Onshape Gets Serious
Kyle Maxey posted on September 03, 2015 |
September update makes the cloud-based MCAD product not just fun, but respectable.

Onshape has gained strength quickly with its most recent update. The most anticipated MCAD software ever now addresses what critics have called its most serious shortcomings, and has cleared the path to acceptance on a large scale.


A powerful, parametric drawings tool has always been an essential part of CAD software. Until the advent of CNC milling (and, later, additive manufacturing), drawings have been the principle way that engineers and designers communicate their intentions to manufacturers. Without drawings, complex products could not be manufactured.

Today, drawings still form a critical link in a product’s lifecycle, and, now that Onshape has added a dedicated drawing tool, the software is coming more in line with its legacy counterparts like SOLIDWORKS.

Similar to other CAD packages, Onshape’s 2D drawing tool, named Onshape Drawings, gives users the option to create  standard, auxiliary, section and projected views from their 3D models. In addition, Drawings comes complete with a host of parametric dimensioning and annotation tools that can make designs immediately readable by machinists and manufacturers the world over.

Onshape Drawings can be exported to DXF, DWG and PDF formats making them readable and plotable by nearly any manufacturer.

Loft Improvements

While the addition of Drawings has brought a completely new aspect of CAD to life for Onshape, the company has also released a number of new tools to improve designers’ workflows.

The first new feature to get a retooling is Onshape’s loft tool. In its new incarnation, the loft tool can now be used to build sweeping features in a number of ways and, according to the disembodied voice in Onshape’s loft video, lofts can now be built between “any combination of planar and non-planar faces.” For designers, this new functionality means designs with great complexity can be built with ease, enhancing Onshape’s modeling capabilities in a profound way.

To hone their lofting tool’s edge even further, Onshape has introduced “end conditions” to the loft tool, giving users the option to build lofts without the need for guide curves. Though guide curves can still be used to create user-defined loft geometry, an option that lets them slide can speed up design times significantly.   

New Draft Features

In a pretty straightforward addition, Onshape’s extrude tool now comes equipped with a draft that can be activated with the ease of a click. Once engaged, the degree of draft can be input in numerical form and built directly into any extruded feature.

For designers who plan to use injection molding to manufacture their products, this new draft feature should make cutting a mold part in CAD more straightforward.

Fillet Manipulator

September also sees the addition of a “Fillet Manipulator” tool. Again, this tool is pretty straightforward, but its simplicity masks its real power. With the fillet manipulator, designers can dynamically change the size of a fillet and preview it as its radius changes size. For drafters looking to experiment with the look or function of a product, this tool can be a valuable time saver as well as a power idea generator — a strong edition to Onshape’s abilities.

More Material Options

To complete its September update, Onshape has added a number of steel definitions, as well as PLA and MDF references, to its material cache.

How Does the September Update Rate?

While Onshape’s September release doesn’t introduce any revolutionary tools, its addition of Drawing has truly strengthened its hand when it comes time to consider it as an all-purpose, fully-functional CAD solution. In addition to that improvement, Onshape has continued to make modeling much easier by relieving some of the effort required to make complex geometry (thank God guidelines aren’t required any longer). Adding a real-time, animated preview of fillets to help designers experiment with their designs on the fly is no small thing either.

All in all, September’s update should be greeted by users as a big improvement. As monthly updates continue to pile up, it’s going to be harder and harder for CAD users to ignore Onshape’s cloud-based (read OS-agnostic, portable) nature and its growing strength.

If you haven’t taken Onshape for spin, go ahead and do so. With this release, Onshape proves that it is on the path to being your next MCAD software.

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