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3Dconnexion 3D Mice Improve Design Efficiency

By Jim Romeo

Froi Lomotan, 3Dconnexion

Your mouse can add another dimension to engineering design. By moving within your design space in three dimensions using just your mouse, your engineering freedom is suddenly expanded.

3Dconnexion’s 3D mice have the potential for opening up the possibilities for design engineers who embrace the technology. To understand the company’s product and its approach to the market, we spoke to Froi Lomotan, director of advanced software technology for 3DConnexion.

What Sets 3Dconnexion 3D mice apart and what do they offer the design engineering community?
Lomotan: 3Dconnexion 3D mice provide an immersive design experience that dramatically improves the design process from start to finish. Unlike traditional mice confined to motion on one flat plane, 3Dconnexion 3D mice enable design engineers to move in all three dimensions simultaneously, using six degrees of freedom.
At the heart of 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice is the controller cap, which makes otherwise complex movements simple and streamlines the entire design process. Unique, pressure-sensing technology allows the cap to become a virtual extension of the designer. Gently pushing, pulling, twisting, or tilting the cap a fraction of an inch enables users to simultaneously pan, zoom, and rotate 3D imagery with complete precision. In addition, a subtle increase in pressure accelerates movement and a decrease in pressure enables users to make intricate adjustments.

Using 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice provides a blended navigate-command flow instead of a linear navigate-command process. The result is a much more natural and intuitive way to interact with 3D content. This includes a streamlined design workflow, reduced interaction with the interface, allowing greater focus on the design, reduced physical fatigue and discomfort, and increased productivity—on average, more than 20 percent 3Dconnexion’s professional series of products include the SpacePilot and SpaceExplorer, and the standard series of products include the SpaceNavigator and Space Navigator for Notebooks.

Are multi-dimensions in engineering software important nowadays? Do some in the industry still not work in 3D?
Lomotan: Multi-dimensions are an intrinsic part of the nature of the work performed by the design engineering community, evidenced by the growing number of applications integrating expanded 3D capabilities and functionality. In addition, applications are growing more complex, underscoring the need for a more intuitive and natural way to interact with 3D content. 3Dconnexion 3D mice enable design engineers to decrease time spent on managing application complexity and allow for more time on the design itself.

However, there is still a portion of the industry that is not working in 3D. And, there always will be. It is not a matter of 2D or 3D—it is a matter of 2D and 3D.
We’re seeing an increasing demand for our 3D mice in 2D environments. Even though it offers six degrees of freedom, providing a consistent interface across multiple applications and environments, both 2D and 3D, is very useful to the design engineering community.

Can you tell us how your product brings efficiency to the designer?
Lomotan: A recent survey found that CAD design engineers are dramatically more productive and efficient when using 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice. A majority of the survey’s 190 respondents said that using a 3D mouse significantly increased their productivity and design performance and made it easier to identify problems, improving the overall quality of designs. More than 80 percent of respondents said that using a 3D mouse increased their productivity, most noting the increase within the first week of using their 3D mouse. In addition, almost half of the respondents stated that their overall productivity increased by 20 percent or more.

While the whitepaper provides additional insight regarding the productivity gains provided by 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice, it is also important to understand how 3D mice work within a typical design workflow.

The controller cap allows a user to zoom, pan, and rotate simultaneously. With a 2D mouse, you typically can only perform two of these functions at a time and an interruption or change in context is required to change to another set of two degrees of freedom. 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice are designed to work in your non-dominant hand. If you are right handed, this would be the left hand. The dominant hand is still used by the 2D mouse for command selection. Using both hands significantly decreases the time between design manipulation and command execution.

Is your product designed to interface with off-the-shelf software and other applications? How important is this for the design engineering environment?
Lomotan: The vast majority of 3Dconnexion’s professional design engineering user base utilize applications that are purchased from resellers or direct from the ISV, not off the retail shelf. However, 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice are designed to work with off-the-shelf software. IMSI’s TurboCAD is an excellent example of this. As is the case with other control and input devices, since there is no industry-standard 3D interface, 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice may not work with all software applications automatically.

In addition, 3Dconnexion’s software development kit (SDK) is free and available on the website at 3Dconnexion.com, including code samples and documentation, enabling developers of 3D design and visualization applications to quickly and easily implement support for 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice. A typical implementation only takes one week.

How can the product be configured for multiple users? Can it be set up for a group as well as an individual access?
Lomotan: 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice are designed for use by a single user, similar to traditional mice. However, they can be easily moved from workstation to workstation as needed.

In your view, what does the design community need in today’s engineering environment and how can software help them get there?
Lomotan: Design engineers and other professionals with similar workflows are typically using complex applications hours upon hours each day. As a result, they are always looking for ways to streamline the design process while increasing the quality of their designs. In addition, the design community needs interfaces that connect them directly to their content. A user interface should ‘drop away,’ allowing direct interaction with the design.

Design engineers also need a streamlined review process where they can verify designs iteratively in less time with as little cost overhead as possible. 3Dconnexion 3D mice significantly improve the design and review process by allowing design engineers to focus on the design itself and not maneuver through the application, making it easier to identify problems or design flaws. This can have a significant financial impact on the product development process, as it helps to ensure that costly changes are minimized in the final stages of design.

More than 80 percent of CAD design engineers surveyed in the “The Economic Payback of 3D Mice for CAD Design Engineers” study believe that using a 3D mouse improved their product designs and indicated that using a 3D mouse made it easier to identify any problems with the design.

Looking forward, where do you see engineering software going and how will 3Dconnexion 3D mice be a part of that?
Lomotan: The growing complexity of 3D applications has generated a need for more advanced navigation and control that cannot be attained with a traditional mouse. As such, the application interface and 3D environment along with the hardware needed to support the complete design process are paramount.

Future applications will continue to blur the distinction between where the application ends and the interface for the 3D device begins. For example, in the future we expect to see design engineers using devices that have application content on them. 3Dconnexion’s goal is to continue to evolve our 3D mice to provide greater comfort, increased control and expanded performance with the latest technologies to continue to help designers interact more naturally and directly with their designs.

Can you give us some examples of what industries and more specifically, some projects that have used your product?
Lomotan: 3Dconnexion 3D mice are used in leading organizations across a wide-range of industries, including CAD, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), digital content creation (DCC) and geographic information systems (GIS).

When you speak to prospective customers, what is it about your product that usually gets their interest and leads to them becoming a customer?
Lomotan: The substantial productivity and design performance that design engineers can gain make a 3Dconnexion 3D mouse a “must have” design tool for today’s 3D professionals. Key benefits for design engineers as they look to enhance their design performance and overall workflow with a 3D mouse include ease-of-use and easy integration into design processes; learning time is minimal compared to the time savings a user can expect to achieve; easier to identify problems, improving the overall quality of designs; help in decreasing time spent managing application complexity and allow for more time on the design itself; reduced physical fatigue and discomfort; and support by more than 130 of today’s leading 3D applications.

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Jim Romeo is a freelance writer specializing in industrial technology topics and can be reached at jimromeo.net. To comment on this interview, send e-mail to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.

About Jim Romeo

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, VA. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.