Onshape Bringing Back the Local User Meeting
Roopinder Tara posted on July 02, 2019 |

Turn out at the Onshape user meeting was light. Considering that the San Francisco area is hardly a hive of industrial activity and modern CAD users—all digital natives—are usually only seen in public head down absorbed in their Android phones shunning all manner of personal contact, even a light turnout is pretty good.

Presenting at an Onshape’s Oakland user meeting is none other than CEO Jon Hirschtick.
Presenting at an Onshape’s Oakland user meeting is none other than CEO Jon Hirschtick.

We were at Circuit Launch in downtown Oakland, which offered its electronic build space for the second time in the Bay Area—the second user meeting in as many nights and the fourth in California. The dozen who filtered in were greeted by CAD veteran and best demo jock Joe Dunne from San Diego. Despite his bright blue Onshape T-shirt, he was asked, “Who do you work for?” If anyone recognized that among them was CAD royalty, the leader of the last revolution of CAD, the founder of SOLIDWORKS and notorious blackjack wizard Onshape CEO Jon Hirschtick himself, they were not letting on.

Also present was the ever-energetic and enthusiastic user instigator Richard Doyle from Las Vegas. Though he created a world-wide network of some of the most ardent users on Earth with SOLIDWORKS, Doyle’s departure from SOLIDWORKS was not a happy one. He said he couldn’t even get them to give him a SOLIDWORKS license after all he did for them. I asked him about doing design gigs and cashing in on what has to be considerable experience with the use of SOLIDWORKS. “Most companies are looking for younger operators,” he said.

Doyle, in his 60s, was trying to retire when he got a call from Onshape. Although plans are not yet solid (pun intended), the user meetings so far appear to be Onshape testing the waters for him doing the same thing he did with SOLIDWORKS, setting up user groups; holding regular user group meetings; tips and trick presentations in the front, pizzas in the back; a live, physical meeting where users network in the flesh, face to face, not face to phone or through keyboards. People may not remember how it was done, but if anyone can teach them, it will be Doyle.

And Now Kicking Off…

Jon Hirschtick flew across the country from Onshape headquarters in the Boston area to meet with a dozen users like Jerry Seinfeld doing stand up in nightclubs—which he did after his TV series ended at the height of its popularity.

Hirschtick considers CAD unfinished business and may be honing his second act among a new generation of users. Each meeting is a touch point, a verification of the ideals Onshape is promoting to the next generation of CAD and its users.

Still, the old days must have been a heady experience. SOLIDWORKS World is the second largest group of CAD users assembled every year. Only Autodesk University is bigger.

“I was hoping for a few potential customers,” Hirschtick said to no one in particular. He had been dropping hints about a company, bigger than any so far, that is on the verge of signing up. Looking around, he was not seeing them.

Throw Out Your Old CAD

Onshape by the numbers. CEO Hirschtick is proud of it being picked No 1 in customer satisfaction of all CAD software in 2018.
Onshape by the numbers. CEO Hirschtick is proud of it being picked No 1 in customer satisfaction of all CAD software in 2018.

Hirschtick and Dunne proceeded to espouse the benefits of Onshape to the detriment of current CAD tools. Yes, they know they created and championed those tools. But we have to move on. Old CAD uses files. It’s time to use databases in the cloud. Only then can you have a single source of truth.

“CAD is inefficient; it constrains designs,” Hirschtick said. “No one designed a great new product because of check-in files and file locking.”

Data management seems to be the current hot button in Onshape’s marketing push. Data management was an add-on with SOLIDWORKS. It was typically installed by IT departments in larger firms or by the designated CAD manager in smaller ones. Users had to learn and apply product data management (PDM). With Onshape, PDM is built in.

“Sorry, we don’t have a lot for admins to do,” Hirschtick said.

Onshape runs on servers on the cloud. The company rolls out updates and notifies users afterward. Old CAD went down during updates. Every user custom script had to checked and possibly updated before it came back up, a significant burden to program administrators and often a reason to look warily and avoid upgrades altogether.

Onshape, because of its automatic and frequent updates, is designed to have user scripts (Feature Scripts) be impervious to updates. This is unlike other CAD programs in which user customizations are such a burden for administrators that they can prevent upgrading to a new release.

“A FeatureScript you create today will be usable 10 years from now,” Hirschtick said.

The Users

Sean Blanchard of Tereo, in not-so-nearby San Jose, looks forward to the updates and gives Onshape high marks for its online forums.

Two Onshape users asked for SVG file input.

“I can’t believe we don’t have that already,” Hirschtick said after the second request and indicated that it will happen.

Score for the users! Can you imagine complaining about Windows and Bill Gates saying he would fix it?

A certain amount of bashing of rival always happens when CAD champions get together, and this user meeting was no exception. We heard of Onshape’s mastery of STEP files.

“STEP files crash in [Autodesk] Fusion,” said Bill Schnoebelen, who operates Circuit Case Engineering in San Francisco. Schnoebelen presented in Oakland after bravely volunteering to lead San Francisco’s Onshape user group. “STEP files don’t crash in Onshape.”

Onshape is getting there with super-large assemblies: 25,000-part assemblies can be handled comfortably and 50,000 with a little trickery.

An entire car is “not going to be a great experience for us right now,” Dunne said.

Doyle, himself a user, showed Onshape being used for his own tiny house. Why not Onshape for AEC, he seems to be saying. He is recruiting for an Oakland user group leader. Anyone interested can reach him at xswugn@outlook.com.

“We’ll have pizza,” Doyle promised.

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