Dropbox can quietly become ready to manage CAD files

Dropbox can quietly become ready to manage CAD files


Cloud file sharing and collaboration tools are booming. To store and share files on one of the cloud file sharing tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple iCloud is part of everyday workflows. The situation is different for engineers working with CAD tools. You can store CAD files in your Dropbox. However, because of cross references between CAD files, you should do a lot of hand work identifying dependencies and bringing files back to your desktop. I discussed CAD file sharing and integration challenges in my blog earlier.

The problem of supporting specific file formats as well as providing ready to use revision management and collaboration workflows is recognized cloud file sharing vendors. My attention was caught by the following Dropbox acquisition – Pixelapse. Venturebeat article Dropbox acquires Pixelapse a version control and collaboration tool for designers brings some more details. Here is a very interesting passage:

While GitHub has built an entire business from enabling version control and collaboration for developers — it even takes its name from a popular version control language — designers have not been as fortunate with their tools. CAD and design software have been slow to catch up, usually forcing designers to save multiple versions of what they’re working in order to have access to slightly different versions. Adobe, Layervault, and even GitHub have also tried to alleviate this problem for designers, although no one, Pixelapse included, seems to have become an industry standard yet.

Some of Pixelapse features are interesting if you think about supporting work on engineering teams – real time notification, collaboration in context, granular permissions.

What is my conclusion? Mainstream cloud file sharing and collaboration tools are getting better. Of course, Dropbox is not targeting engineers working with CAD tools. However, by bringing new features and capabilities, Dropbox and other cloud file sharing tools can close the gap and push CAD file sharing and collaboration tool providers to search for more differentiations to justify premium price for cloud PDM tools. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • Jim McKinney

    I think using DropBox for CAD file management will just make things worse for collaboration and working together with the extended enterprise on projects. Tools like DropBox and Sharepoint drives, and other tools tend to proliferate because they are so easy to create, until finally there is no way to manage all the independent instances of file storage solutions. There certainly is no good way to search across all those independent items, and file reuse becomes challenging. It might be interesting and easy for engineers, but I don’t think it is a good method to manage CAD files.

  • beyondplm

    Jim, thanks for sharing your insight! You are absolutely right – it is a good and easy way for engineers to store, search and get access to data.

    I’m in slight disagreement with your opinion about management of data. Dropbox and other similar tools are helping to collaborate to many people these days. It is also a great way to have a single point of accessing your data. I’m using Dropbox and Google drive and this is an awesome way to manage your resources. These tools have good search functionality. Their ability to work with engineering and more specifically CAD data are limited. There are 2 main reasons – CAD file dependencies and CAD file viewing. These are advantages provided by systems like GrabCAD Workbench, Autodesk A360 and MySolidWorks Drive and some others. The last one is according to the website is storing data in Dropbox or Google Drive.

    Although, we put a lot of focus on “management” in the past, I can hear voices about how to make data management “invisible” in the future. IMHO, this is the right way to go with data management solutions. People don’t want to manage data- they just want to get right piece of data at the right moment. Just my thoughts…

    Best, Oleg

  • bausk

    Why on Earth do we need an “industry standard” for version control?

  • beyondplm

    In general, standards are good, since they can help in many situations. For example, GSM standard for phone communication, TCP/IP protocol, file format, naming convention, road signs, etc. We don’t want to force people to adopt standards. I guess a convention about “versions” might be helpful. I’m not sure it will become a standard soon.

  • bausk

    These all are communication standards. Communication is a non-issue in version control.

  • beyondplm

    I’m not sure got your point.

    Btw, file format is not communication. It is a standard how to store data. I also not sure road signs and naming convention are about communication (transferring data) standards.

  • Jim, I think you are framing the problem within the traditional PDM/PLM view where the management solution and the storage solution are one and the same. We cannot ignore the fact that solutions like DropBox proliferate because of their ease of use. The data management of tomorrow needs to stop forcing users through gates, such that they must stop whatever it is they are doing and deal with the interface of the management system. Instead data management of tomorrow must be transparent, following users where they go and make the particular storage solution, or any combination thereof completely irrelevant. I am one of many working on these types of solutions. PLM/PDM of tomorrow is going to look more like Pixelapse+Dropbox than you might think.

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