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3Dconnexion created a true CadMouse, is it worth it?

If you search “computer mouse” on Amazon, you end up with a search result a hair over 51,000. Now, we all know that half could be trash, so adding a few key words, such as “programmable” and “Scroll wheel” you get a more comfortable number. Thinking that we all expect to get what we pay for, and assuming that if you have read this far, you will agree that anything under $25 is probably not worth our time. Then we end up with 153 different computer mouses ranging from $25 to $100. None of these will claim that they are specifically for CAD; for that you will have to go and visit 3Dconnexion.


There have been a few 3Dconnexion items reviewed here on and I will have to say that I’m a fan. But, this CadMouse of theirs is going head-to-head with my trusted Logitech Performance Mouse MX (that is a $99 match) and my other CAD champion, Logitech M705 (battery life is 2+ years). Don’t give me pretty pictures and stainless steel; when it comes down to a mouse for CAD, it’s all about performance and functions. My test: modeling parts and assemblies, fixtures, work holding and programming using Autodesk’s Inventor and Inventor HSM for the 2016 launch. 2 weeks of burning deadline of CAD and CAM.

Antone from wrote a great article back in August 2014 “Best mouse for CAD” This was written before 3Dconnexion released their CadMouse. Antone broke his article down into the following categories:

  • Wireless or USB
  • Scrollwheel
  • Brand
  • Ergonomic
  • Mouse resolution DPI
  • Thumb button (extra buttons)
  • Mouse sensitivity
  • Going the extra mile

I think Antone has defined a pretty good standard for a mouse used with CAD so I’m going to borrow that.

Wireless or USB
The CadMouse is USB. Frankly, I was a little surprised; I thought every mouse today was wireless. But, I have been told that there is places where IT do not approve of the wireless option. I have to admit, that after two weeks I have no reason for specifically wanting wireless. Of course, when traveling, it is different. I will still take my M705 with me when going on the road.

Antone points out “The wheel, as you may know, is incredibly helpful for panning and zooming.” The 3DConnexion Cadmouse’s scrollwheel does this as good as any other brand, but the CadMouse comes with an undoubtedly big advantage: a middle (third) mouse button just for these functions. The only way I can explain this enhancement is that after 2 weeks it feels utterly stupid to use the standard scrollwheel on a regular mouse for panning and zooming.

I have been a pretty loyal Logitech user for the past 6 years, after a less favorable experience with a Microsoft mouse that cost me a fortune in batteries. I guess the test of time will paint the picture for the CadMouse, but if the other 3Dconnexion products should be indicators, I’ll say things are looking good.

The CadMouse has a good fit for my hand, but this is one thing that I truly believe is a preference. As Antone puts in his article, the best mouse is the one that feels good in your hand.

The higher DPI, the more precise and the faster reaction. I did a little research, and it seems like Logitech is working on a 12,000 dpi model, but most online gamers are claiming the anything around 4000 dpi is more than anyone needs. The CadMouse has 8200 dpi. When was the last time you complained about the accuracy of your mouse? I have to admit I don’t remember complaining about this since I had a mouse with one of those roller balls that always needed to be cleaned.

Thumb buttons (extra buttons)
Beside the awesome middle mouse button mentioned earlier, the CadMouse has two buttons above the thumb. Factory has their default programmed as zoom +/-. I did find the zoom-out helpful a few times, but the zoom in seems useless. Luckily, every button can be customized on this thing. There is also a button located on the top of the mouse, behind the scrollwheel. This button has a real cool circle menu (see beneath) that also can be customized to pretty much any function you’d like. I guess my biggest complaint is the placement of this button (same as for Logitech). I have never been able to find a comfortable way to click it.
middle button wheel

Mouse sensitivity
Antone suggests adjusting the mouse sensitivity in Windows. You can also do this from within the 3Dconnexion interface that comes with the CadMouse. Personally, I run my mouse super fast. My preference is that I can reach from one corner of my monitor to the opposite corner with a swing of my wrist.

Going the extra mile
$99 is a lot of money for a mouse, especially since most computers ship with one for free. However, if you are doing CAD all day, you are going to hold hands with this device all day. In this case, I believe that the money spent on a good mouse is worth it.

So, is the 3Dconnexion CadMouse worth it? I believe it is. It’s very comfortable to use, and is beautifully designed. Also, it has a few functions that raise it above a standard mouse, like the dedicated middle mouse button for panning and rotating. However, if you are already using a high-end mouse, like the Logitech Performance Mouse MX, the extra functions might not be beneficial enough for the upgrade. A test drive might be in order.

Antone’s review on
3DConnexion CadMouse
Logitech Performance Mouse MX

How to learn SolidWorks 2014


“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi

We have all been in situations where a new skill was required, and some are easy through trial an error. I for example will never forget the 1st time I had to change a car tire, it happened on a country road a late raining evening. I learned really quick by being focused on the least amount of steps and end objective.

CAD is different, not only are you dealing with more than 5 bolts and the decision of what is front and back. You are dealing with “best” practices and modeling techniques, hundreds of functions that all could be a productivity gainer in the right application.
Spending a lot of time by using “Good old” trial and error and poking around with out some supervision is just going to end up being costly very quickly.
As a certified SolidWorks instructor I do believe classroom training is the most effective. You can’t replace the interaction between instructor and student, questions can be answered and conversations can be directed and focused on what the student specifically does in their respected industry.
However there is many times where in class training is not possible or desired. Price can defiantly play a role, but also distance, schedules and deadlines can be key opponents. This is where online video training might become your best bet.
Infinite Skills has for years provided best in class video training. One of the reasons is because they make sure to stay up to date on new software versions and using 1st class instructors.

Infinite Skills: Learning SolidWorks 2014.
1st of Infinite Skills has done the job yet again using an experienced, passionate instructor.
Dean Kerste is a Certified SolidWorks Expert who in the daytime is a college instructor with a Ph.D and in his spare time runs Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio SolidWorks User Group.
This gives you a truly SolidWorks guru who knows how to teach but maybe more importantly is passinate about what he teaches. That’s a delightful combination for a low priced highly useful training tool.

skitchDean Kerste has recorded over 7 hours of 112 timely sectioned SolidWorks videos.

Quick look…
It is obvious that the content of Learning SolidWorks 2014 will give you a solid start modeling using SolidWorks.
As seen above the course is broken down into very manageable steps. Starting with a basic chapter that takes the student to a good starting place and then progresses into an Intermediate chapter with working files that can be downloaded.
These working files really enhances the learning experience as the student now get to get their own hands dirty. With the one function video training has over classroom training, the user can replay the training material as many times as desired.
Of course another great benefit is that you can dictate when the training is going on, resulting in pausing the video when the customer calls or the boss walks in the room.
skitchAs the student is getting deeper into modeling parts the benefits of the experienced instructor Dean Kerste is he is taking them from where to begin into the world of best design intent, the importance of CAD relations and how to to best edit a part (I have still yet to experience a design that did not have a revision at some point).
12 Each timely sectioned SolidWorks video takes you from the basics into SolidWorks Part modeling, SolidWorks Assemblies finally how to detail those SolidWorks Drawings.
3 And as a proof for the dedication and acquired 3D SolidWorks knowledge the student also receive a nice certificate, that if you where my boss for sure could expect me to bring at my next review.

So to recap with Infinite Skills, Learning SolidWorks 2014 you get:

* A Ph.D College Instructor teaching in your tempo at your time schedule
* Taking you from the beginning through 7 hours of SolidWorks training
* With working material that can be downloaded that lets you get your hands dirty
* At the end provides you with a certificate proving you went through the course

As I said earlier, I believe that classroom training has many advantages, but sometimes it is just not possible or in the best interest for a company at that moment. With the price for these video lesson, the quality and the instructor there is not much to loose. Check out Learning SolidWorks 2014

GrabCAD Workbench Professional now has SolidWorks add-in

GrabCAD might have been your favorite hub for cool 3D models but has become so much more with their new “collaboration/Dropbox on steriods” Workbench feature.

From GrabCAD

Workbench gives user the capabilities to automatically sync their desktop files to cloud projects, lock files,
manage file versions, visualize version differences, resolve conflicts and more.

With the SolidWorks addin, Workbench users can upload and download files as well as resolve conflicts from within SolidWorks. SolidWorks is the first CAD system supported because it is the most popular among current Workbench users. GrabCAD plans to support other CAD systems in the future and is in discussion with major CAD vendors.

1st of the SolidWorks add-in is not free but very affordable (Check pricing beneath). It is awesome when someone decides to push the envelope and challenge the way we all work. GrabCAD has decided to do this! Success always comes when you step outside your comfort zone. So if you haven’t go test it out!
Grabcad Pricing

Let the SpaceMouse navigate your 3D creation

A beautiful well designed productivity tool from 3DConnexion.

Personal Experience…
About 5 years ago I found myself as a 9 hour a day CAD/CAM jockey with only minutes through the day allocated for lunch and bathroom breaks. Sounds familiar?.
At the end of each day I found my right hand hurting and getting numb from performing the daily tasks of mouse clicking edges, faces, rotate and other SolidWorks related commands through a day of cool CAD files.
I knew I had to do something, this was my carrier and with 30+ years left in the working arena this could not be ignored. To my relief the help was just around the corner. With a $100 out of pocket I received an awesome new CAD friend Named SpaceNavigator from 3DConnexion.

Check out the new SpaceMouse from 3DConnexion.

When I 1st read about the 3D mouse being wireless I really thought no big deal, but after taking the new SpaceMouse for a test run I realized that I am a laptop guy that takes my CAD machine around with me daily. Then the price difference of $30 +/- seems well worth not having to plug and unplug since these devices seem to hang around your desk for awhile. On top of that the programmable buttons now have a “SolidWorks Mouse Gesture” like thing. This takes your two buttons and like quadruple them. Cooler than cool.

I am a big fan of these devices. They are very well built and the design is pleasant for the eyes, which should be important when located on a designers desk.

Free CAM:Delcam for SolidWorks Xpress

I guess it is alright being late to the party if you are the only one who knows there is one.
Delcam for SolidWork Xpress (DelcamXpress as I choose to call it) has been out since May 2013 but hasn’t gotten nearly the same attention as when HSMWorks released their free version back in 2011. With HSMWorks being bought by Autodesk one could question how long this product will be supported on the SolidWorks platform, and therefore a look at this 2.5 Axis Free CAM might be in its place.

1st thing to point out is that DelcamXpress does all its work in a SolidWorks Assembly mode. This gives you the option to also include fixture, vises, tables etc.
I also like to point out that the software easily takes you through the steps of selection your stock (Solid Body, Bounding Box, Bounding Cylinder, Selected Edges and Centered Block) and gives you really good options to select and control your pickup point(Work Coordinate, G54 etc).

Your selection for toolpaths is pretty basic. “Hole” and “Face” should be easy enough to understand.
“Side” is side milling, but also here you can select SolidWorks sketches as such you can borrow with “Convert Entities” and of course create your own.
“Feature” toolpath can be used to quickly select your cuts if the SolidWorks model has been created with machine intent. Such as a cut in SolidWorks is also directly a mill pocket.
Last one is “Setup” this option will let you create more than one setup (Have not tested to see if this could be used for an indexing move).

Creating toolpaths and navigating through the menus has a nice flow to it. The biggest thing is you are picking the same faces to machine as was created doing the design, by selecting those SolidWorks faces. No Import/Export into another software, conversion of data etc.

For my short dry-run all the normal parameters (or Attributes as Delcam calls it) for adjustments was found easy at hand, and the tool manager has a good starting point of tools with options to add your own.

DelcamXpress has similarities to the SolidWorks FeatureManager Tree. Easy to oversee and you can drag and drop operations.
Also worth to note that the stock removal simulation is pleasant to the eye.

DelcamXpress even has gouge protection as I might experienced once or twice 🙂

Free learning tools are right at hand via the SolidWorks taskpane and Delcam’s yourtube channel. With a list of very useful videos getting you up quickly.
I believe you get what you pay for most of the time, but it has been proven that plenty of people can get by with free CAM. I think that is awesome! So if you are tinkering around with things where this would be a fit, only a little learning time will be needed to be machining steel.
Another thought could be you are a standalone kinda CAM guy who would like to see what all of this integrated CAM is about.
All I can say is go download it. It is free

Learn SolidWorks by the right kind of SolidWorks Geek

Most people will agree that SolidWorks is an fairly easy software to learn, however at the same time you will find few who will claim they master the software fully.

Could you imagine have one of the best as your dedicated trainer and of top of that he will follow your schedule?
“Learning SolidWorks 2011” by Alex Ruiz.

I was very excited when I received a copy of the DVD for the purpose of this blog post. Being employed by a SolidWorks reseller and very familiar with the in depth training programs SolidWorks has written for the reseller network.
My question to myself was, is it really possible to record and distribute a training DVD for SolidWorks that will not have the same destiny as late 80’s and 90’s home workout VHS tapes that is sitting in the corner of the garage.

You get more than you pay for…
This is a DVD that contains 96 movies what totals up to 11.5 hours of SolidWorks “Learn Geek tricks” material. I tell you it is not packed with a ton, but with tons of great stuff. You will not find yourself thinking that you got to the end quick on this one.
You learn from the 1st chapter, and then you learn from the next one, oh and that was a great trick, let me just watch one more chapter…you will forget about time and with a smile inhale SolidWorks knowledge.

First the technical stuff. The DVD starts right up with a very easy menu to navigate. The quality of both graphics and sound is very professional. You can easily switch, rewind and choose from fly-out menus that quickly disappear out of the way.

Before we drill into what some of the material on this DVD is, it is important that you have a chance to be familiar with the instructor. In the SolidWorks community Alex Ruiz is known as The SolidWorks Geek. A highly regarded nick name in a 3D modeling software community, that is very well fit for this guy. As his blog The SW Geek has a big selection of articles, interviews, tutorials and tips that also gave birth to a SolidWorks Geek community SW Geeks that offers forums, chat and even its own store. And to round this up as for Alex Ruiz as an educator, he has been around the blog before as author of a book SolidWorks 2010: No Experience Required

The DVD begins at the beginning, really it does…
Very cool that the DVD start by showing the steps of instalation and also give some tips and best practices. Further more going through some of the tools found in the Windows Start->SolidWorks 2011->SolidWorks Tool folder. And the different message windows that comes at you when you open SolidWorks for the first time.

As you can see in the picture above, the content of the DVD covers a vast variety of key topics when it comes to learning SolidWorks. Alex Ruiz is taking you for a ride where he will shares his knowledge of key functions, helpful tips and best practices.
Learn about assemblies

Alex does a very theral explanation on everything from the user interface to detail functions such as using favorites with Hole Wizard. So if you are not familiar with functions as the “S” key or moving around the part while holding shift+ctrl and hitting 3d gnom . You will find this DVD helpful….I guarantee that many seasoned SolidWorks users would pickup a big stack of knowledge from this round shiny data storage device.
Learn about exploded views

I have to admit that there was times I thought “The Geek” was spending to much time on details, such as I recorded 8 minutes was spend explaining the SolidWorks measuring tool, or going through explanation of each type of sketch arc available. The truth is that with 11.5 hours and exceptional topic selection its alright.
Learn about BOM in drawings

So by popping in this disc you can learn about Parts, assemblies but also how to add decals, or what about eDrawings and Pack and Go functions.

Alex Ruiz sayes. Its a fact of life, like death and taxes. you WILL have to edit your parts. And then all you have to do is pay attention and he will give you a good doze of wisdom on how to handle this at times difficult task.

Alex talks about Part properties, best practice and then recommend that you talk to your CAD manager or PDM manager. Check with your company he says. That is good solid quality advice in my book. Not what you might expect getting out of a DVD.
Learn about rendering

I strongly believe that you can not replace class room training. The interaction between student and instructor. On occasion taking the lesson from the SolidWorks interface to a white board. Of course a DVD is not going to replace this, but “Learning SolidWorks 2011” by Alex Ruiz could absolutely be the piece of learning material that could spice up your CAD department for some easy refresher training. Or the part time SolidWorks user who will find it like having the SW Geek dusting of the spiderwebs of tasks not crafted often. The price of this DVD is less than a normal families weekly grocery trip…Dudes and Geeks…You get more than you pay for.

To purchase this this product click here

SpacePilot PRO and 12 days later

It is time to do a re-review of the SpacePilot PRO. When it was announced the 16th of this month I had only had a few hours with this almost futuristic device.
3Dconnexion makes a quality product, that was already clear for me when I last year purchased the $100 Space Navigator, from the packaging to the product itself it just feels right, the new SpacePilot PRO is no exception.
I did a little head scratch at first in regards to how I would like to set up the SpacePilot PRO. I use a Logitech MX Mouse what is a top of the line mouse, that in itself have 5 programmable buttons. The dilemma is that with the introduction of the “S” key in Solidworks, and custom “right” mouse button in Mastercam ~read here~ I really do not use many programmable buttons or hot-keys.
Then I remembered the reason in the 1st place I had purchased the SpaceNavigator and the MX Mouse, I had started feeling the 1st sign of the wear and tear all this clicking we do, especially with a $15 Dell mouse. So with a SpacePilot PRO on my left with all these cool functions I decided that the Spacepilot PRO should do the work and the mouse only purpose should be to point. Thinking that maybe out there is a CAD guy with a terrible crumbled mouse hand.
So with “Left” mouse click on programmable button number 1 and “Right” mouse click on button number 3 (seemed most comfortable) I fired up Mastercam, I need to point out the Controller cap can not only rotate you part but with a forward and backward motion, it will also zoom in and out.
I was surprised how fast my brain got use to this setup, and I actually kinda liked it, but it wasn’t near perfect by no means, the programmable button will not work when trying to highlight something by holding down the left mouse button while windowing, and though to my surprise if you minimize Mastercam or Solidworks and work in a Excel Spreadsheet the programable left mouse button on the SpacePilot PRO still works, but the rhythm of double clicking with you left pinky is quit hard working in the Windows environment.
After 3 days working like this I decided that my condition is not that bad, so I made a setup that utilized the SpacePolit PRO and MX Mouse more as intended. There is a button that can turn on or off the rotation function on the controller cap, something I found very useful when working with 2D Geometry in Mastercam. Also need to note that there are views missing when using it in Mastercam, but supposedly that is a Mastercam issue check out this link.
How to fix Mastercam views for SpacePilot PRO
On the Solidworks side there was also some issues discovered, personally I did not do much Solidworks this past week, but Jeff Mirisola did 2 great blog post on the SpacePilot PRO. The 2nd one is about the SpacePilot PRO continues to loose its programmable key mapping, what quickly makes it a very expensive Space~Navigator (THIS NEED FIXING) check out Jeff Mirisola’s writing.
3Dconnexion’s Newest offering
Dear SolidWorks & 3Dconnexion

The workstation I am using for Solidworks and Mastercam are not connected to the internet, so I did not really have a change get an opinion about some of the online features but Alex R. Ruiz also known as the Solidworks geek, wrote what I thought was the best review on the SpacePilot PRO and in that pointed out that the LCD Screen do not notify you with email or twitter updates, something that I think we where some that had got the impression it would, check out Alex R. Ruiz’s writing.
Review: 3Dconnexion SpacePilot PRO 3D Mouse

I find the buttons on the SpacePilot PRO a little hard to press, and the “Fit” key is a little out of reach for my small hand. I am not sure I get the four vertical molded lines on the controller cap, it seems like they are 30 to 50 degrees off for my fingers to rest on them for at comfortable grip, actually thinking about it I did have the Space~Navigator slightly turned because of this
Overall I still think this is a great product(Solidworks need fixing), at $499 and as a single parent the money would probably go to my daughters dance classes, but if I had a company and I was determent to be using the equipment the professional uses, then the SpacePilot PRO should be in the budget for sure.

SpacePilot PRO is here, and you want one!

SpacePilot PRO is here, the latest creation in the 3D mouse world.
~Don’t forget you brain needs oxygen, breath, and yeah this is way cool~.

Back in the end of 2008 I wrote a little thing that included a product from 3Dconnexion “Who dare talking about money”
As I stated in that post my experience with the Navigator from 3Dconnexion has been good, but oh boy, this thing is out of comparison. SpacePilot PRO is the new flagship from 3Dconnexion and it is defiantly not a rowboat, 3Dconnexion has created something here that for sure will get your toes tickle.

Never used a 3D Mouse?
The number one thing with a 3D mouse is the dynamic rotation, you spin your model around with ease, its like you are holding the part in you left hand while you poke at the model with your mouse. Think about how many times you press the different view buttons in a work day, with a 3D Mouse views becomes secondary.
Back in the day I became a big fan of shortcut keys in Mastercam, and yep also here SpacePilot PRO is loaded and ready with totally programmable keys, “Analyze Distance” 1 click, “Create Line” 1 click, you pick the functions you use most and with a easy interface you set it up to you personal preference, it is like all your old “hotkeys” are now in planted in your fingertips~Welcome to the future~.
But that is not all, what about email, twitter or you calendar reminder? the cool looking LCD screen will with a quick glance give you a update on what is going on outside the model you are working on, no minimizing your window to see a stupid email that there is doughnuts in the break room, that will be gone anyways because you are located in the dungeon they call the basement.
Another thing that really struck me as cool when I saw the screen shots of this model is it can be used by left handed people, something that really must have been frustrating in the past.
So if you are sitting staring at a CAD model more that a couple off hours a day I would highly recommend you to look in the direction of 3Dconnexion, like you would never agree to drive cross country only steering with you right hand, why should you limit yourself to only control your model with your regular mouse.

The real thing…….
With the review model arriving only one work day before this release post, my use have been limited to about 4 hours with the new SpacePilot PRO.
3DConnexion states it takes about 1 week to be comfortable with the SpacePilot, and there is no doubt that my daily use with the navigator makes things a lot easier. I will post another review of the SpacePilot Pro in about a week, when I got a couple of more hours under my belt, but with a few hours of use I will with out a doubt recommend this product.
A few things that stands out.
This product is so easy installed, you are kinda surprised that something this high tech can install this smooth. And just check what this product is pre-packed with.
Dynamic Rotation speed:
You can adjust the speed of the dynamic rotation on the fly, something that really comes super handy when switching between software’s like Solidworks and Mastercam where the SpacePilot PRO is a great enhancement.
Function key in LCD screen:
Switching between Solidworks and Mastercam you like function keys to be a little different, a quick glance on the LCD screen, and you are quickly with out interruption reminded of the keys location on the SpacePilot PRO.
Quick keys:
Never realized how my left hand always seems to be resting on the Esc button on the keyboard, how nice that the SpacePilot PRO is equipped with its own Esc button right for your pinky.

Overall (for a short test) I give this product a very high score, its all about the details, and 3Dconnexion is dishing out a very high standard product here.

For more information visit 3Dconnexion

Who dare talking about money?

Me, fact is that many bigger companies have a budget running from calender year to calender year, and that means time is almost up, and before I show you what I purchased this past year let me just say that I work in a company where the IT yearly budget is calculated from leftover quarters in the coffee can, well that is not true (Its work in progress) but a few years back I was talking about graphics cards and got a list of $50 to $100 graphics cards and was asked which one I wanted, if I back then had said what I really wanted there would have been a lot of laughter, not so much more but I still don’t have it, yep work in progress. So when it came to do minor IT purchases this past year, I took matter in own hands, 1st of all I was sick and tired of using a $15 Dell mouse so I bought the mother of all mouses, thinking that I am the one using it every day, and if I got fired I would just take it with me. Well SAVE YOU RECEIPT because the next day when the boss saw this awesome mouse he crapped his pans and told me that he hoped I had the receipt because he would gladly pay for it, not claiming that this will work for you, but hey if not then at least you have the cool gadget.
So here is what I bought, and I tell you …….. if you buy these and are not satisfied I’m almost willing to buy them back from you. I can not explain how happy I have been with these 3 items I am going to show you, they have really made my work day with Mastercam and Solidworks so much better.

1) MX Logitech mouse, this thing has 5 programmable buttons, I got like “S” key in Solidworks, Isometric and top views in both Mastercam and Soldiworks, I can jump to “Desktop”……. pure awesome.
Here is the link to MX Mouse

2) 3Dconnection SpaceNavigator, this thing is just as awesome as the mouse, wow you are like working in another universe, this model has also programmable buttons, I got “Measure” in bought Mastercam and Solidworks, again the “S”key in Solidworks and “Level Manager” in Mastercam.
Here is the link to 3DConnection

3) Last thing is the mouse pad for true CAD/CAM guy, not those cheap once with a kitty on them. Kinda funny that you don’t realize how importen this thing is until you have tried this one.
The link to Razer

I realize that the picture I stole from the web do not do these product justices., but in my opinion they are every dollar worth.