I’m happy today to share my review of the 3D Connexion SpaceMouse Pro 3D mouse (disclosure below). I have a number of insights into how a professional finite element analyst or solid modeler can leverage this tool to increase productivity and perhaps have some fun while at it.
So what is a 3D mouse? This device is marketed as the designer’s go-to peripheral for manipulating 3D computer models, whether you are in engineering, architecture, product design, or animation. The core of this device is a 6 DOF (degree of freedom) sensor. It doesn’t replace your existing mouse—it complements it. They claim it’s like holding the 3D model in your hand.
Instead of writing a conventional review and redundant list of its technical specs, I decided to make a short video1 demonstrating its basic capabilities in a few different types of software: Google Earth and 3D Connexion’s demo CAE modeling environment2.
Summary: It’s awesome. While it does take a bit of getting used to, it’s a very compelling paradigm for interacting with 3D environments—so effective, in fact, that I think it’d be tough to give up after adoption into your workflow. Modern FEA codes already tend to have fairly sophisticated and user-friendly model manipulation tools via standard OpenGL hooks, but the 6 DOF sensor takes it way past the status quo (interacting with 3D systems via a 2D mouse-on-plane interface). At $300, it isn’t cheap, but when you consider the number of hours a professional FEM analyst spends manipulating 3D models, I think the investment is justified. I will have one of these on my desk from now on.
As of the time of this writing, the SpaceMouse Pro is compatible with a number of commercial products in the FEA, CAD, and structural engineering space. The full list of supported software includes household names such as Abaqus, ANSYS, the full Autodesk line (AutoCad/Revit/etc), the Bentley line, and the list goes on. 3D Connexion provides an API to hook their 3D mice into existing platforms, so I expect to see the list of supported platforms grow as the word gets out.
Disclosure: I received a review unit from 3D Connexion but was not required to write a positive review.