Onshape might be on track to create an open engineering platform

Onshape might be on track to create an open engineering platform


Time is running fast. It has been almost 6 years since I met Hardi Meybaum co-founder of GrabCAD in one of Starbucks shops in Chestnut Hill, Mass. We’ve been talking about Marketplaces and Engineering Software. You can read my old blog here. Looking back, I think the idea of GrabCAD as a community place to share 3D data was great. To build a website that can help engineers to get out of local paces and to sell engineering services is an interesting opportunity. More about it in my another blog back in 2011 – The future of engineering communities.

GrabCAD has a good idea of community building around free 3D content. Even after acquisition of GrabCAD by Stratasys, it is still the best place for me to go and find some cool 3D CAD models for free.  But, is it enough to create a open engineering platform?

I’ve been thinking about it earlier this week when blogging about some controversy around what is actually can be considered as a platform  – Autodesk and Solidworks seem to have different views on what is “platform”. As discovered by CIMdata, platformization is an interesting trend these days. To create a engineering platform business is a challenge. But it looks like many companies in CAD and PLM domain are striving towards the “platform” opportunity. Some of them are developing new cloud software and others are hosting existing products and technologies using variety of IaaS platforms.

Although, engineering software community is very conservative, to start from a clean page can give you a competitive advantages. To take care of legacy is hard and expensive. This is especially important in cloud technologies. A new company in engineering software world, Onshape is demonstrating the combination of fresh start and full cloud vision. Onshape rolled out an impressive browser-based mechanical CAD system last year and introduced Onshape App Store recently. These two components together are already a very interesting combination. However, there is a 3rd element, which is in my view is important to realize a full potential of Onshape platform – public CAD documents.

My attention was caught by Onshape blog – Understanding of public document. It can give you a perspective on how Onshape business model plays together with Onshape cloud platform to create and manage CAD data. The interesting part is creation of public design data under Onshape free plan. Here is more details from Onshape blog:

Once a Document has been set to “Public,” it belongs in the public domain. This means that any Onshape user can copy, modify, and use your designs for any purpose. This is the intended use for Public Documents and one that we at Onshape want to encourage. Public Documents help build and grow the community and nurture sharing and open source design.

An alternative to allowing unlimited downstream use is to reserve rights in your work before posting it as public. For example, you can allow others to copy and modify your work as long as they give you credit or attach the same or a more restrictive license to any work they derive from it. To reserve rights, you must create a new tab called “LICENSE” and document the obligations you wish to impose on others within that tab in PDF or plain text format. Adding such a license as the very first tab of your Document will ensure that this is the first page a user sees, and thus will help clarify your intentions.

If you need to share your Private Documents and collaborate with others, then your partners only need a free account. A shared Document from you will only count against their Private Document limit and not against their private storage limit. Unlike traditional CAD, your entire design ecosystem, from contractors to suppliers and customers, do not have to purchase expensive desktop-installed software (with associated hardware and subscription costs) to ensure everyone is on the same release.

To create CAD design and share it under open source license is a fascinating opportunity that can turn Onshape in an ultimate place to create open source engineering projects. And this is an ideal place for open source innovation that is coming from software to hardware.

What is my conclusion? Onshape is an interesting cloud platform, which combines element of mechanical design, application development, cloud data management and open source ideas. It looks like something pretty unique if I compare it to everything else on the market. Engineering software is a very conservative domain – it takes sometimes many years to get a specific technology adopted by manufacturing companies.  It will be interesting to see the adoption speed of Onshape among different groups of engineers and manufacturing companies. Internet and cloud technologies are changing the way engineering software applications are developed, distributed and used. So, we might be surprised by the results. It is very interesting to see how such platform as Onshape will play into open engineering communities like Local Motors1B as well as wide range of open source hardware projects. Onshape is clearly one of the things to watch very closely these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

(c) Can Stock Photo


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