Thursday, December 27, 2012

New design tool!

This year, I got a christmas present that I've been wanting ever since I first heard of it (around 2007 or 2008 when I was part of FIRST Robotics), the 3DConnexion SpacePilot Pro. I've always thought it would be an incredibly useful tool for 3D modeling, and having one sure confirms that, but I'm also finding all sorts of other uses for it!

More info and pics after the break!



The 3DConnexion Mouse is a 3D mouse, but what does that really mean? Basically, the cap on the top of the device can be twisted, tilted, pushed, and pulled, and sends those movement commands to a peice of modeling software (such as Autodesk Inventor) to control the position of a part on the screen, manipulating it as if you were holding the part itself in your hand. It's extremely fluid and very intuitive, making it a breeze to learn how to use it.

My SpacePilot Pro


The SpacePilot Pro has a few extra features though that not all the 3DConnexion mice have, such as 31 function keys and a 320X240 color screen! In Inventor, the buttons allow you to call frequently used functions, or user defined macros, and all the buttons on the device are customizable, letting the user set the mouse up for exactly how they want to use it, and can be set to do different things depending on what program is active (Some programs, like Inventor, can even have multiple button sets within the app, such as for 3D drawing, 2D sketching, and simulation environments),

The button mapping configuration screen
Some of the configurable buttons
When 3DConnexion was acquired by Logitech, the display used in the SpacePilot Pro (a 320-240 QVGA screen) got all the functionality of a standard Logitech keyboard display (like the G19). After some looking around, I found an awesome piece of software, called LCDHOST that allows you to customize layouts on the external display.
The LCDHOST config screen

After some serious poking around, I figured out how to use most of the functions in LCDHOST, and created my own profiles! I'm only using the most basic of features, but LCDHOST supports everything from Web-Kit to Lua scripting, making it an incredibly versatile program for interfacing with the screen.

Photo of the "home screen" of my layout set
 Home screen screenshots (right image shows selection of the "HDD" pane)
All four panes are selectable using the arrow keys on the device, and when clicked on (with the "OK" button) they bring up one of their daughter layouts:





The display also has the ability to show what the function keys are mapped to, as well as information from applications that support the device, such as Inventor or SolidWorks.

Inventor Part detail screen
Overall, the 3DConnexion SpacePilot Pro gets a 10 out of 10 for me. It's an amazingly powerful device, and with programs like LCDHOST, it becomes a second display, capable of showing everything from pictures to system information.

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