agile manufacturing, retooling, new manufacturing jobs, CAD/CAM

FranKey's Latest

Posted by Chelsea Gammon on Fri, Apr 02, 2010

FranKey, the spider monkey who can use the KeyCreator 3D CAD direct modeler, strikes again!


Monkey Trained to Create 3D Designs Using KeyCreator 3D Direct CAD

Posted by Scott Sweeney on Thu, Apr 01, 2010

In an experiment conducted by the University of Central Massachusetts, a spider monkey affectionately named FranKey has been trained to develop CAD designs using KeyCreator 3D Direct CAD.

University sources say that the monkey has a knack for creating basic CAD models based on objects that UCM testers place before him on a pedestal. FranKey takes the item on the pedestal and models it as a part of a larger assembly of items. According to testers, this odd streak of intelligent creativity is possibly based on the monkey's memory recall of items he has seen in his environment. FranKey was exposed to a model car and then designed his own version of the hot rod in what some consider to be a really unusual way. FranKey's Banana Car

Other items have also been modeled by FranKey, check back tomorrow to see some other creations.

The University of Central Massachusetts has remarked that KeyCreator 3D Direct CAD is so easy to use that even a monkey can use it. UCM's research and development will be further studied by Kubotek USA Inc. and subsequently be used for future development of KeyCreator, the world's most practical and robust 3D direct modeling software.

Future UCM tests on FranKey may include training the monkey to render his models, using KeyShot software.

To learn more about the software that FranKey has learned to use click here: KeyCreator.

Topics: 3D Direct Modeling, 3D Direct CAD, Monkey CAD