One of the topics I’m following closely these days is cloud CAD development trend. To make cloud CAD work from the cloud, vendors must solve some fundamental data management and PDM problems first. The two most visible players in cloud CAD domain today are Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape. Although Fusion360 was released almost 3 years ago, I can see some similarity in the way fundamental data management problems will be solved by both products. Note, that Fusion360 is using Autodesk A360 platform for data management. You might be interested to catch up with some of my previous writing about these systems – Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus and How Fusion360 and Onshape are solving fundamental CAD collaboration problem.
To continue, I want to have a conversation about cloud CAD and Product Lifecycle Development. 3D CAD World recently published an article Onshape: Future of CAD – or Future of PLM? The article brings good points about Onshape built with data management in mind. Here is an interesting passage:
Steve Hess, another member of Onshape’s UX/PD team, followed up Gallo by posting: “As you know Onshape was built with data management in mind. The data management features of Onshape are at the core of the product and will become more exposed as Onshape matures. “In time, Onshape will be the system of record for all types of data & meta-data (data about the data) allowing you to run analysis and simulations…without having [to] copy or reproduce the information in another system. The data stored in Onshape will be visible and accessible to your other enterprise systems.”
Autodesk and Onshape are in a different time phases related to enterprise deployments. While Onshape just started with public beta version back in March, Autodesk released cloud based PLM 360 back in 2012. The last blog from Onshape can give you some interesting perspective on what cloud CAD and Onshape can offer to enterprises out of the box. Navigate to the following link – 5 Ways to advance your career with Onshape. Yes, it speaks about career opportunities, but I want to focus your attention on some technological and product capabilities of Onshape. It related to the native ability of Onshape to share 3D data using browser. One of the uses cases – introduce 3D to manufacturing. Here is my favorite passage:
Stop using email, FTP and Dropbox to share files. Let’s face it, every time you send a copy of a file to someone you create issues with file compatibility, data security or version control. Human error adds to the problem when assemblies are sent without part files, old versions are used, or email size limits are exceeded. There is a better way with Onshape. Just upload your existing CAD data into Onshape and hit “Share.” Now everyone can reference the same data, translate on demand when needed, and you can easily revoke a person’s access if you choose. You will reduce daily frustration while increasing your company’s control of its data.
Introduce 3D to the manufacturing team. Too often, there are a few licenses of 3D CAD being used for product design, while the people designing the fixtures and tooling are using older 2D systems – or even pencil and paper. With Onshape, the entire manufacturing team can experience the benefits of 3D design. You will introduce design efficiencies and give others the tools to drive innovation.
One of the functional requirements for PLM is to make data widely available and used across all teams in the company and extended enterprise. Although, it sounds simple, it was a challenging requirement for many PLM products. Two main reasons – product complexity and expensive licensing mechanism. Onshape has some good news here such as sharing data similar to Google Drive and free licensing model (according to my understanding when engineer shares model with somebody, person is getting free license automatically). The licensing issue is probably require some additional validation. I’m not sure what happens when number of shared document with a single person will grow beyond 5 documents limit. Of course, companies in specific industries might have a problem with public cloud both A360 and Onshape are using.
What is my conclusion? Cloud CAD is getting close to solve some fundamental 3D sharing problems. These problems caused traditional PLM to slow down in their ability to spread across company departments. It is web based, simple and (there is a chance) free or has affordable cost. So, both Onshape and Fusion360/A360 can solve problems that addressed today by premium features of traditional PLM systems. In my view, this is an interesting shift that can disrupt current PLM status quo. Just my thoughts…
Picture credit Wikipedia Data Share article