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From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 15 No 03 - MARCH 2002
3D connexion has introduced two new digital design tools, providing enhanced capabilities beyond those of its’ popular SpaceMouse, used by many design engineers to gain more effective control over the manipulation of complex 3D models.
Imagine holding your 3D model in your left hand, rotating it, moving it backwards and forwards, whilst you work on the design using the mouse in your right hand. Well, it's not actually possible, but you can get as near as you could wish to that effect by using a pressure sensitive 3D motion controller like the SpaceBall 4000 from 3Dconnexion.
SpaceBall is an ergonomically designed 3D control device that incorporates a tracker ball and a number of function keys. It enables users to manipulate 3D objects on the screen with six degrees of freedom. The ball is ultra-sensitive, sensing how much pressure is applied as you push, pull and twist the ball, with your movements creating corresponding moves to the model on the screen - or it can be used to guide the position and tracking of a camera or eye-point.
Pulling up or pushing down moves the model or viewpoint up or down, whilst pushing right or left swivels the model the same way. Zooming is controlled by pulling the model towards you or pushing away, and orienting the model is achieved by twisting in any direction to rotate it around an x,y,x axis. Light touches move the model slowly, whilst increased pressure increases speed. Contrast this with using other tools such as the keyboard or mouse, that require numerous keystrokes or mouse clicks to achieve the same effect.
Using the SpaceBall from cold - i.e., not having used graphic design control tools before - the action felt smooth and natural and provided very precise control over the 3D model. Switching from the SpaceBall to CadMan, the second of 3Dconnexion’s new products, I felt a noticeable improvement in the fluidity of the movement of the model. This is because CadMan uses a large button instead of a ball as the controlling device, the same as the one used by the SpaceMouse, which utilises an opto-electronic device for translating hand movements, rather than the Spaceball's electro-m echanical sensor. SpaceBall was developed for use with high-end CAD applications, whilst CadMan is more suited to mid-range CAD.
Both devices are supported by a number of function keys that can be programmed to cut out further use of the keypad - for instance, CATIA users of SpaceBall can use a couple of them to replace the F11 and F12 keys that provide a ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ response to CATIA prompts. Another popular use is to enable users to switch easily from solid to wire-frame models.
Whichever tool is used, advanced 3D motion controllers allow designers to interact more naturally with the model, eliminating moves that slow up the design process.
It all helps to make
the designer more creative. Both SpaceBall 4000 and CadMan are recent
additions to the range of 3D motion control tools that includes
the popular SpaceMouse, which is being used successfully throughout
many design studios, including the one at Toyota, which is currently
enjoying (or not!) its first year in Formula One racing. Having
to work harder to build a car that offers credible competition to
the likes of Ferrari and Mclaren-Mercedes, Toyota has been using
the SpaceMouse extensively to reduce design times by allowing them
to move objects and manipulate 3D objects on the screen more rapidly
and fluently. Toyota maintains that it is essential to use design
techniques that are as dynamic as the car needs to be. CU
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