Mar. 10, 2015 | By Alec

Regardless of the frequency or difficulty with which you do your 3D printing, it's virtually impossible to circumvent some form of CAD software. And while discussing the pros and cons of various programs was already an evening-filling activity, things are now getting even more difficult as a very exciting and promising new program has just launched: Onshape. Designed by the main team behind SolidWorks, it is shaping up to every bit as functional as that ever-popular piece of software, but then with one big difference: it's up in the cloud.

Now we know what you're thinking: Surely SolidWorks is too data-intensive for the cloud? And you would have a good point; as a very complex and multi-functional program it generates lots and lots of data, while cloud-based CAD programs are typically very simple and intuitive programs to use. Perfect for beginning designers and small 3D printing projects, but not so much for experienced users or team-based efforts.

But that is, as John Hirschtick (founder of SolidWorks and now of Onshape) explains, exactly what Onshape is for. Having been in development of three years, Onshape is designed with the purpose of working on large CAD files with large teams and many individual files. To do so, it relies simultaneously on the cloud and on your own processor to render complex CAD files. It can even be used in teams working on the same model simultaneously; you can even watch your colleagues edit files in real time. 'For the first time in your career, you will no longer be handcuffed to one computer. Onshape works in your web browser with any operating system. Windows. Mac. Linux. Chrome. No worries about licenses or codes,' Hirschtick unveils in a blog post. 'Your CAD system and all your CAD data travels with you; it no longer "lives" on your work computer only.'

Hirschtick and co have even developed an app version of Onshape that grants mobile users the same level of complexity (unlike just about every app-based CAD program I know of). 'I meet a lot of fellow engineers in my travels and I often hear how some of their best ideas do NOT happen at work. They happen in restaurants, on the couch, on the train or in a plane,' Hirschtick writes. 'For this reason, we're especially excited to unveil Onshape Mobile, the first and only full-function professional 3D CAD system available on phones and tablets. Onshape Mobile is not just a viewer -- it includes ALL of our CAD and data management functions. You can design and edit on your iPhone, iPad, and -- soon -- your Android devices.'

But you'll be pleased to find out that Onshape is essentially a 21rst century version of SolidWorks and has been made by largely the same team. 'Our team includes the original SolidWorks team plus elite engineers from the data center, cloud computing, security, and mobile industries. CAD is in our blood. It's infused in our culture,' Hirschtick explains. 'We're very excited to empower CAD users across the world with Onshape.' Using a whopping $64 million in funding, they have been developing this software for the past three years.

Over the past six months the program has been privately released to a thousand users all over the world, but Onshape is now finally entering its open beta phase. To learn more about this promising program, head over to their website here for videos, tutorials and more information. But the best news of all: Onshape is comes in a free version as well, one that will not timeout, isn't watermarked or features limited options. The only restriction is in the number of private documents that can be accessed at any given time. A professional package ($100 a month subscription) features unlimited use, while there is also an enterprise option for companies (prices differ per company and applications).

There's just one problem: the beta has already filled up within hours of its launch, so the rest of us will have to wait for more servers to open up first. Keep an eye on their website and be sure to check it out! Onshape is shaping up to be exactly what team-based 3D printing projects need.


Posted in 3D Software


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j.pickens wrote at 3/17/2015 6:41:08 AM:

Any idea what a single user hobbyist version of the software would cost? I'd like to learn to use the beta, but if the final version is too costly, It might not be worth the effort.

Joe Dunne wrote at 3/14/2015 2:14:54 AM:

Hi Ben, We are adding new users to the beta program at an increasing rate. So I am sure you will get in soon if you have not already done so... Demand has been rather large. Feel free to let me know if you have not. Joe Dunne Onshape

Ben wrote at 3/10/2015 6:56:11 PM:

hope their beta expands. I love solidworks and using it for home use like this for free is HUGE.

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