3D Mouse for CAD work


I am a product design student who thoroughly enjoys CAD. I currently use Solid Works, I find it a very useful piece of software as it allows me to create models that my clients can see in 3d as apposed to sketch work.

For some time? I have been considering buying a 3d Mouse to aid the speed and ease of my work, I was wondering if anyone on here currently use a 3D mouse; if so what model, how they found it to start and if they have got used to using the second hand.

Finally, I was wondering if anybody knows of somewhere where I could possible try the mouse before wondering bought it.

Thanks for reading, hope to hear your guys opinions.


I’ve tried the spacemouse products and frankly I never got comfortable enough to use them.

I use keyboard hot keys way too much and the added benefit of the 3 axis mouse never really became necessary so I stuck them in a drawer never to use again.

I’ve owned a 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator for a couple of years and I have to admit the thing is just a gimmick. It is handy when showing 3D files to others who would like to take over the “wheel”, but it doesn’t help speed up my work.

I wouldn’t go that route if I were you. A Cintiq is just as great, if not better for CAD, and you can sketch with it too!

I use a 3Dconnexion Space Explorer when I do SolidWorks. I found an increase in working speed, and more importantly less discomfort in my mouse hand. Think about it - holding down a mouse button with one finger for long periods just to pan and rotate a model generates tension in that finger and your whole hand for stabilizing that finger. The learning curve was not bad. I don’t use all the other buttons, just the main dial and sometimes the ‘ortho’ switches, but I think its better having the larger base vs just the knob versions. There are claims of up to 50% faster due to separating the clicking from the navigating, that might be generous but the people who mentioned those figures (respected prod dev agency in Seattle) are very solid CAD jockeys.

Cameron, please explain how you will do CAD with a Cintiq, and have it be better than using your left hand for supplementary functions.

Its also pretty amazing with Google Earth.

A Cintiq is kind of irrelevant when the price tag is $1k for the baby Cintiq vs a few hundred for the top of the line space mouse.

Tools like Alias were originally designed primarily for pen input, so a Cintiq is valuable there, though for most usage the mouse is still the quickest.

I use a SpacePilot for Rhino work. Good for views, best of all for matching a model to a background image plate. Nothing beats that. Speed improvement, none. Enjoyment, a bit. I can see how holding down the mouse button to pan rotate and zoom creates tension.

The base model of the 3D is the way to go, the other buttons I never use.

As mentioned above, a Cintiq is definitely more money ($2000 for the 22HD, don’t bother with the 12" version, it stinks). However, it impacts your entire workflow positively and IMO is still better for CAD itself. If you have professional work to do or can afford it, I highly recommend it.

Do you mean actually using the pen on the screen in CAD software? I can’t picture doing that. CAD isnt typically using gestural interaction.

I have the 24HD and a CAD project to bust out tmrw so i guess ill report back.

I was also thinking about buying a 3D mouse a while ago but decided on a Logitech M570 trackball in the end. No improvement on workflow but my hand and wrist are much happier on a busy day. Kind of makes sense too, all the small finicky adjustments you make in 3D are much better done with fingers than with wrists.

I got a 3Dconnection SpaceExplorer at work without asking for it, but now I can’t live without it. Seriously, I can’t stand rotating the model with the mouse any longer.
I do use the buttons on it, ctrl, shift, alt, esc and “fit to view”. The only one I have added myself is “rotate to normal” (ctrl+8) in Solidworks. I hardly ever need to take my hands of the spacemouse and the mouse, and often it is the right hand that gets moved to the numpad to punch in a dimension when needed. The left one moves only to sip coffee.
There are bigger fancier versions like the SpacePilot, but I don’t want it to take up to much desk space either.

Those who say it’s just a gimmick and doesn’t speed up workflow probably aren’t very used to it, because it does take time. I think it took about a week or 2 of serious use and you start to get it. I found it helps to think of it like you’re holding the model in your hand, so when you push it forward - you zoom out.

The cintiq argument is just ridiculous. I can understand it substituting the mouse itself, but not the 3D mouse.

Oh, and it being handy for “handing over the wheel” is just nonsense. As most mentioned they never got comfortable with it, and the person who is not even used to CAD will touch it, send the model 2000 miles away out of view, and let you get back to work.

I use the little puck one and really like it. I’d reckon about 50% of the designers at our studio use one t00.

First, it makes CAD a little more enjoyable. it takes a week to get used to it, but then it’s really easy

As Slippyfish points out, it’s way more ergonomic - if you’ve ever had CTRL button pinky finger, you know what I’m talking about

SpaceMouse used to send out demo units on loan, so you could try it out. Maybe they still do?

I’m looking for a new solid, accurate, fast mouse.

Any recommendations?

I second the Space Navigator from 3D Connexion. I think it’s increased my speed 10%. When I’m working on complex geometry, it’s hard to navigate to where I need to be to see a small change or how some surfaces join.

I wouldn’t go for a model with a bunch of buttons. I found the 2 buttons on the Navigator to be a pain to set up and half the time they don’t seem to work right anyways.

I’ve already used Solidworks with a 22HD Cintiq for over a hundred hours probably. It’s awesome. I don’t even have a mouse at work for anything. No need. I think no matter the CAD program, Cintiqs are great. =)

I’ve got to give that a try… have a cintiq and wanted to add an intuos for general desktop stuff but thought it might not work (two styluses, etc).

guess you just have to commit to it for a while and get used to the differences

Pretty sure I’ve done that - Cintiq plus Intuos - in the past and its worked fine. I tried using a pen on screen with SolidWorks, and while its kind of nice for drawing splines I can’t see how its any faster or more comfortable for CAD, not to mention the rest of the human-machine interface. To each their own.