Shapr3D, the Most Intuitive of All Professional MCAD Programs, Is Available for Windows

Ease of use passes intact from iOS to Windows

The best interface is no interface. Shapr3D comes close with this most minimalist interface, which has survived intact on Shapr3 for Windows. (It had been only available on Apple’s iPad. (Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)

The best interface is no interface. Shapr3D comes close with this minimalist interface, which has survived intact on
the Windows version. Shapr3D has been available on Apple’s iPadOS since its
inception and on MacOS for about 7 months. (Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)

Shapr3D, the easiest-to-use professional MCAD program ever developed, introduced to the world on an iPad Pro, has made a jump to Windows.
This move makes Shapr3D immediately accessible to the engineering and design community. So excited was István Csanády, founder, CEO and driving force of Shapr3D, that he invited to come to Shapr3D headquarters in Budapest for a sneak preview.

Out the window went our preference for attending demos virtually, our worries of COVID variants and Europe’s mercurial methods of dealing with international travelers, expired travel-perks, possible quarantine upon returning – we had to go. We have had a ringside seat on every CAD revolution. We were not about to miss this one.

Shapr3D has blown us away with its intuitive interface — really no interface at all. You interact with the model directly and intuitively. Pick an edge and Shapr3D
understands you want to chamfer or fillet it, for example. You don’t have to pick through a thicket of icons or commands.

With design software still so hard to use, a design software that is easy to use should have a clear lead in the race to be the next big thing in CAD, or as we say in our series on the subject,
to be the next CAD revolution. Here’s what we have so far.

  1. The Next CAD Revolution, Part 2—Autodesk
  2. Pro/ENGINEER, 1988

  3. The History of CAD Revolutions, Part 3: SolidWorks

Many CAD programs have come and gone, each unique, each robust, each qualified for commercial success, but all falling short of inspiring a CAD revolution. Does Shapr3D, with a hundred plus employees (next year, two hundred, says Csanády),  not from San Francisco or Boston, have a shot at being the next CAD revolution?

Dazzling as the UI (or non UI) is, how magically a model springs from the screen (as if being played at 2X speed), a too-easy CAD program will undoubtedly be questioned on its power and capability. Appearing to the world first on an iPad, Shapr3D may have been dismissed by engineers as too expensive (Android tablets are far less money) for a toy, a glorified Etch A Sketch. Could it do real design? Could it handle complex shapes?

It sure can, has said Csanády from the
first time he demoed the Shapr3D for us in May 2018 in a Starbucks in San Francisco. Shapr3D had 19 employees
then. Shapr3D is based on the most world’s popular Parasolid geometry kernel, same as SOLIDWORKS, NX and Solid Edge, which practically guarantees model sharing and if implemented fully, robustness. They could have gone a cheaper route. Several capable geometry kernels are available, including
many from Russia, Hungary’s frenemy to the North, and one from compatriot
Graphisoft. But going with the leading kernel was a smart choice. It leaves no doubt of Shapr3D’s modeling prowess. Building on Parasolid puts Shapr3D instantly on par with MCAD market leaders.

We get to know Csanády and Shapr3D even better after a visit Shapr3D offices.
We are shown what Shapr3D is capable of now and what it will be capable of in
the future. We see the company is for real, that it is well funded and may have
a secured a decent revenue stream. We tour the ultra-modern offices, where
bright young developers, sales and support staff, cluster in teams, each working
on an aspect of Shapr3D, well supplied with cool hardware, big screen in
spacious settings, a well-stocked break room with ample snacks (where can I get
more of those dried Hungarian sausages?) and good, strong expresso. This is no
bootstrapped, stretched-thin, Eastern Bloc holdover programming sweatshop. In
fact, Shapr3D scours the world for top developer talent, using 6 people for the
express purpose of recruitment, creating a United Nations of sorts by finding
and relocating talent from 14 different countries.

We suggest Shapr3D have flags of the countries from which their developers
originate in the lobby.

Good idea, says Csanády.

The last time we saw an operation like Shapr3D was at 1 Alewife Center, Cambridge, Mass., the birthplace of Onshape.
In downtown Budapest, we see the same vision and drive, the confidence that they are the chosen ones, the ones with a unique solution for a problem that is thwarting CAD
ubiquity, a solution that will bring on the next CAD revolution. But there are significant differences. Onshape had decided that CAD’s problem was that it was not on the cloud. Shapr3D has focused on
CAD being hard to use. Both companies based their business model on a
subscription while offering a free version. Onshape would never disclose paid subscription. Shapr3D says it had 20,000 paid subscribers in October 2020 and gives every indication that it can survive on its revenue stream alone, even though the company’s growth is likely to be the result of investment. The difference in investment in each company is staggering: Onshape received $169 million in investment and Shapr3D, a relatively modest $12 million. Shapr3D is less corporate, there no suits or ties in sight, and its leadership blends in with developers. The mood is lighter, conversations convivial,
no desperate salespeople. We don’t heard of anyone at Shapr3D pestering users of the free version of Shapr3D to upgrade to the paid version so the lights can stay on.
There is less corporate speak at Shapr3D. Csanády publicly states he wants to
make CAD to suck less — and it appears he is going to have as much fun as possible
in the process.

Back to the Drawing Room

But the seriousness of the venture is not lost on Csanády. Much of what needs to be done by CAD is no fun at all. Like drawing and dimensioning. Despite generations of industry pundits predicting a paperless office, drawing will not die. A MCAD program that completely defines geometry in 3D is still required to be able to generate 2D drawings of it. It
is an archaic law the software industry cannot get off the books, largely due to customers that
continue to insist drawing creation is necessary, and the lack of it, a deal breaker. Don’t have drawings?
Don’t bother with the demo. We can’t use your drawing-less CAD program,
they say, slamming the door to business at the enterprise level.

Shapr3D wisely saw no-drawings as a deal breaker and includes Drawings, a full-fledged 2D drawing capability with its new Business plan.

From the company’s website, Drawings will be exclusively available on Shapr3D’s new Business plan — which is being unveiled today [March 1, 2021] and will replace the Pro package — for $499/year or $59/month. Business users will be able to create 2D views from a 3D body and save them as DWG or DXF files. The plan also includes unlimited CAD imports/exports, designs, and workspaces — as well as seamless integration with your desktop CAD.

Jumping Into Windows

For the iPad to be accepted as a computing device for engineers turned out to be wishful thinking. Were it to happen, it would not happen with Csanády still a young man. Csanády was quick to
turn his attention to Windows. In 3 years since we first saw Shapr3D on an iPad, we got the invitation to come and see Shapr3D ported to Windows.

Our first thought upon hearing of a Windows version was worry that Shapr3D would lose its groundbreaking UI, become cluttered with
the icons and menus that grow like weeds in UIs of Windows-based CAD programs. We should not have been worried. Shapr3D on Windows
has the same UI as does the iPadOS version (Apple maintains a different version
of the OS for its tablet than for the iOS for its iPhone). The Windows version’s UI is still clean and uncluttered. You will not have to poke through columns of icons or rows of menus. All that has happened
to Shapr3D is that it now runs on devices and computers with the Windows OS, from the popular Microsoft Surface, with all the same pen-based motions Windows
(with the Windows stylus) as it had with the Apple Pencil, to your big, honking desktop workstation and all its monitors.

It’s a smart move. Shapr3D will now be available on the OS of choice for engineers, making it suddenly much more accessible. As much as we have admired the elegant and bright iPad Pro, we knew it was going to be a novelty or a splurge for most engineers.

The Windows version of Shapr3D is available through the Microsoft store here.
It is an “early access” version, so you may have to wait for final
touches of the Windows UI.
However, you can certainly use it to satisfy your curiosity about what the next
revolution in CAD may look like.

The installation is quick and painless. A survey asks a few too many
questions but that is the price for free software. A total of 10 short videos shows up on first use. In 15 minutes, you will be moving around, sketching and modeling. Extrusions are dragged to their length. We had no trouble adjusting to a mouse-keyboard interface of a mobile workstation.

Shapr3D has made every effort to make American users at home. The videos are narrated by an American actor. No Hungarian or Hungarian accent detected. Each video shows a basic command and allows you to try it on a model conveniently supplied. The Window-based program assumes you will be using the mouse and keyboard (not the Microsoft stylus) and mouse buttons are fully supported. Shapr3D has also added support for 3Dconnexions input devices.
A right click and drag will pan, a shift and right click and drag will rotate the model. The mouse wheel to zoom in and out is natural to any CAD user. The keyboard is also incorporated naturally. If you’d rather put in an exact dimension rather than dragging geometry, simply click on a dimension to open a
dialog box with a keypad that accept numeric input. Unless you went through the videos, you may not know that the spacebar will give you a normal view of a surface so you can sketch on it. That was one of the few “hidden” commands that made
us want to look up a list of shortcuts to tape to the wall. Fillets and chamfers couldn’t be easier. You select the edge of a model and Shapr3D understands your intention is to either chamfer or fillet. Dragging one way produces a fillet, the other way produces a chamfer.
You will wonder why all CAD isn’t like this.

See it to Believe It

How does it work in the practiced hands of a veteran user? Peter Kocs, CAD engineer at Shapr3D with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, was able to create an entire coffee maker
assembly using Shapr3D on a Microsoft Surface Hub (Microsoft’s electronic equivalent of a whiteboard). The Surface Hub was used for the benefit of us in the room. A real design situation, would, of course, use a Windows-based workstation, laptop, or
a two-in-one (like the Surface Pro).

The video is sped up, but even in real time, Kocs is flying. Kocs is a veteran of Rhino and SOLIDWORKS.
We can tell he enjoys the speed the Shapr3D UI allows him. We witness an almost effortless creation of shapes, the very natural interplay of pen to a board, producing, as if by magic, real, precise solid models.

Shapr3D could finally be the first CAD program to work for laying out concepts. All engineers still have to draw concepts by hand on paper. It’s the first step in getting a design out of our heads. Then we transfer the concept to a CAD model. Shapr3D could make this age-old process sound ludicrous. Why would you not use the computer’s power to create the concept and build into it the ability to decipher your not-so-straight lines as straight, your imperfect circles as holes, your crudely drawn cube as a Parasolid?

A Little Eye Candy at the End

A peak into the near future of Shapr3D shows models being rendered in real time.

(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)

(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)
(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)

(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)
(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)

(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)

Also to come, future Shapr3D promises improved surface continuity over default Parasolid’s G2 continuity, as shown below. 

(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)

(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)
(Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)

Note zebra stripes are smoother. (Picture courtesy of Shapr3D)