When 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