A tailor made computer mouse


From clay model to functioning tailored mouse prototype. Here are the steps that I went through.

Step 1: create a clay model

The idea here is to create a model that feels nice to use. Nicer than your mass produced off the shelve mouse.

I'm not exactly a potter so I had to learn this as I went.

I felt drawing this directly in 3D software would not be the most efficient as it would be hard to tell what sculpting actions would result in "the right feel".

Lessons learned:

  • Clay shrinks and cracks as it dries. What you created is not what you get after the drying process.

  • Type of clay matters. Heavy "regular" clay is nice as a very rough and strong basis to stick your nicer "paper clay" onto. Paper clay cracks much less as it dries.

Step 2: 3D scanning and modelling

The shape was digitized and digitally sculpted further. After some experiments with crazy wire frame shapes, I decided I liked the plain and simple closed shell the most.

A render of the mouse after smoothing. Using Blender.

The raw 3D scan after converting the point cloud to mesh.

The 3D scan after digital smoothing in "Blender".

Converting the Blender mesh to "quads" using the software "Instant Meshes".

One of the experiments into 3D printable organic looking shapes.

Another one with a more coarse exoskeleton.

Step 3: mechanical CAD work

After the artsy bit comes the practical stuff: where do the screws and circuit boards go?

3D modelling is generally done using 2 different types of tools, simply put: surface modelling (for sculpting/artists) and solid modelling (for engineers).

Here I switched from surface to solid modelling, so that I could use the model in mechanical CAD software. This CAD software makes it easier to work with real world dimensions and to add circuit boards, screw holes, switches and all that stuff in the right places.

For the insides (electronics) I wanted to use an existing Logitech MX Master S3. The design of this mass produced mouse is perfect, except: it's one size fits none. So let's fix that!

A rendering of the mechanical CAD ready for 3D printing.

Step 4: 3D printing & assembly

It took me two 3D printing iterations to get everything to fit together in an acceptable way. I was able to make everything fit with some longer cables, a bit of duct tape and some soldering.

Here's the end result:

The insides.

The mouse and the hand that it's tailored too.

The mouse and the hand that it's tailored too.

The big one is the mouse that's tailored to my hand. The others are Logitech designs for the average hand that you and me most likely don't have.

Next up will be the tailored keyboard. My next hobby project is an ergonomic keyboard based on the Dactyl Manuform project which generates 3D printable files from a set of parameters.

A tailored ergonomic keyboard based on Dactyl Manuform. The photo above is of a very rough first try.

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