Best for CAD Work – Mouse, Trackball, 3D Device?
CAD work can sometimes be a long and tedious process, but what better way to make it more interesting and exciting than to have the latest gadgets to assist you as you toil over your latest CAD model?
While on the topic of gadgets (check out this groovy curved screen I wrote about) I stumbled upon some awesome hmm... let's call them input devices, designed specifically for CAD engineers. And if you're spending 8 hours a day staring at CAD models you want a really good monitor and really good and mouse, trackball or one of these over-the-top devices. Here's a run down of those that should be the best for CAD work in my opinion (updated: May 2014).
Let's kick the list off with a humble trackball. TrackMan (pictured above) from Logitech are perfect, humble, well designed, built to last and buying one doesn't break the bank. As @ml13ml commented on Twitter there's no arm movement required, minimal movement of thumb which in the long run means less stress to arm and shoulder muscles. He shot a pic of his own setup of TrackMan and Space Navigator. Price: $56 on Amazon right now.
Next up is an amazing mouse that is built for gamers but with it's 17 buttons gives enough setup options for geek engineers - the Razer Naga. The design is an acquired taste, I personally think it looks awesome and really weird at the same time. Those 12 buttons suggest that a mouse got naughty with a mobile phone… Price: $129 on Amazon right now.
Enough of the boring trackballs and mice, let's bring out the big guns. Belkin's n52te is another loan from the gamers (they always seem in need of more buttons) and what a beast it is. You get fully customizable 15 keys, 3 keymaps, 8-way thumb pad, adjustable wrist pad, the whole thing is backlit and is just bad ass. You use it with your left hand, pointing around with a mouse in your right hand. Should be versatile enough for even the most demanding geek. Price: $80 on Amazon right now.
Leave it to the Germans to top that. Space Controller is a 3D mouse designed specifically for CAD work. Its 3D controller allows one to manipulate an object in all dimensions making panning around, zooming in etc a walk in the park. Plus you get to choose if you want a cap or a ball. Add 17 buttons, LCD screen and again the fact that your right hand is free to use a traditional mouse. It doesn't come cheap but could be a good investment if it saves time. Price: $309
"But that's not all!" as the saying goes. The ultimate device for CAD work must be the SpacePilot Pro. Don't be alarmed by the price (it's $399), I'm sure this thing practically designs stuff on its own. Everything is built around a huge 3D knob, next to that you'll get 21 buttons, big LCD screen, tons of CAD specific functions and ergonomic design. You can use the LCD screen to keep track of your emails, calendar and tasks and keep your main screen clutter free. Best check out their website and demo, this thing is crazy.
The best for CAD work device all comes down to personal preference
While browsing around the web researching for this article I found one interesting comment. Worth considering before you put in an order for that new gadget.
Anyone who uses any Autodesk Autocad knows that typing is a hell of a lot faster than using a mouse to click and drag, especialy when precision is neccissary. I really don't see much value (esp. not $500 worth) using this mouse within Solidworks either. With one hand on a simple two button mouse and the other on the keyboard, on can access any tools you may need at a moments notice. If you really want to get fancy, get a better mouse with a few extra buttons (though I'm not sure how much functionality that would truely add). And if you don't want to clog up yourscreen with a bunch of garbage you don't need at the time, get a second monitor, it does me wonders!
What's your weapon of choice? Let us know in the comments!
If you're in to CAD and customizing your workstation the way you want it, you might like: Engineering Your Own Kick-Ass CAD Workstation Build on a Budget
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