Design Engineering

Tesla’s Elon Musk demos hand-gesture CAD design system

By Design Engineering Staff   

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Ironman-like scheme also prints SpaceX rocket engine parts in metal.

Tesla Motors and SpaceX’s Elon Musk ripped a page from an Ironman movie script over the weekend by demonstrating a gesture-based method for navigating a 3D assembly of the commercial space firm’s Merlin rocket engine.

Using a combination of a LeapMotion controller, an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset (or just a computer screen), and Siemens PLM’s NX software, the serial entrepreneur showed the system making it possible to rotate, zoom and create cut-aways of an assembly solely using “in thin air” hand gestures.

“If you can just go in and do what you need to do to understand the fundamentals of how to make things work, rather than trying to figure out how to make the computer make it work, you can achieve a lot more in a shorter amount of time,” Musk says during the video demonstration.

Once the assembly is designed, the video then shows component parts of the rocket engine being printed in titanium using a laser sintering metal powder 3D printer.


“I believe we are on the verge of a major breakthrough in design and manufacturing,” he says. “In being able to take a concept from your mind, translate that into a 3D object really intuitively on the computer and then take that virtual 3D object and make it real by printing it, it will revolutionize design and manufacturing in the 21st century.”


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