Inspector – the CAD-Reviews independent review

An excellent means of manipulating a model in 3D

Inspector review screenshot

Inspector from Dimentor

Manipulating a 3D model on a 2D screen presents inevitable interface challenges.

The latest product addressing this issue is the beautifully designed Inspector from Danish start-up Dimentor.

This combines a conventional USB optical sensor wheel mouse (no movement tracking ball to fur up) with a top mounted ball that allows completely unconstrained six degrees-of-freedom rotation for manipulating 3D models.

In contrast to traditional 3D controllers that are used in the left hand in conjunction with a standard mouse Inspector allows one hand to remain on the keyboard to maximise the benefit of shortcuts.

This certainly also represents a compact solution to 3D controlling for mobile CAD applications with the ball making the overall device just slightly higher than a standard mouse.

Two additional side buttons complete the arsenal, allowing specific windows or CAD pan and zoom functions to be assigned.

At present Inspector is only supported in 3D by SolidWorks but development for other modellers including Inventor and Rhino is in progress and it is compatible with Microsoft’s DirectInput 8.1 standard that now supports CAD and other 3D software.

By default the rotation centre is the centre of gravity of the model although this can be temporarily modified to a point, axis or plane by ctrl left clicking relevant model geometry.

The model is manipulated by fingertip control of the ball with a SolidWorks toolbar button enabling the sensitivity of each axis to be adjusted.

Although simple view manipulation controls are built in to SolidWorks using the standard 2D mouse wheel and keyboard modifiers, Inspector facilitates true 3D manipulation such as rotating a part about a notional, non-orthogonal axis.

Sensitivity becomes the key issue however.

The overall weight of Inspector has been kept down in order to avoid greater resistance in 2D use, but at times manipulation of the ball in 3D moves the whole mouse, losing precision in the manipulation.

Any imprecision creates a somewhat disorientating effect, as does any lag due to under-powered graphics display.

The greatest danger is of brushing the ball with the palm of the hand whilst using the standard 2D functionality, so the ball can be temporarily disabled using the ctrl spacebar key combination.

Inspector undoubtedly offers an excellent means of manipulating a model in 3D.

As with all new interfaces, some acclimatisation is required and will ultimately be a matter of personal preference.

At the new low price of £129 however, Inspector offers a cost effective way to truly three dimensionally interact with CAD models.