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Why Is Full-Cloud CAD Such A Big Deal?

by John McEleney, - CEO & Cofounder, Onshape September-2018

Full-cloud CAD gives companies the power and flexibility to design anywhere, anytime on any device – without the hassles of restrictive licenses. Requiring zero IT support (no downloads or installs), a design team of 20 people can be ready to go within minutes by signing up in their browsers. Onshape can now be used as a company’s primary CAD system or work side-by-side with existing CAD systems. A company that is entrenched with multiple seats of traditional CAD may still find it advantageous to capitalize on Onshape’s collaboration tools in the cloud – allowing multiple engineers to simultaneously work on the same project. In addition, Onshape makes sharing work with outside partners more secure; editing and view-only privileges can be instantly granted or withdrawn in the cloud.

Having a full-cloud professional 3D CAD system like Onshape provides the ultimate protection against counterfeit software. Because Onshape runs on any computer in a browser, there is nothing to download or install. There is nothing to steal and nothing to copy. Your CAD system and CAD data live in one central place in the cloud. Onshape has a Free Plan for educators, students, makers and light CAD users and an affordable monthly $100 Professional Plan for businesses. Even if counterfeiters could make a knockoff version of Onshape, there is no financial incentive to do so.

Onshape follows industry best practices for encrypting data, patching software, managing security keys and configuring access controls. We also work with a third-party security testing service that continually tries to hack into a ghost version of our service and then reports what they find. These professional hackers are paid by the exploits they discover, so they try really hard to find vulnerabilities that we fix before they can affect you.

But the bigger security problem in the CAD industry has nothing to do with the above precautions. With traditional file-based CAD systems, you make copies of your data and share them with colleagues and outside partners – either by email, elaborate Product Data Management (PDM) systems, or through an FTP site or storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive. Everytime you share a traditional CAD file, you unintentionally create uncontrolled copies of your intellectual property. You have no control over what happens to your file once it is on someone else’s computer.

With Onshape, your data and CAD system live in only one place in the cloud. You can grant editing or view-only permission to your work, and withdraw those permissions at any time. No more uncontrolled copies of your design will be floating around in the wild. The fewer copies that are made of your IP, the fewer opportunities there will be to steal it.

First, it’s important to distinguish Onshape from other CAD systems that have mobile offerings. For both Android and iOS devices, Onshape Mobile gives you full access to your CAD system. You can create and edit data on your tablet or phone. At the moment, traditional CAD systems only offer mobile viewers. You can spin around or zoom in on their models, but not make any changes or create anything new.

Typically, the reluctance to use mobile CAD comes down to familiarity (using a touch screen interface instead of a mouse) and the size of the screen. The introduction of larger-screen business tablets, such as iPad Pro, is eliminating those concerns. When smartphones were introduced, many questioned if email was feasible on such a tiny keyboard. Right now, 1 out of every 6 modeling sessions in Onshape is done on a tablet or phone. We expect this figure to grow as more engineers and designers appreciate having a CAD system that travels wherever they go and is available whenever they need it.

We believe that there will be a complete transformational change with cloud and mobile CAD replacing traditional desktop-installed CAD altogether. People are already using mobile in their everyday lives to keep track of their calendars, communicate with their loved ones and run every aspect of their businesses. The design and manufacturing world will be no different. 

The reasons why designers and engineers will naturally embrace full-cloud CAD over traditional CAD are numerous – and they all boil down to the frustrations of installed software. Traditional CAD locks you down to only one computer, where your work is saved locally and not accessible anywhere else. Full-cloud CAD is available on any device, anywhere and anytime. Full-cloud CAD also eliminates the problem of software incompatibility with your design partners, vendors and manufacturers.