I am always looking for ways to make my work and that of other SolidWorks users more easy and fun. For that I search for new and genius working methodologies but also for new gadgets. This sometimes means that my desk is filled with new “toys” to test and determine if it will make me more productive and even more important when it makes life more fun.
I recently found a Dell multi-touch monitor on my desk with the message to see if it makes sense to use it in combination with SolidWorks. This was a test I was really looking forward too because I’m a great fan of using touch enabled devices. And already since SolidWorks 2010 special functionality has been added to the software to support multi-touch with a set of multi-touch gestures.
The first thing I noticed was that the day the screen came in my office was crowded, everyone was curious how it worked and wanted to play with it. This gave me a good perception how popular touchscreen devices are. Also looking at my kids interacting with touch devices convinced me that this is the way to go in the near future.
The first impression of the screen is good, HD resolution and clear and vibrant colors. But what I also found out is that when you are used to touch native operating systems like IOS and Android that standard Windows 7 has some drawbacks in working with touchdevices. For instances the close, minimize and start buttons a smaller then your fingertip and placed in the corner which makes it difficult to reach because of the bezel of the screen. Installing the developer preview of Windows 8 and SolidWorks 2012 changed my opinion about the OS a lot. Inside SolidWorks the multi-touch commands work very good when you are used to the less responsive screen then for instance an Ipad. But the problem with the close button will stay the same. The other problem I found was while sketching, because you have your fingers on the screen it is difficult to make coincident relations with 2 sketch items. My quick conclusion was that working with a touchscreen and SolidWorks is nice for presenting some design but less for modeling.
With this conclusion in mind I started a search on the internet and found a promising solution called “Maide Control” this is a app for your iPad. I hear you think “yeah right but you have no SolidWorks app available”. That’s not necessary because using a wireless network it can connect to your workstation. With the connection established it turns in to a 3D motion controller for navigating your models and for modeling your fingers are not on the screens blocking your sketch endpoints. This tool I’m really enthusiastic about, the only small problem is that it will not work in combination with SolidWorks. The tool for the moment only has support for Sketchup and Rhino. I have contacted the developers and asked them about their plans for SolidWorks. They told me that SolidWorks compatibility is on their priority list. I will keep an eye on their website to see when it is released. The other fun thing about it is that you can connect numerous iPads to one workstation, so during a design review meeting everyone using an iPad can take control over the model to explain their part of the design.
In conclusion: Touch enabled devices and software is the near future for making applications more user friendly. This will work fine when hardware and software are optimized for touch input. For now there are a few drawbacks, but I’m convinced that within a year from now I will see more and more customers working with touch devices and SolidWorks.
Renso Kuster, Cadmes Europe