What gear do I use in my home office for CAD and simulation is commonly asked of me. Because of this I have created this post so that you can see and have links to what I’m currently using. In some cases I show what I would buy today because of upgrades or because my version is unavailable. Some of the suggestions are for computing in general and some are specialized towards CAD. Ergonomics are very important to me, I do have a concentration in bio-mechanics after all! If you would like to chat or get updates to this blog and other news please use the form on the right.
A 3D mouse is a second mouse usually used with your left hand. It’s primary purpose is to rotate, zoom and pan 3D models. I find it more intuitive, faster and more precise than a traditional mouse. More importantly there is no standard for view manipulation in CAD or simulation software. The scroll wheel is usually used for zooming but the programs that I use zoom in different directions and I never remember which one is which. My biggest complaint with Catia is that their view manipulation is especially weird, persisting from the Unix days with 3 buttons and no scroll. The scroll now moves the feature tree, which is very useful but then can’t be used for zooming. To zoom you need to center click and hold then click the right then mouse up and down!?!?! Abaqus/CAE has my favorite CAD feature of all, you can set the manipulations to be like many other CAD programs such as SolidWorks or Catia. The 3D mouse fixes this so all programs manipulate the same way. I personally set the zoom direction to be if you pull up on the ‘puck’. In my abstraction of mouse manipulations I imagine the regular mouse is on the screen not my desk. Keeping this frame my 3D mouse would also be mounted on the screen so lifting the puck would bring the model closer and zoom it in.
If I were buying today I would get this one. The case is a must in my opinion if you are traveling.
This is what I have and it’s been a workhorse there is a cord though which I have always worried will be it’s downfall since even when packing nicely in a case it folds and I’m expecting a fatigue failure of it.
I’m intrigued by the customizable screen but don’t think that I would use it since I don’t take my eyes off the screen while working. I may be missing something here though.
I’m not a fan of the travel one because there is no palm rest but to each their own. I would not get the corded one as I mentioned before due to the potential fatigue failure of the cord though this has not happened yet to me. A travel mouse I would expect to have many more packing cycles.
Boring 2D traditional mouse
Here ergonomics and hand size are critical. I have been using my Logitech MX Master since I passed down my Performance MX, it’s predecessor. Both are still going strong and can work even on glass or a leg. The precision is excellent when you are trying to grab a single point, node or pixel. There is a clutch on the scroll wheel to free spin or click. Also, there is a thumb wheel that I use extensively in Excel to scroll sideways.
The MX Master 3 is the newest version and I would get this without hesitation. I do think the MX Master looks cooler though with the triangulation pattern.
I have 2 of these for my laptop and desktop and I love it and they still look brand new even though the laptop one gets tossed in the bag regularly.
A split keyboard is an absolute must in my opinion. It allows for a more neutral hand position. When I type with a traditional keyboard I can feel the difference immediately. It’s only downside is that it’s BIG. I’ve been using these for so long that the right side of the spacebar is completely polished. I apparently use the right thumb much more than the left.
Switching to a standing desk has helped my lower back and posture in general more than I could have imagined. I wanted my standing desk to be a frame only because I want to upgrade to a nice piece of solid wood once I get around to it. It needed to be motorized with memory functions so I would adjust it often. My 3 settings are: ball/chair height, elbow height and armpit height. When typing or mousing I rest my entire forearm on the desk so my keyboard and mouse are pushed back a bit. Between this and my large split keyboard I’m going to upgrade the wooden top to be 36-39″ deep (I think this is the first English unit on this entire webpage!). The stand is also adjustable for lengths of 40” to 90”, width of 24” to 44”. Having a really long desk is great especially when your kids want to do work with daddy. Daddy makes pretty pictures on the computer and I make pretty pictures crayons. We are both working very hard. I digress. Awesome stand.
Standing desk mat. Cubefit was a Kickstarter campaign and I like to support the inventors over all the me too products unless there is a clear superiority. I fiddle with the different zones all day. I’m often barefoot since I have a home office. If I’m in sitting mode for the desk I just push it to the side.
Exercise ball, Swiss ball, Yoga ball, Big ball: not sure if there are other names. 65cm (back to metric!) works for me but I’m short at 5’6″ (grrr English) I chose the ball and how much I inflate to have my femur roughly parallel to the ground. For sitting I almost exclusively use the ball. For extended periods it can become uncomfortable which reminds me to stand back up!
The Herman Miller Aeron chair is the best chair I have ever had but it ain’t cheap. I would upgrade to the aftermarket roller blade wheels.
Video and recording
Having a good mic is key for recording webinars, VOIP or video chatting. The Blue Snowball is a good balance of cost, performance and form factor for me. I have the original but the iCE is newer and slightly cheaper.
As with the mice I trust Logitech so I use their cameras too. This has worked flawlessly. My only complaint is that I wish it was optically zoomed in a bit more. I have the predecessor but that’s not available now. I was skeptical that the clamp would hold on my monitor since the design relies on friction not spring force but it works.
What laptop specs you need are highly dependent on what you will be doing so I can’t recommend a specific model. I do have a strong preference towards MSI laptops. They are a gaming brand that has added mobile workstations. They are thin, light powerful and durable. I’ve been using them for 6 years and the original one is still kicking! Nuff said.
Since the form factor and build quality on a workstation isn’t critical in my mind I base my decision on price vs. specs and I have no brand loyalty here. Remember for CAD go for the highest clock speed since it in general does not parallelize well and for simulation more cores are better assuming your licenses support it.
Like workstations not much loyalty here. I have ASUS and have been happy. Bigger is better, 2 is better than 1. Height adjustable and being able to angle it is very important especially if you have a standing desk. I like 4K but be warned that some programs do not and your icons and font will be tiny.
That’s all for now. I’ll keep this updated if People find it valuable. Please enter your info on the right if you have questions or want to be kept up to date on the blog and other news. Thank you.