Another Month Adds More Tools to Onshape
Kyle Maxey posted on October 23, 2015 |

Another month has gone by, and it’s time again to check in on Onshape. Last month the browser-based CAD company made a few dramatic improvements to its software. While this month doesn’t contain the same sort of feature-shaping fireworks, Onshape’s engineers have strengthened many of the software’s parametric abilities and added a few new features to both sketching and drawing.

The Introduction of Variables

When it comes to parametric design, it’s all about the variables. In October’s update, Onshape has given users the ability to define features by using variables rather than static dimensions.

For any designer working with a product or assembly that can be customized by a client, having a stock model that can be modified in its entirety by changing a single driving variable can save a ton of time and worlds of frustration.

Though Onshape has already proven itself as a competent CAD tool, this new variable feature allows users to create models with CAD’s Holy Grail; design intent.

Transform Assemblies with Mate Connectors

Working in 3D space can be a pain sometimes, especially when you’re constrained by the 2D paradigm of a desktop display. Accurately arranging objects into a part studio can be difficult, if not impossible. To help manage this situation, Onshape has added a “Transform with Mate Connectors” command to its growing list of “Transform” options.

So how is Mate Connector different from other translation options like “Translate by Line,” “Translate by XYZ,” etc.?

With Mate Connector, users can reorient  parts by picking two custom mate connectors and pairing them. Once aligned, the  primary and secondary mate connector axes can be used to rotate, flip or align the two parts so that they’re assembled correctly.

Though it’s not a mind-blowing addition to Onshape’s part studio, “Transform with Mate Connector” is an essential tool for making assemblies easier to use.

Added Dimension Options

Onshape has included two new dimensioning types in this update. The first, “Point-to-Line,” allows users to reference the distance between a point and a line. That feature can be useful when creating guide curves and other reference geometry that will be used to build complex features like lofts and boundaries.

Second, Onshape’s added a “Line-to-Line” dimensioning tool that allows users to make linear dimensions between two lines.

Sketching from an Image

While Onshape’s sketching tools are on par with other mechanical CAD software, one useful, albeit marginal feature that’s been missing has been a “Sketch from Image” tool. In this release, Onshape has added such a tool to give users the ability to import a number of file types (including GIF, BMP, PNG and JPEG) and use them as references for sketching geometry.

For those interested in reverse engineering a product, fine tuning ergonomics or just practicing complex surfacing, importing images into sketches can be very powerful.  

Drawing Tables

Onshape’s last major addition to its October release is the new “Drawing Tables” feature. Once in a drawing, users now have the option to insert a table by using the “Table” command. During creation, users can define a table title, header and the number of rows and columns as required. Once fully defined, the table can be inserted directly into a drawing space by left clicking to place the top-left corner then dragging to size the table.

Editing a table can be accomplished by clicking any cell and using the pop up toolbox to edit table parameters, or users can just start typing to enter the appropriate information into a particular cell.

For the time being, Onshape’s insert table feature doesn’t appear to have much intelligence, and its usefulness is likely limited to standard revision call outs. Future releases could have this feature expanded to integrate with BOMs and other dynamic data. Once that kind of communication is built into the table tool, Onshape’s drawings will take a major step forward.


While not as flashy as its September release, Onshape’s October update moves the software steadily forward. Onshape’s addition of variable dimensional control brings it dangerously close to becoming a CAD tool that can be used by designers making even the most complex parts. 

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