CAD in the Cloud

A new company aims to disrupt the CAD market with its cloud-based
service. Tim Fryer reports.

A beta version of the Onshape CAD system was launched last month
following six months of pre-production testing from designers in 52
countries. The beta version is now open to everyone to try out as it is
both free and, because it is cloud based, requires no software download.

Use of the service remains free until the designer has more than five
projects on the go at one time, at which point they can join the Pro
Plan, which costs $100 a month and allows unlimited access/use.

Darren Henry is part of OnShape's marketing team and he stressed that
this was a mechanical design tool, not suitable for designing complete
cars or aerospace projects, but "ideal for machine building in the
industrial environment, machine parts and packaging equipment design is
a sweet spot, but also consumer and medical products and it is ideal for

"However, the biggest thing is that it really opens the door to
collaboration," added Henry. Everyone on a design team sees and works on
the same master CAD data at all times, avoiding confusing checkouts,
file copies, and overwriting each others' work. As existing CAD files
can be imported into OnShape, it further increases its potential for
use by teams wanting to collaborate in real-time but who do most of
their design in a different package.

While the initial focus has been on the advantages of a true
cloud-based model, the product itself has a number of features that will
appeal to certain designers – unsurprising given that a number of
Solidworks founders are in the OnShape team. "One of the great features
is inbuilt version control," said Henry. "You can go back and pick up on
any iteration without having to be disciplined about storing versions
along the way. Another thing is that we can create mated parts very
easily – other CAD packages are not set up to do this."