3D controller speeds designs

Sept. 27, 2007
A SpacePilot 3D navigation device along with our CAD software has let us slash 40% off the design and manufacture of respiratory products, including one we call the World’s Smallest oxygen regulator.

Blair Hollshwandner

Edited by Leslie Gordon

The SpacePilot lets users position, rotate, pan, and zoom models with one hand, while using a regular mouse with the other hand to edit models. This allows quick design changes, which helps get products to market faster.

The SpacePilot also saves time by providing a better way to work in diverse visual environments. We use it with SolidWorks, and when we move between sketching, modeling, and assembly modes, the navigation device detects the mode, updates its function buttons with the available SolidWorks commands, and then displays them on the 4 1in. LCD screen.

For example when users open a part file, function buttons might show SolidWorks commands such as Extruded Boss/ Base, Extruded Cut, or Revolved Boss/Base. When the user switches to an assembly file, the display would show commands such as Mates, Insert Component, or Edit Component.The same applies to drawing files. They might show such commands as Model View, Section View, or Smart Dimension.

The 1.875-lb device also includes default function buttons, such as CTRL, SHIFT, ALT and ESC for all programs. Users can also customize what the SpacePilot calls speed keys to correspond with keyboard commands. The SpacePilot sports an optical sensor with six degrees of freedom as well as Top, Right, Left, Front, and Iso “quick-view” commands — each executed at the touch of a button — that smooth workflows and even help make our jobs more fun.

In 2002, we introduced an oxygen- conserving regulator that took two-and-a-half years to develop. In 2005, we introduced its replacement, a smaller and faster version. It only took a year to develop from scratch, thanks in part to the 3D controllers.

We also used the SpacePilot during a recent design for a portable liquid-oxygen system. The navigator helped us complete several major redesigns in just a few months. This was our first time developing equipment that used liquid oxygen. The design was highly innovative. When engineers asked me to make major changes, I often had them done in about an hour, compared to the 2 hr it took before we started using the 3D controllers. Easy 3D navigation helped me achieve what would have once seemed an impossibly quick turnaround.

A USB interface makes connecting the SpacePilot easy. And its sculpted, soft-coat, ergonomic palmrest provides comfortable “cruising.” Simply push, pull, twist, and tilt the controller cap to move models. For example, to pan a model up or down, pull the cap up or down. Roll the model in the direction you want by rolling the cap in the same direction. Users can adjust the speed at which models move.

In addition to CAD, the device works with Google Earth, DWF Viewer, and eDrawings. The SpacePilot comes from 3Dconnexion in Silicon Valley, Calif., 3Dconnexion.com.

Blair Hollshwandner is a mechanical designer at Precision Medical Inc., 300 Held Dr., Northampton, PA 18067, (800) 272-7285, precisionmedical.com.

Use the SpacePilot 3D navigation device with one hand to position, rotate, pan, and zoom models. Use a traditional mouse with the other hand to simultaneously edit the model and select menu items.

For speedy navigation, the SpacePilot Button Mapping screen lets users map functions from the companion 3D software (in this case SolidWorks) to buttons on the device. The SpacePilot frees users from having to remember a particular program’s commands for manipulating 3D objects.

The SpacePilot Control Panel lets users configure the device.

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