Being that 3D printed designs are made on computers, there are so many different kinds of specialized software with different features available on the internet marketplace. One of these competitive software options is Onshape Cloud-Based CAD. Tom and Tracy Hazzard talk about the pros and cons of this software. Onshape touts an affinity for team-based work, but does it deliver everywhere else? See if this is the right CAD software for you!
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Onshape Cloud-Based CAD Software Review
Reviewing the ins and outs of Onshape cloud-based CAD software that claims to allow everyone on a design team to be able to work on a design from anywhere on a computer, tablet, or phone. When you first think about cloud based CAD software, you think that you are going to sacrifice something because it is online, so many of these are free and very inexpensive. We have reviewed a couple of them already, one of them being Sketchup and another one being Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a beginner software, but Onshape is something that we have just come to know recently. This is a very serious CAD program. It is not what you would expect.
The good thing about Onshape cloud-based CAD software or any cloud-based CAD software is that you are no longer bound by the power of your computer. I have used AutoCAD to Alias and Rhinoceros for most of my CAD work. The thing about a program like an AutoDesk 3D Studio Max is that it is a very high overhead program. It takes a lot of space, RAM, and you need a very good video processor card on your computer. You can limit your ability to render things quickly and to view them accurately with this. The thing about Onshape is that all the processing power is done on their servers. You access it on your web browser and you use it that way. You are not using your local computer’s processing power to perform all the mathematical operations.
You can use it from any computer, tablet, or even mobiles. The point is you can make changes and have access on it everywhere. You can use it at meetings and other events. It is very powerful. You just need to have an active internet connection. When I would travel, that was the perfect time for me to catch up on the CAD work and do some things that I would not have enough time to do with all the email interruptions and meetings in the office. I use that isolated time. That is one of the downsides to the Onshape cloud-based CAD software; you need to have internet connection.
Details of Onshape cloud-based CAD software
I view the internet and cloud based aspect over all as a very positive thing about Onshape cloud-based CAD software. That is a plus, even though there is a potential time where you will not be able to use it. This CAD software is designed to save your work. You don’t have to remember to save something. If your connection or power or cable goes out, you do not have to worry because they get saved automatically all the time. There was a time where I have been doing a major revision to a CAD model and I have had my software crash. If you have not saved your work in AutoDesk, you are going to lose it. This is another very positive aspect of the Onshape cloud-based CAD software as it automatically saves all the time.
Onshape cloud-based CAD software works best with Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera. If you are on a cross platform on a PC, you have to either use Chrome or Firefox. For their video graphic display, they use web GL. That is a driver. It automatically defaults in Chrome, but in Firefox or Safari, you need to enable that feature manually. I recommend Chrome because it is built in and would be easiest for you to use the software.
Onshape has a free version of it. I signed up and got a free account, having full functionality. For students or teachers, you can get an educational student account and it is free forever, as well as having full functionality. You won’t need the high end features unless you are a big corporation. The files are marked with an EDU tag and should just be used for educational purposes. However there are no restrictions to use it for other reasons. The paid account is $100 per month which sounds like a lot if you pay $1200 a year, but keep in mind that this is updated all the time and you don’t have to do anything to it to constantly upgrade it like other software. If you are only going to use a few aspects of it, the free account allows you to have up to 10 private documents and use up to 5 GB of storage within their system for those documents. If they are simple, storage will not be an issue, and as well as having an unlimited public documents.
I don’t know why you want to have public documents, as it enables people to view it which make it limiting. If you are just a hobbyist and you are not concerned with the privacy of your files, then the public document is just fine. What does this mean? I can start 10 documents. If I have 10 documents and once I start through that, do I have to start paying or could I delete? I found out if I delete it, it then told me that I had one additional one left that I could use. If you are not worried about saving these documents in their cloud long term, then you could use this potentially and output drawings and 3 dimensional files through it. Realistically, if you are a serious CAD user and you use it commercially, you would need to get the professional level of $100 per month package. It starts free for learning, and you can experiment on it. Make sure you like it before you pay for it.
Onshape cloud-based CAD software is a parametric modelling program. This is as you are building a model; it is what I call a smart model. It has constraints applied to all the different aspects of the model. All the different mathematical things that define what a different shape or model or assembly are within a CAD program are actually defined. Once you create a model, you can put it out on any size you want. You can then enter a value in there and change the radius to what you want to be. You can change its size not by selecting and scaling it, but by changing the linear dimension of the cylinder. You can change it any time. Parametric refers to the fact that these models are smart models that have constraints applied to them. Any changes you made can be making with the dimensions.
You have parent child relationships between parts and assemblies. You can also get to restrict the motions. You can specify all those different things as you have very specific ways as you link parts to each other and relate one to another. When you change or move on part within an assembly, they will move with it as well. Parametric is something that you need to jump in a program like Onshape because it will save a very real history of what you do as you create parts along the way. It saves that history and has an effectively infinite undo. If you need to go back in the very beginning, you can do that. It will then change everything that is built up from that in the appropriate way.
If you forgot the assembly that you are making needs a specific sized hole for a screw. Now you haven’t had that. You don’t have to go back and recreate geometry like in other programs. You can just go and add and change things. If that is referenced to other parts, all of that can happen in a very easy and seamless way. You have this unlimited undo and you can make changes on the parts without rebuilding them. These are very powerful things to include in an online CAD program. I am impressed with this. This is very similar to how Solidworks or Autodesk Inventor works. These are very similar parametric CAD programs that are very expensive packages. For Solidworks, I think it costs you $3000. Autodesk Inventor is similar in that regard.
These are professional CAD software suites that are expensive. $100 for Onshape cloud-based CAD software, is nothing to squeeze. $1200 per year is good because it is always updated. You get into a cheaper and get to learn it before paying for it. That is a very good advantage for it. You are also not limited with your computer’s processing power. This is very cool.
It is very interesting that Onshape cloud-based CAD software lets you learn that there are ways that you can have multiple people working on a same model. If you have a group of people doing CAD, different people can access the file and work on it. You can even take a part or an assembly or an entire file and duplicate it while creating another version of it. The system keeps track on all of the history on this. You have very accurate records of who changed it, when, and why. It is really impressive. They have a lot of the same command functions and abilities to do different things that are familiar. If not, you need to learn it first.
They’ve appeared to have thought of all the details and how people might use it, and I am very impressed with Onshape cloud-based CAD software. It is really more focused or appropriate for engineers or engineering projects because there are not a lot of free form creative tools to create geometry. It is based very much on your standard geometric thinking. When you have this deal with geometric hierarchy in order to go and create parts and to be able to undo them, it is very difficult for them to enable you to undo more complex geometric free form structures.
Functional Approach of Onshape Cloud-Based CAD Software
This is perfect software to use if you’re on that. But if you need to create an object that has complex surface texture to it just like a figurine, Onshape cloud-based CAD software would probably not be the right program to do that because this do not have the capability to do a surface type texture. Those are organic forms which is hard to create. But if you are going to create a model of an electronic product or housing, something that is a functional part that is based on more rigid geometric parameters, Onshape cloud-based CAD software is ideal. It can shell out parts for molding purposes to put angles in them. It has got all of the advanced engineering functions that you need.
They have other kinds of geometry. One of the other aspects that I do a lot of times in CAD software is that I create a 3 dimensional curve, path, or space. It is really hard to do that in a parametric program. You need to do it only in a different kind of CAD program that is not easy to constraint. For instance, I will make a curve in one plane, and I will extrude that curve as a surface. I will go from the side view and I will take another curve, I will then extrude that as another surface, and make these two surfaces intersect. I can then cut one surface by the other. What that does is that it takes two different surfaces or curves and it gives me a 3 dimensional curved path.
I can then get down to an actual 3 dimensional curved line. Doing some of those things could be hard in these parametric programs, but Onshape is not really intended to do that. In Onshape cloud-based CAD software, you are consistently working on a 3 dimensional environment and this is similar to Solid Works where you can pick a plain and you want it to be parallel to your viewing plains so that you can draw lines that are flat, and understand them. I am used to being able to see in a one view of my screen the one top view and the three dimensional view. Onshape cloud-based CAD software does not give you that ability, as well as other programs. It is more of a mental concept of how you do it.
Final Thoughts on Onshape Cloud-Based CAD software
To try to conclude, I really like this program and I think that it is going to be a very powerful and serious contender to the existing CAD programs out there. I think that I can use it myself more and more, because there are times when I am creating parts where I have them to have a little more rigid geometric constraint, so that I can generate drawings from these things. Rhinoceros is very hard to do. It is not easy and intuitive. In Onshape cloud-based CAD software, it just completely generates it for you. You are going to have tolerances on there. It is right up there on par with them.
I have to say in terms of support, which is another key factor in choosing CAD software, what kind of support is there to learn? Onshape cloud-based CAD software is something that I am completely impressed with. I have not used this program before. I am impressed because they have the most comprehensive help and tutorial features. They have a robust tutorial and help library for you to learn. You can just read, learn, and see screenshots. There is a whole video series to go through.
It is really very impressive as it has very good instructions. They encourage you to watch a video and then make your own drawing, doing some of the things that you are learning and going back on the video. They have a lot of points in the video where it stops, enabling you to try it out and then letting you play it again. It is very well done in terms of learning how to do it. I am really impressed.
This is definitely not your entry level CAD program. If you are just starting out, Tinkercad is a good way to start. When you outgrow it, you need to upgrade to another program and I think this is really a good contender. It is one of a few that you can use to go to the next level. I am really pleased. I am very serious that I am going to start this more on myself.
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