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Start of the Solid Edge Steering Wheel


ScreenHunter_04_May__22_13_59When we were getting started with this “super” release of Solid Edge, I was chatting with one of my fellow product managers, Dan Vinson, about the new product. He said something like, “I need to design a handle that does everything!”

He wasn’t talking about a real handle like on a car door but the analogy is close. He was talking about what was to become the “Solid Edge Steering Wheel” in the next release of Solid Edge.

I’m an engineer and as a group we are usually logical, direct. We follow the process. Dan is an industrial designer and brings a huge dose of creativity and original ideas. So while yet another “3D triad” might have worked, the combination of greatly enhanced direct modeling and Synchronous Technology in Solid Edge meant something much more serious was needed. Oh, and make it intuitive too.

Dan got the help of Chris Dayton and they went to work. Chris told me this:

Predictably ... we began with Google images. We combed though pages of pictures of handles and knobs ... drawer pulls and protuberances ... looking for a clutch we could work with. There was eloquent design, yet insufficient control. We were lacking the degrees of freedom we required to interact with our model. We advanced to the space age and evaluated the 3 axis inputs employed by Mercury and Vostok. In them, we found rotation and translation sharing a line . . Vector and axis, collocated. The Russians had developed a T-handled controller we could envision sticking to a surface and using both to pull the face and impart a twist, but it just didn’t feel right. It was effective ... but clunky.

In a moment ... at the white-board ... acted out in deliberate pantomime ... “If we could just put a toilet plunger on this board and pull!” Nobody laughed. With a plunger you had a handle, a vector, an axis and an implied plane. We had our start.

We stole it from a spaceship . . . turned it into a plunger . . . developed it into a steering wheel - The evolution of a tool

As I find time over the coming days, I’ll add a bit more to this story. If you saw the recent video of Cory Goulden from National Steel Car, he mentions the importance of the Solid Edge steering wheel so I hope to wrap up with some practical tips while blogging from the Siemens PLM Connection in a couple weeks.
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Nice. A toilet plunger is a surprisingly appropriate and beautifully unexpected example from which to draw inspiration. My compliments to Dan, Chris and the team. I’ll be using this one in the future. Thanks for sharing it.

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Toilet plunger?  Are you sure you don’t mean a sink plunger?

Toilet plungers use a pressure seal, not a vacuum seal.  That is, they’re designed to *push* not *pull*.  Then, of course, there’s the issue of just what they’re designed to push….

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I’ve had toilet plungers that both “push” and “pull”; I assume because sometimes the best way to eliminate blockage is to break it apart rather than further compact it.

Not having ever designed a toilet plunger, I can’t say if what I’ve experienced as a consumer/end-user was the result of deliberate design intent or just a happy accident.


There’s an unwritten rule in software development that the first thing a user will do with your software is not what you designed it for.

I imagine that is true with real world products like plungers too.

If anyone finds a unique and unplanned use of the steering wheel let me know grin

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