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Technological progress to positively impact quality of life: 3D mice in use at Ottobock

For CAD users, faster and more precise interaction with digital content and 3D models is becoming increasingly important: the trend is to use 3D input devices in combination with a CAD-optimized mouse. The medical technology company Ottobock relies on solutions from 3Dconnexion.

To this day, a plaster impression is still made in order to adapt prostheses to patients in the best possible way. However, 3D scanners and printers that support tailor-made prosthesis production are far more pleasant and quicker. For Ottobock, headquartered in Duderstadt, Lower Saxony, the goal in R&D is the following: to make tangible progress out of what is technically feasible, and to set new and better standards in the care of people with disabilities, thereby increasing their quality of life.

Microprocessor-controlled leg prosthesis from Ottobock for smooth and safe movement (Image: Ottobock)

Hand prosthesis by Ottobock for gripping movements at work and at play (Image: Ottobock)

Ottobock consistently focuses on digitization and the use of innovative technologies to ensure that people with disabilities maintain or regain their mobility—from design development on the computer to the use of artificial intelligence for the intuitive control of prostheses. Ottobock also uses the most advanced methods in the company-internal design for the benefit of the user, i.e. its own employees. The products from 3Dconnexion, a manufacturer of powerful, ergonomic input devices for CAD and 3D professionals, are an important part of this.

Ottobock employs around 150 people in the design, spread out over ten development sites. They develop, construct and optimize medical products such as prostheses, orthotics, wheelchairs, and exoskeletons, working closely with mechatronics engineers, mechanics, biomechanical engineers, and orthopaedists to improve users’ lives. The task of CAD users includes, for example, the development of design concepts using 3D modelling, which serves to develop novel shaft systems for prostheses. This results in an interesting and varied but also challenging job for the employees, who are supported by Ottobock with state-of-the-art workstations.

As a 3D CAD solution, Ottobock mainly uses the Creo Parametric 3D modelling software from the technology company PTC. The solution offers an intuitive interface and a wide range of powerful, yet flexible, 3D CAD features that allow users to accelerate the design of parts and assemblies. In addition to Creo, Ottobock also uses the 3D CAD applications SOLIDWORKS xDesign and CATIA from the software company Dassault Systèmes.


Ottobock relies on high-end solutions from 3Dconnexion

Users at Ottobockmainly use products from 3Dconnexion as input devices—something the company learned at an event organized by PTC.

«After a short test of the 3D mice and a final, very positive assessment, we immediately decided to introduce the 3Dconnexion solutions for interested employees.» explains Markus Schneegans, Production Engineer in Mechanical Engineering Development at Ottobock in Duderstadt.

Currently, about 70 percent of all CAD workstations at Ottobock are equipped with products from 3Dconnexion. Specifically, the SpaceMouse Enterprise, SpaceMouse Pro and SpaceMouse Pro Wireless models are used. A CadMouse or CadMouse Wireless is used to replace the standard mouse.

Ottobock relies on high-end solutions from 3Dconnexion (Image: Ottobock)

SpaceMouse Enterprise and SpaceMouse Pro for real-time 3D engineering

The SpaceMouse Enterprise is 3Dconnexion’s most powerful 3D input device. One of the key technical features is the six-degrees of freedom (6DoF) sensor patented by 3Dconnexion. It enables precise navigation in 3D models or views — of all industry-leading CAD applications. Push, pull or tilt the controller cap to intuitively pan, zoom and rotate 3D models. The mouse has twelve intelligent function keys, which are automatically adjusted as soon as the user switches the application. The LCD color display visualizes the function key assignment using the current symbols from the respective application. In addition, there are three programmable CustomView buttons, each of which stores an individually defined screen view which can then be accessed at the touch of a button. There are also five QuickView buttons with ten standard views. Thus, the user can actively switch between standardized and individual perspectives.

Ottobock also uses the SpaceMouse Pro, which has all the standard functions, for effortless and precise processing of demanding projects. SpaceMouse Pro Wireless is also used for wireless work, with a battery life of up to two months.

Ottobock designers use the CadMouse and CadMouse Wireless models tailored to CAD specific requirements to replace the classic standard mice. These models provide a dedicated middle mouse button for frequently used commands and CAD-specific functions such as SmartScroll or QuickZoom. QuickZoom allows users to easily zoom and centre their model with just one click of the thumb button. Another advantage of CadMouse products is that the centre button is much more comfortable to use and requires less exertion than a conventional mouse wheel.


Two-handed workstyle improves ergonomics

According to Schneegans, the key advantages of using 3D mice in the CAD area are ergonomics and user comfort, which support more efficient working habits. From an ergonomic point of view, the user benefits first and foremost from the two-handed working method which distributes the usual one-sided load to both hands. This has a positive effect on posture as in general, the designer automatically sits more upright. In addition, working with two hands is more comfortable and faster. Users can zoom, rotate and move their model with one hand in a single, flowing motion, while working with the other hand using a classic standard mouse or CadMouse.

If a company wants to use 3D input devices and a CAD-optimized mouse with common CAD and 3D applications, Schneegans believes 3Dconnexion is the only alternative: «The company’s products support intuitive, precise and effortless navigation in 3D environments, and enable fast and above all comfortable and pleasant work methods. In our opinion, they currently have a unique selling point in the market.

The 3D mice from 3Dconnexion also demonstrate their benefits in combination with Creo Parametric. They enable smooth 3D navigation and greatly simplify product modelling and product design. For example, the majority of the mouse clicks that occur when a conventional mouse is used one-handed become unnecessary and superfluous. In addition, Creo functions can be accessed at the touch of a button, since users can assign keyboard commands to the programmable function keys.

Creo users also benefit greatly from 3Dconnexion solutions with the automatic detection of the centre of rotation. To simplify the operation of CAD applications, 3Dconnexion has developed «Intelligent 3D Navigation» which detects the optimum rotation point and automatically places it in the centre of the screen. This is regardless of whether a designer works with large models or focuses on details. This makes manually setting the rotation point unnecessary and the user benefits from more precise navigation.