CAD Systems and Mobile Platforms Shift

CAD Systems and Mobile Platforms Shift

There are two types of CAD revolutions (features and platforms). The first create something completely new that was not possible before (think Pro-E and parametric features). Another one is platform shift. For many decades, CAD companies were playing the platform shift game. Remember Autodesk revolutionized the CAD by bringing AutoCAD that runs on PC instead of big computer boxes CAD used to run before? That was a platform shift that happened on a huge scale. Another example is Solidworks, which took an expensive Pro-E and created a much better replica by bringing it to Windows machine. The key element in Solidworks strategy was to introduce familiar Windows GUI to CAD and make it easy and simple. Solidworks was another big platform shift.

New platforms are coming and CAD vendors are looking into new platform shifts as an opportunity window for the future. One example of a platform shift was Onshape. Created by the founder of Solidworks, the idea of Onshape was to use the cloud as a new platform. The idea has some legs and Onshape created a completely new CAD system that runs in the browser. Think about it as “Solidworks replica” runs in the browser. Data management was the big deal in Onshape because it enabled PDM systems embedded into Onshape CAD features. Onshape was sold to PTC back in 2019 for $470M. Although Onshape runs on mobile devices, the main goal of Onshape was browser-based CAD.

Today, I want to talk about another CAD platform innovation – Shapr3D. I was following this CAD company that is developing a pretty neat CAD product, which was initially created entirely for iPad and uses Apple stylus pen. Watch Shapr3d videos on Youtube and you will be impressed by what it does.

Until now, Shapr3D was focusing on a cool conceptual design mostly. Customers usually bring a new platform (iPad) earlier in the process for conceptual design. Earlier today Shapr3D announced the Drawings feature, which is a big shift in what Shapr3D can do because now it can be a system that produces some results (and not only 3D models). The drawings are still one of the major documents that need to be produced as an outcome of CAD design.

Read Develop3D article – Shapr3d adds drawings.

Shapr3D, said: “With Drawings, Shapr3D now supports the full concept-to-manufacturable-drawing journey, in the same easy and mobile CAD that users around the world fell in love with for creating 3D models.

“This will empower many users, particularly Mechanical Engineers, Industrial Designers, and Design Project Managers to spend less time jumping back and forth between platforms and more time on work that matters, not to mention saving up to thousands of US dollars on extra tools.”

Shapr3D move is interesting because it brings a completely new dimension of CAD expansion – mobile platform – iPad. Although the latest releases of Shapr3D plan on other mobile platforms and also on Mac/OS, the iconic iPad user experience is what set Shapr3d miles apart from all other tools.


I will have to check Shapr3D more. UX is one of those things that is very hard to do. But once it is done, it opens a completely different horizon for the tool and what it can do. Like AutoCAD in the past, the iPad can be a revolutionary system to bring the CAD system closer to mobile and new user experience. Since Shapr3D now can produce drawings, the next question is for me how to connect Shapr3D to the downstream information process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.

[UPDATE 5-MAR-2021]

I’ve got the info from Shapr3D about their sales numbers. According to Shapr3D, there are 24,000 paying customers (at the end of 2020) with 2.4X YoY growth and we are now over 25K customers (tweeted by Allan Behrens). 


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