Evolution of The Solid Edge Steering Wheel

By MarkBurhop

When I first started using the new Solid Edge Steering wheel, I was unaware of both its power and utility. If you work with other 3D software, you will see some things that look similar but they are often simply cursors, or triads or directional arrows. Like the plunger mentioned in my last blog, the Solid Edge Steering Wheel is more related to a real world tool.

Moving from plunger to “super handle” Chris told me this:

Full aware that “plunger” was not our final answer we set to determining how to make it ours. We synthesized its simplicity with our existing concept of coordinate triads. Clicking the main axis launched the move/extrude along the major vector. We combined the major vector with the rotation axis and added a torus in the base plane to trigger the rotate command. A little thought proved a minor vector would be useful for linear moves in the base plane, but there was no need for two. When you click the plane inside the torus you are free moving in that plane. Each element initiated its respective action.

Next came positioning and alignment. We needed this tool to move. We needed this tool to snap to sensible places, linear edges, centerlines, and faces. We needed it to take cues from the environment and align the axis with faces, normals and coordinate systems . . . sometimes local, sometimes global.

We needed to aim that vector as needed, in 3D, to any key point in the model or quickly snap to the cardinal directions . . . hold that pose, and move the whole thing. Because we took our “bearings” from the model we returned them to the tool symbolically; as the “ball bearings” perched at the tip of the major axis and along the cardinal points of the rotational torus.

We were able to drive the model. In the same way we think about the model. All with the simplicity of vector and wheel. A Steering Wheel.

In the real world, creating a product that meets some set of engineering specifications does not mean you are done with the design. Things like ergonomics and styling are increasingly important. With a concept in hand for the steering wheel, some early prototyping and design interations were needed.

steeringwheelprototypes A few initial concept ideas for the graphical display of the steering wheel.

When a CAD designers creates his design, he knows there is a whole lot of work to follow to turn it into something real. Next blog, I’ll write a bit about these prototype itterations and taking the steering wheel design into production.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at