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Boston area startup OnShape Re-invents CAD—In the Cloud and Platform Agnostic

A startup in Boston backed by MCAD veterans—OnShape—has finally unveiled its innovative fully cloud-based MCAD software, now a public beta, and the news of the unveiling has been rather well embraced, including a spread in the Boston Globe.

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Architosh has written about OnShape before, and particular with reference to the relative dearth of native Mac OS X solutions by the Big Four of the MCAD world—PTC of Massachusetts, Siemens of Germany, Autodesk of California, and Dassault Systemes of France.

To be completely fair, Siemens PLM (of Plano, Texas) does have its famous Unigraphics (now called NX) software on the Mac. In fact, NX, which descends from the days of UNIX workstations, has been much discussed as being the software of choice by Apple’s industrial design group—led by Jony Ive.

MORE: Apple may have been UGS’ First Mac OS X Customer for Unigraphics / NX — Famed Mac and iPod Maker a User of Highend CAID Products

Now OnShape may create the disruption of the next decade and beyond in CAD. Not because the company is so hip and cool and filled with young people that they created serious MCAD for Mac, but rather because they just took the computer platform right out of the equation altogether.

OnShape effectively runs on everything.

21st Century MCAD in the Cloud

OnShape is now an open-beta for the public and runs over the Web and on mobile devices. The company, which was quietly working with private beta testers for months, announced late last week that anyone can now request to sign-up and road test the new OnShape.

On the newly updated OnShape website they list six (6) things everyone should know…(about OnShape, of course!) They include:

  • OnShape is the first full-cloud 3D CAD system. It runs in a web browser and on any mobile device
  • OnShape uses cloud-native Documents, not files
  • You create parts in OnShape Part Studios and can have as many as you need in a single Document
  • OnShape Assemblies use a new, simplified approach to mating parts
  • OnShape changes the way you collaborate. You can instantly share Documents and simultaneously work with your peers
  • OnShape streamlines data management with built-in version control

OnShape runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook and runs through your web browser, via Chrome, Firefox or Safari. (did you notice what other browser is missing? …we did too). The technology that is essential to making graphically intense CAD programs work through your web browser is called WebGL, which Architosh has written extensively about.

OnShape also makes use of Parasolid geometry modeling kernel, the same one behind NX and tools like Vectorworks. while you are working it is constantly saving every move and change, to a server and if a server crashes your work is moved automatically to another server and you keep on working.

01 - OnShape is a fully browser based professionals MCAD system for the 21st century, post-desktop era. No software to install, no local version and no file saving. It is Parasolid-based. (image: OnShape. All rights reserved)

01 – OnShape is a fully browser based professionals MCAD system for the 21st century, post-desktop era. No software to install, no local version and no file saving. It is Parasolid-based. (image: OnShape. All rights reserved)

WebGL works by allowing Javascript calls, via your browser, to talk to the OpenGL driver on your computer so that your graphics card can rapidly implement an OpenGL graphics environment within the web browser itself. Autodesk’s new-ish Fusion 360 works the same way, but not exactly.

MORE: Mac users clamoring for SolidWorks may finally have an answer in OnShape

OnShape is entirely cloud-based and will include a free subscription plan and professional paid subscription plans. The details can be found here. Professional plans start at $100.USD per month and there are enterprise options for big companies. The key difference in the free versus pro plan is the limit of five documents active, versus unlimited documents active.

Mobile

Finally, we should mention that OnShape has dedicated mobile app versions for both iOS and Android.  All of their videos show the tool running on Apple devices, as the Android versions are not yet ready.

02 - OnShape runs on iOS devices and Android in the near future. The mobile app allows full editing. (image: screen grab of video on website, source: OnSite. All rights reserved.)

02 – OnShape runs on iOS devices and Android in the near future. The mobile app allows full editing. (image: screen grab of video on website, source: OnSite. All rights reserved.)

OnShape mobile app runs on iPhones and iPads (smartphones and tablets) and will perform fine on 4G LTE mobile networks and even better on modern WiFi networks inside offices, factory floors, hotels—you name it. OnShape on mobile is not just a viewer. The application is fully functional allowing the user to both edit and collaborate on any device.

To learn more about OnShape visit them here.

References

That reference article in the Boston Globe is here: (see, Boston Globe, “Can 50-somethings rekindle that old startup magic?,” 6 March 2015)

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