SolidWorks Legion April 2011 contest – SpacePilot PRO

SpacePilot PRO

What better way is there for me to show my appreciation to SolidWorks Legion readers than to give away free stuff!  3Dconnexion gives away new 3D mice from time to time to raise awareness of their products.  This month, they have offered to give a SpacePilot PRO to the first place winner of the SolidWorks Legion April 2011 contest.  In addition, they have offered to give a new SpaceNavigator to the second place winner.  Of course, I’m running this contest to raise awareness of SolidWorks Legion.


To enter the contest, send a Twitter Direct Message to @fcsuper with the following phrase “I want my 3D mouse” and include your first and last name.  If @fcsuper is not currently following your Twitter account, leave a comment on this article (below) prior to April 24, 2011 to ask me to follow you.  Otherwise, use the alternative entry method by sending an email to with the “I want my 3D mouse” phrase and your name in the email subject.  Limit is one entry per person.  Only the first entry by an entrant is eligible.  The deadline to entry is April 30, 2011 5:00PM Pacific Time.   No entries will be accepted after that time.  It is each entrant’s responsibility to ensure their own ability to use Twitter or email in order to entry this contest. Unfortunately, due to restrictions established by 3DConnexion, only residents of the United States of America are eligible to win.

Additional rules and conditions are as follows.  I will use the free services of RANDOM.ORG to randomly list the entrants of the contest.  The first person on the random list wins the first place; and the second person wins the second place.  Winning placement is for this contest only.  There is no value associated with winning placement.  The prizes are offered by 3DConnexion to the first and second place winners as a matter of their own choice to do so.  3DConnexion is wholly responsible for the issuance of the prizes and their value.  The winners of this contest will be notified at some time following the contest deadline.  Notification will be in the same manner of their entry .  Winners are responsible for their ability to receive such notification.  Logitech and any representatives of SolidWorks Legion are not responsible for service interruption by Twitter, any ISPs, or any other service that may cause an entry or winning notification to not be received.  Winners must respond to the notification with their mailing address (no P.O. Boxes) within 2 weeks from the time that the notification is sent.  If a winner does not respond with the required information within the allotted time, regardless to the reason, they forfeit their winning place and associated prize. The winning place will then move to the next person on the random list.  No person may win more than one prize.  For example, if the first place winner forfeits, then the second person of the random list becomes the first place winner, and the next person after that becomes the second place winner.  After the mailing address information from both winners is received, that information will be forwarded to a representative of 3DConnexion.  Again, the prizes are being given directly from 3DConnexion and they are responsible for the items given as prizes, and for the shipment of the items to the winners.  At no time will any representative of SolidWorks Legion be in possession of prizes nor responsible for any value of the prizes.  No person that is currently a member of the SolidWorks Legion (has directly posted articles on this blog) is eligible to win.  Dassault Systemes and Logitech employees and their families are also not eligible to win.  Any attempt by any individual to game contest rules for unfair advantage or to act in a way that is not in the spirit of this contest will forfeit their entry and any other stakes in this contest.  By entering this contest, the entrant agrees to hold any representative of SolidWorks Legion and Logitech free of any liability in any manner related to this contest.  Also, the entrant agrees to accept and follow all contest rules and accept my decisions regarding this contest as final.  Each person that enters this contest is responsible for their own ability to use the prize if they win.  Chances of winning will be determined by the total number of entrants.

3Dconnexion adds new functionality to existing toys

A few months ago at SolidWorks World 2010, 3DConnexion announced that they are adding 3D mouse capabilities for SolidWorks.  Their 3D mice now have a function that automatically and continuously determines the optimal center of rotation for any current view.  When a model is fully in view, the center of rotation is the center of the model.  When zoomed on a particular area of the model, the center of rotation becomes the center of the view.  This makes the exploration and navigation of the smallest details on the largest models much more intuitive.   This new function is called Auto Rotation Center.



Auto Rotation Center is displayed on the view pane of SolidWorks models or assemblies in the form of a translucent blue bubble.   This bubble has three display states which are chosen by the user under 3Dcontrol pulldown>Properties>Part/Assembly section>Show center drop down.  It may be always displayed, displayed in motion only (when the 3D mice is in use), or never displayed.

I’ve been using this new functionality since Feb 2010 in real world scenarios.  Early on, I did have some initial issues with this function working properly on my computer system and version of SolidWorks.  3Dconnexion did fix the bug I encountered.  Since then, I’ve been impressed with this new function.  So much so that I don’t even remember not using Auto Rotation Center with my SpacePilot PRO.

An additional capability 3Dconnexion has added to their 3D mice is the ability to pick a new center of rotation from a point on the 3D model.  With the Auto View Rotation, I’ve actually not used this other function even once.

So, if you have a 3Dconnexion 3D mouse which is currently supported, I recommend checking out their website to download the latest driver.  Then turn on Auto Rotation Center.

One word of warning, installation of this new driver will wipe out any custom button mappings, so be prepared to remap your device’s buttons.  (This won’t be an issue for new installs, of course.)


SpacePilot PRO 3D Mouse: New Software Updates

3Dconnexion recently announced another free software update for the new SpacePilot PRO 3D mouse.  The most visible portions of this upgrade include new functions called Model Properties Applet and Intelligent Function Key Notification.  Both of these new functions add functionality to the SpacePilot PRO’s LCD.  If there ever was a device feature that needs added functionality, it is the LCD on the SpacePilot PRO.

Model Properties Applet

This new applet enables engineers to quickly view supposed key model information on the SpacePilot PRO’s LCD.  The claim from 3DConnexion is that this somehow increases productivity and makes things easier for workgroups to collaborate. I’m not sure how this applet makes collaboration easier.  The applet just displays fundamental document information on the LCD.  It doesn’t transmit this data or pull information from my PDM.

For a drawing, the function is very basic, indeed.  The applet tells me that I am looking at a drawing (go figure), and shows the computer network name of the drawing’s author, file size, file creation date, file last saved date, and the computer network name of the last person to save the file.  There is nothing particularly “key” or “vital” about any this information.  The applet would be far more useful if it allowed the user to modify the information on the display.  For example, for me key information from a drawing would be a list of particular custom property names and their values, and the name of the model in the dominant pre-defined view (the view from which the part custom property values are derived).

Slightly more useful information is available for models, including mass, volume, material and density.  This same information is displayed for assemblies, though I’m not sure why.  Wouldn’t it be more useful to show me the total number of parts in the assembly, or an estimate on how many seconds would be required for a force rebuild (CTRL-Q)?  My suggestion to 3DConnexion is to completely dump the file information and add these kind of data for all document types.

Intelligent Function Key Notification

This is a fancy name for the fact that the LCD now displays a quick pop-up window which shows the user which button command they activated.  It does this regardless to the applet that is running on the LCD.  This way, the user will always have visual confirmation as to which command they just executed.  This is a moderately useful function for someone who has just finish mapping their programmable buttons and needs queues to help reinforce the memorization of that mapping.  If the user has already memorized their button mapping, this function provides little benefit. For now, I like this function, but I can easily imagine that I will ignore it eventually.

“S” Shortcut key

One bonus for SolidWorks users is that 3DConnexion recently added support for the “S” shortcut key.  It can now be added to the programmable buttons directly without having to create a device macro.  This function was secretly added to the previous software upgrade for the SpacePilot PRO, but 3DConnexion is now bragging about it.  They also stated that this “S” shortcut key support has been added for SpaceExplorer and SpacePilot Speed Keys. My only criticism here is that any key and key-combination should already be supported by the software for these devices.  My 1990’s programmable keyboard supports any key combination in its “PF” keys.  Why are these not fully supported by 3DConnexion’s 21ST Century product offerings?


Having just recently updated my SpacePilot PRO drivers and software with this new announced version, I can say that installation was easier this time around.  In the past, installation has been a bit of a pain.  One problem plaguing the SpacePilot PRO is that its software and drivers need to be the last item installed on your computer.  This means that if any supported application is installed after the SpacePilot PRO software, the SpacePilot PRO software needs to be reinstalled afterwards.  Crazy, huh?  Anyway, this upgrade was pretty painless this time, and I didn’t even lose my programmable key mappings, unlike previous upgrades and re-installs.   New 3DConnexion 3D mice shipped in September 2009 will have the new version of the software and drivers included.  Otherwise, for Windows, download them from this location here.

The Answer to “Who is using 3D Mice?”

The results are in from my previously posted polls.  I have three results from two polls about who’s using 3D mice, and how they got them.  How did I get three results from 2 polls?

Well the first result of the polls is that I really dislike the polling site  I wish wp-polls would work, but it does not right now for my blog.  Oh well.

Ok, with regards to the second poll first, the question was “If you have a 3DConnexion 3D mouse, did you…?

  • …buy it yourself (55 votes)
  • …get it through your company (49 votes)
  • …win it in a contest (14 votes)
  • …receive it as a gift from 3DConnexion (8 votes)
  • …steal it (3 votes)

So, it looks like most users either buy own 3d mouse, or their company bought it for them to use.  I am surprized at the number of people who have bought these devices for themselves.  I guess that says something about the usefulness of such devices.

Something that isn’t really a surprize, but worthy of mention is that 3 people actually admitted to stealing or otherwise obtaining one through some nefarious means.  I added this option to the poll almost as a joke, but I knew someone would come forward, so it was a legit option.  You 3 thieves!  ::shakes fist::  😉

Do you use a 3D mouse with your 3D CAD application?”  The answers to this poll are skewed.  By a wide margin, responders stated they used 3d mice. This was kinda expected since the title of the article naturally drew in such users and likely precluded many of those not interested in 3D mice.  Regardless, here are the results.

  • Yes, everytime I use 3D CAD. (75 votes)
  • No, but I want to. (26 votes)
  • I have one, but I rarely use it, if at all. (21 votes)
  • No, and I don’t want to. (17 votes)
  • Yes, often or sometimes. (12 votes)
  • No, what’s a 3D mouse? (9 votes)

I think I know what the next poll will be.  I use my SpacePilot PRO with SolidWorks (and Google Earth).  With what applications are other people using their devices?

3D Mice, who uses them?

[memedex:pollid#489615] So, I really don’t know when to stop beating a dead horse.  I’m going to talk about 3D mice again.  However, this time, I’ve created a poll to see how many people are even using them with their 3D CAD application.  The reason for this is two-fold.  First, I’m experimenting with the use of polls here at SolidWorks Legion.  Second, I’m curious to see the kind of response this poll will get.  (Note to fellow bloggers, if you have recommendations for WordPress polling plug-ins, please let me know.  For now, I’m using memedex.)

[memedex:pollid#489616] Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  This poll is open to anyone that uses 3D CAD software.  It is not limited to SolidWorks users.  Please respond to this poll.  Also, post any comments you might have about 3d mice or any other peripherals you use frequently.

Also, I have a second poll for those of us who have a 3D Connexion 3D mouse regarding how we obtained said 3D mouse.  For this poll, I’m interested in see the ratio of people who’ve purchased one (for themself or via their company) versus those who have received one through various other means.  Have fun with the polls!

SpacePilot PRO (overreaching? a short Part II)

I recently wrote a review questioning the fact that the SpacePilot PRO is a control device with an LCD screen.  As noted by my fellow blogger Jeff Mirisola of Jeff’s Tool Shed, 3D Connexion recently updated their drivers and software for the SpacePilot PRO.  This update fixed a few bugs in the software related to the saving of settings.  It should be noted that the problem I had with saving settings does not seem to be the same as others, and was minor by comparison.  The problem I found was with my programmable key maps being saved.  This issue was not fixed with the recent upgrade, but I’m not concerned because the workaround is already built-in.  The possible cause of all this is the strange fact that there are more than one program used to control the key mappings. Since I know which program to use to save my key maps, I’m not terribly concerned with it not working in their second program.  The second program doesn’t allow for as many functions to be assigned to the buttons too, which I find odd.

OK, back to the point.  As said, I criticized the existence of an LCD screen on the SpacePilot PRO.  I wondered why the device had one.  It didn’t seem to be of much use.  Well, with the recent update of the 3DConnexion drivers, I take this back.  The LCD screen is now very useful to display key mapping in a very clear and much better organized method.  Now obvious is the function programmed for a particular button.  With this, I’m now able to get use out of the LCD screen, and I am more comfortable with the use of the programmable buttons too.  It really expands the device’s user-friendliness.  So, the only question left (besides making the secondary key mapping program work 100% as expected) is whether this device is worth the $500 price tag.  The price does seem to be pushing the upper limit of what one might expect to pay for a control device, particularly one that doesn’t replace any other control devices (you’ll still need a mouse).

OK, I think I beat this dead horse long enough.  I’ll just close with saying, if you have the need for a 3D mouse, then this is certainly the king of them all!