A fresh perspective on CAD: Introducing a new cloud-based ecosystem for 3D design and collaboration

Written by: Laura Hopperton | Published:
Introducing a new cloud-based ecosystem for 3D design and collaboration

A start-up with a mission to make 3D design fast, easy and affordable has launched a new cloud-based platform that could offer users a much cheaper alternative to traditional software.

San Francisco-based Sunglass claims the platform, which is currently still in beta, offers users something completely new in the CAD space: the ability to work with anybody on any project from any device.

"Think of it as Google Docs for 3D objects," says co-founder Nitin Rao. "What we've developed is a cloud-based ecosystem for democratised sharing that works completely in the browser, with support for more than 40 different file formats. We've also created an API for direct integration to major CAD tools such as SolidWorks, SketchUp, Processing and Rhino, as well as cloud storage players like Dropbox."

These software hooks, according to Rao, create a seamless path for importing 3D models from desktop software directly into Sunglass, making it easy for users to add to projects or initiate new collaborative sessions in the cloud. The API is also said to benefit developers by giving them a simple way to create a plug-in from any CAD tool directly into the platform.

After installing plug-ins, users can upload models to Sunglass from within these desktop applications to instantly access a single 3D model with anyone, anywhere in the world. They can also suggest tweaks through chat or voice chat and use a sketch tool for marking suggestions.

"Not only is Sunglass very social, it's also fluid enough that anyone from an expert designer to a complete novice can use it," says Rao. "While in the past it was a case of 'makers turn left, serious designers turn right', Sunglass completely democratises design and cuts across all disciplines. We've also made the basic platform completely free, which means designers only have to pay for the add-ons that they need."

The company's immediate focus, according to Rao and fellow co-founder Kaustuv DeBiswas, is to make the platform capable of handling 2D and 3D models of varying complexities in a constrained budget. "We'd also like to be a delivery channel for people with great ideas to build modular, bite-sized apps in the areas of analysis, modelling, rendering and publishing," noted DeBiswas. "Developers from all over the world are building fantastic tools, but they often aren't able to get them to hundreds or thousands of users. We want them to be able to do that."

Rather than pursue a monthly subscription model with a standard set of paid premium features, the idea behind making the basic version of Sunglass free, according to DeBiswas, was to make 3D design accessible to everyone. "When we first took Sunglass into the market to test it, the first thing designers were so surprised about was the cost. They were spending crazy amounts of money for software that was more antiquated."

Rao concurred: "Sunglass is substantially cheaper than competing platforms and designers love it because it brings a completely new and fresh approach to CAD. Not only have we overcome the issues of interoperability and cost, we've created a next generation collaboration tool that is extremely social. What we need now is for designers to test the platform and give us feedback so that we can continue to improve it. We're also inviting people to come forward with their app ideas."

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