PTC Acquires CloudMilling for CAM in Onshape

PTC tries to catch up to Autodesk Fusion 360.

PTC, which already has CAM applications that work with Creo, has decided to buy a CAM application for its cloud-based Onshape. The company plans to have CloudMilling technology incorporated into Onshape by early next year. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed—which is one way of saying that PTC did not pay a lot for it.

CloudMilling appears to be a robust CAM application—if only judging from the announcement. It can generate 2-axis and 5-axis toolpaths, includes a tool library, and will show tool paths in dynamic visualization.

“We share the Onshape team’s vision for a cloud and mobile-first world for product development,” says Michael Johnson, CEO, chief architect and cofounder of CloudMilling in the PTC-issued announcement. “We’re proud to have introduced the industry’s only cloud-native CAM solution and we look forward to expanding its access and use as part of Onshape.”

Catching Up

With CAD at the front of the design cycle and CAM on the end, it makes sense for every CAD program to have seamless integration with a CAM program. Most design platforms (Siemens Xcelerator, 3DEXPERIENCE by Dassault Systèmes, and Autodesk) have applications for CAD, simulation and CAM all banded together, all passing data seamlessly to each other, and all with more or less similar interfaces. Onshape’s dollar-for-dollar arch competition, , Autodesk’s Fusion 360, integrated CAM not long after it acquired HSMWorks in 2012.

CloudMilling headquarters, the Stone House, Kingsland, Herefordshire, UK. Picture from Google.

CloudMilling headquarters, the Stone House, Kingsland, Herefordshire, UK. Picture from Google.

Onshape users have been requesting a similar CAM integration for years, as recorded in the CAM section of Onshape’s user forum. Users suggested several ways for Onshape to interface with desktop CAM applications until May 3, 2022, when Bill Schnoebelen, an Onshape user and frequent forum contributor, suggested for the first time in the forum a cloud-based CAM that was being developed across the Atlantic, in the countryside of Wales. The product was in beta, but Onshape users were encouraged to sign up to try it. The next day, Aaron Magnin, who was in charge of Onshape’s third-party program, posted a list of CAM applications, including CloudMilling, which were “making amazing strides….” Prior to joining PTC’s Onshape team, Magnin was the technical marketing manager of Fusion 360, and therefore, undoubtedly a proponent of a robust design and manufacturing platform and very likely to have sought its creation for Onshape.

Onshape lists various CAM applications as “partner” applications. Most of them are desktop CAM “connectors” such as SprutCAM, ESPRIT, Prospect by AMT, VisualIMPORT by MecSoft and market-leading Mastercam. Only one CAM application was cloud based: Kiri:Moto by Grid.Space.

What Happened to MecSoft?

We are reminded of MecSoft—first to announce a cloud-based application for Onshape in 2017 with a product called shapeCAM, which appears as a ghost on MecSoft’s website, where it appears to still be gathering email addresses for a product release. In 2018, MecSoft announced VisualCAMc, a cloud-based CAM add-on for Onshape. Jon Hirschtick, one of the founders of Onshape, talked up MecSoft at the 2018 PDES show in Anaheim, Calif. In 2019, MecSoft announced that it would be licensing MachineWorks modules for VisualCAMc, but it was not to be. “VisualCAMc has gone away,” says Magnin in the Onshape forum.

The acquisition of CloudMilling may relegate Kiri:Moto to second-class status, as often happens when a company acquires a company from within the pool of third-party applications.

About CloudMilling

Ryland Michael (Mike) Johnson, CEO, chief architect and cofounder of CloudMilling.

Mike Johnson, CEO, chief architect and cofounder of CloudMilling.

CloudMilling, based in the Stone House, a guest house in Herefordshire, England, in the countryside 50 miles west of industrialized Birmingham, hardly appears near to the manufacturers for which Onshape is intended. The company was founded by a father and son team. The father, Ryland Johnson, functions as the CTO, and presumably brings practical experience in using CAM to his son, Mike Johnson, who is the CEO and programmer. With a recent degree in computer science (master’s, Loughborough University), Mike Johnson has “reimagined and reinvented” his father’s CAM as a cloud-based application.