Everything is “in the cloud” nowadays. The phrase gets thrown around so much you’d think it were just another buzzword without much substance behind it. However, cloud-based tools are here to stay, and they keep getting better. Moreover, as we continue to become more and more connected, the gap between continents and time zones shrinks to a level that affords us the opportunity to work with clients across the globe.
You’ve probably been using things like Google Drive and Docs, Dropbox, and a host of other productivity tools for years. But what is the benefit when it comes to cloud CAD? Does it even work? Is it reliable? Can you really get design work done from anywhere?
The answer to all of these is YES!
The CAD industry has historically been excruciatingly slow to change. Sure, new updates get pushed out year after year (nevermind the fact that these sometimes require days or even weeks’ worth of “converting” to the new version of the same system...but that’s for a different blog post). Features are added, things are tweaked, new bugs are inadvertently created...rinse and repeat. To give credit where it’s due...CAD programs like SolidWorks, Creo, and Inventor are VERY powerful, and have allowed engineers to create almost everything you see around you. However, those programs, at their core, function the exact same way they did decades ago when they were first created. They require top-of-the-line machines to run properly...and that means engineers and designers need to carry around mammoth laptops (in the best case scenario) in order to work anywhere out of the office. Then they’ll need to establish a VPN connection in order to pull a CAD license and start working. And in some places, that is going to be spotty at best...and will be a complete roadblock at worst. That essentially means you’re dead in the water, and it happens with regularity in places like China.
Collaborate from anywhere
As we’ve already discussed, you may already be partially working in the cloud, using Google Docs, Dropbox, etc. You’ve probably already enjoyed the benefits of being able to access your work from anywhere, on any device...and also collaborate with team members seamlessly.
Onshape works in much the same way. There’s no need to save your work. You won’t lose any work due to a computer crash. You can access your entire library of CAD data from ANYWHERE there’s an Internet connection. That is a truly powerful thing, considering you can now quite literally take your entire business with you in your pocket...CAD data and all!
No longer do you need to worry about VPN connections, making sure files are checked in before you go somewhere, or lugging a huge laptop around a busy airport. By switching to cloud-based CAD, you can immediately make your business more efficient, and your teams more effective.
So, how reliable is it?
It is true that you do need an Internet connection for it to work...same as with Google Drive. At first this was a bit of a concern for us as we considered moving to cloud-based CAD. However, if you think about it for a minute...when’s the last time you couldn’t access your Drive? One of the enormous advantages we enjoy today is the ability to access the Internet from almost anywhere. There are very, very few instances where a connection is not available...and unless you are planning to move to some faraway island with no connection to the modern world whatsoever, chances are you will never be hampered by lack of a connection.
Also, remember needing to pull a license for traditional CAD? That would (generally) first require a VPN connection. I can point to one business trip in particular where I simply couldn’t get anything done. After lugging my massive boat anchor of a laptop through the Shanghai airport, we arrived at the supplier’s facility and started getting set up to review a tooling model. Only problem was, we simply couldn’t get a VPN connection, even though their network was blazing fast. Which meant we couldn’t even get the CAD software to open, let alone access any files. And, being 12 hours ahead in China...no one was available back in the States to help out. We essentially lost a day’s worth of work that could have been entirely avoided. With Onshape, we could have been up and running in about as long as it took to connect to their WiFi.
Cloud CAD is the missing link
Distributed design teams have existed for years already. In one design team alone, there could be people working in the U.S., Australia, the U.K., China, Mexico, Brazil, and Germany. All of this generally works pretty well with traditional CAD...on the surface, anyway. If you really dig into it, however, you’ll find a huge portion of the engineering team’s day is spent fighting PDM, waiting for someone to check in a file so they can work on it, or saving copies of designs, modifying them, and then trying to somehow merge them all back into the original. All while another engineer sits waiting so they can jump back into it.
Cloud CAD has solved these problems, allowing teams across the world to work on the same file, at the same time, with no overwriting someone’s work, saving a copy, or checking in or out files. You’ve probably worked with someone on a Google Document at the same time...Onshape brings this highly collaborative way of getting things done to the CAD world.
It is truly the missing link to a successful distributed design team. For these reasons, choosing Onshape as our CAD tool was an absolute no brainer for us over traditional CAD. Aside from it’s beautiful, clean interface...it affords us the opportunity work from anywhere, on any device.
THAT is a powerful benefit that has already paid dividends for us.