Can CAD files and cloud-based collaboration work together?

Can CAD files and cloud-based collaboration work together?

Collaboration is one of these words that always created lot of confusion. For the last few years, we’ve seen CAD companies are actively focusing on enabling collaboration in 3D context – a long list of companies can be placed here, startups and established 3D CAD vendors were working to provide the best solutions to enable engineers to collaborate.

However, as I mentioned few months ago, the window of opportunity in 3D CAD collaboration seems to be closing. Established vendors are coming into the game and bringing their original brand solutions for CAD systems. Check my earlier blog here – Cloud CAD collaboration – the window of opportunities is closing.

My attention was caught by Dassault Systemes article publication about how boost your CATIA V5 collaboration with cloud 3DEXPERIENCE with no cost. Check the video:

It shows the idea of collaborating, connecting your data online, access people online. We’ve heard such messages many times for the last several years.

The question it triggered immediately – what about files? Is there a problem to leverage collaboration and still stay with files? Philippe Laufer, CEO of Dassault Systemes CATIA answered on my questions on LinkedIn and addressed the difference between CATIA V5 and V6:

I found this answer interesting. The granularity of context is different. As a result, solution might not be applicable in some cases. If you’re designing and need to collaborate with another engineer to make a change, you might not be able to do it with file based cloud collaboration. However, if you need to publish information already released in files, it can certainly work. But then, the question – where is collaboration?


The problem of CAD file locking in collaboration is still remaining unsolved. If you lock the file for changes, you want be able to collaborate. But, the devil is in details. What is collaboration? Do I really want co-edit files or reviewing and making comments is enough? Platforms are divided into two groups – CAD platforms for collaboration with files and native cloud file-less systems. CATIA V5 is an example of file-based. CATIA V6 and Onshape are examples of collaboration without files. In such context an interesting experiment of Autodesk working on High Frequency data project, but I didn’t hear much about it recently.

Onshape provides their view and explanation how Onshape collaboration is different from traditional file-based collaboration.

What is my conclusion? Collaboration is tricky word. It looks like CAD companies are trying to build an hybrid solutions by giving customers a way to keep current files based scenarios and leverage cloud collaboration. But the question of usefulness is an important one to answer.  You can publish 3D CAD data and see it only with multiple people. This is what I believe cloud CAD files collaboration does. However, if you need to get to the level of granularity of changes, file locking might prevent you from achieving results. 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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