Are you are running your MCAD application on a powerful workstation with several gigabytes of RAM, powerful graphics, a high resolution monitor and lots of disk storage? If so, you are fortunate that your boss has invested thousands of dollars in the latest technology. However, you may still be missing a vital part of the 3D picture. in your hand you hold a mouse, a cheap little device --$50 at the most -- meant to just point and click, not navigate 3D space. While your 3D software may have been designed around your cheap little mouse and provides adequate 3D control, to truly move around the final frontier like Capt. James Kirk himself, you are going to have to upgrade.
Enter 3Dconnexion, a Logitech company, with the SpacePilot. The ease with which it allows the MCAD user to move around the solid model is most impressive. We saw it being used with Pro/ENGINEER, but the SpacePilot is equally home in other MCAD applications. It may take a little getting used to at first but to see it in the hands of an expert, the device so effortlessly combines zoom, pan and rotate commands that viewing is elevated to another level. This would be especially useful in inspecting complicated assemblies.
The first time I tried to use a 3D controller (years ago), I spun out of control and lost sight of the model. To prevent this, the Space3Dconnexion adds controls to aid new users. There is a button "fit" which brings the model into view and fits it to the screen. Also, you can have the SpacePilot lock motion to the dominant direction so, for example, if you are moving mostly along one axis, you are prevented from inadvertent spinning.
The SpacePilot has programmable keys along the top which store commands or user macros. These can vary according your application. SpacePilot is smart enough to detect what application you are using and change the available functions accordingly.
At $499, the SpacePilot will make sense the most sense for full time 3D users already on high end workstations. 3Dconnexion makes a smaller device (SpaceTraveler, $199, designed for use with laptops) but it lacks a display, leaving users to memorize key functions.