Future CAD competition will be about data management and networks

Future CAD competition will be about data management and networks


For many years, CAD competition was heavily focused on geometrical features and modeling. Still 3D modeling capabilities is a very important factor. But, the world has shrunk by the Internet. Small companies now have global reach and competition is taking new trajectories. In a new global environment, competitive pressure on manufacturers today more significant than ever.

Solidworks article – 3D CAD: the New Competitive Weapon by Barbara Schmitz published results of research done by Tech-Clarity. White paper “Are You Changing CAD Tools? What You Should Know,” author Michelle Boucher points out that because of the changes in the competitive landscape, manufacturers are shifting their focus to more product-centric strategies to improve competitiveness, with CAD tools being a key factor of this strategy.

One of the more surprising results of the study was the fact that the motivation behind making such a switch was largely for business reasons, not as a result of problems with their current CAD tools. Growing influencers include supply chains, relationships, the vendor’s vision for design, and the CAD vendors’ full breadth of offerings. This big picture view of CAD indicates higher levels of management make buying decisions and they view CAD as a strategic piece of a larger product development solution.

As you can see from the diagram, top two reasons are related to budget and OEM / supply chain pressure.


In the context of these two factors, cloud and web technologies can bring a shift in CAD that will change the trajectory of competition and introduce new way for engineers and manufacturing companies to communicate and manage CAD data. It might be a similar shift that happened 20 years ago when CAD users moved from expensive UNIX workstations to Windows and Solidworks. I found the following two articles can bring good examples:

Onshape blog – Full cloud CAD: the next social network speaks about how web platform and new type of data management can change the way we think about CAD system. It is not desktop tool that used to produce 3D design and store files on the disk or network drive. It is one global system helping engineers, contractors and suppliers to communicate, share information and be  much more product and efficient.

Because Onshape is a full-cloud CAD tool, it captures every change and every user interaction as your design evolves. Our customers also will soon have access to advanced Document activity analytics that enable your team to track progress by Document, user, team, project, geography and time.


Below is a real-world example of one Onshape customer team’s network graph. The nodes are users and the lines connecting them represent one or more Onshape Documents which that pair collaborates on (the size of the node is related to the amount of design work that user has done). In this example, we have several dozen users and several hundred CAD Documents being shared (in Onshape parlance, a Document is a project-level container that can include CAD models, CAD drawings, text files, videos, and data of any other type.


My second example came from Autodesk Forge platform. I visited Autodesk University few weeks ago in Las Vegas. If you missed my articles from AU, you catch up on reading AU2160 Keynote and A2016 product keynote.

Engineering.com article Autodesk Clear on Cloud and Collaboration gives you an addition perspective on what is core of Autodesk Forge API platform – Common Data Environment and Design Graph.


Autodesk is heavily into the topic of machine learning. Design Graph is an active step towards utilizing machine learning. Design Graph is a machine learning system that uses algorithms to extract large amounts of 3D design data. It then categorizes every component and design by classification and relationship to create a living catalog that can provide results to changes and to provide guidance for design.

At AU 2016, Autodesk’s message was loud and clear that it will develop and support software that helps teams collaborate, unlike desktop applications that it has delivered in the past. Its Forge platform best supports the company’s strategy of democratizing software. While most of the small- and medium-size businesses that constitute the Autodesk customer base may not have fully embraced cloud-based offerings yet, the company can view this as an opportunity or room for growth. Its partners have shown some eagerness to start working in the cloud with Fusion platform as they see this opportunity for business advantage.

What is my conclusion? The trajectory of CAD competition is shifting towards providing more efficient data management infrastructure and collaboration. Cost and speed of team communication are two main factors. Slow workflows and email collaborations will be things in the past. Global data access, intelligence, analytic, real time collaboration and simultaneous editing are coming. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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