Onshape: The Future of CAD
Matthew Loew posted on March 09, 2015 |
As many of you have heard, Onshape went live today with the release of Onshape Beta. I'm very excite...

Onshape is a new CAD environment developed specifically for the cloud. With that comes a new way of thinking about how users develop designs and collaborate. Access Onshape through a browser on any device. Being browser-based, Onshape requires no software to be downloaded, no files to manage.

I have been racking up over 500 hours of experience with the system and I have become one of the first Consulting Partners. Here is what I think is significant:

Cloud Access

Accessing Onshape requires an Internet connection at all times and may have access issues due to security settings at some sites. I have used Onshape extensively at a variety of locations including my wired and wireless home office connections, multiple public Wi-Fi connections (too many coffee shops to count), and customer sites. 

There was only one time that I couldn't use Onshape  while still being able to connect to a Wi-Fi; unfortunately this was a customer site and I was never able to demonstrate Onshape live to them. It was determined that this was because of some security settings on the part of my client, but it was never resolved. 

I can report that even at crowded Starbucks locations with unreliable and slow connections that I have found the performance acceptable and have rarely lost any work (never more than the sketch I was creating/editing) and that was rare. Bottom line: you need Internet access to get into Onshape; I guess this will not be an issue more than 99% of the time.

No Software
No downloading software, files, or other nonsense. You are always working on the latest version of Onshape (updates are typically deployed every two weeks) and so are your collaborators. Never worry about having incompatibility issues again. The demands on hardware are now much lower (Onshape works on Chrome-books just fine). Very flexible.

Solid Modeling Capabilities

Onshape at this point has limited Solid Modeling capabilities compared to most mid-range CAD tools. They are developing everything from the ground-up so. New features and enhancements are introduced regularly (fortnightly updates) and I feel positive about how long it will take the development team to have much of what most users will need. 

New solid geometry is developed in what Onshape calls a Part Studio. Any Part Studio is a multi-part geometry development environment. There are no external references to worry about. All the craziness associated with file-based dependencies are gone. This is the way it should be (and the way it was, if I remember how it worked in I-DEAS 6 back in the day...). Assemblies can be created to represent the product structure and mechanisms accurately. It takes a little getting used to, and there are some implications to how the Part Studios and Assemblies currently work, but there is enormous potential for Onshape to help users develop some breakthrough products because of the structure they have.

Developing designs collaboratively is a real strong point for Onshape. Project-level Onshape Documents are can be accessed and edited by multiple users simultaneously. Users are no longer waiting for someone else to release a lock on a file through a PDM/PLM system. There are NO FILES! Only documents. Just like Google Docs. This is HUGE.

Pricing has been announced. There are free versions that only restrict the number of private documents a user has. The free version has all of the functionality within a document that the professional version has. Professional version has no restrictions on the number of private documents created and costs $100/month. This is going to be quite disruptive to the incumbents.

I'll have a lot more to be discussing on Onshape and I'm excited to be involved. Feel free to post questions and comments or reach out to me directly.

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