Is the future of CAD in the cloud?

Technology

Ex-CEO of Autodesk, Carl Bass recently stated that the last interesting thing to happen in CAD was the introduction of Solidworks 25 years ago . Although I don’t wholly agree with this sentiment, it does bring to light stagnation in the 3D design space. Is CAD lagging behind in terms of recent technological advancement? Are we taking the capability of modern CAD for granted? Maybe it is the industry and not the software that is moving too slowly?

Before discussing the future of Computer Aided Design, I think it’s important we take a moment to appreciate it as it exists today. We can all agree that the development of modern CAD applications has had an incredible, unmeasurable impact on society. The pace with which we are now able to ideate, design, iterate and manufacture is truly incredible. Leaders like Dassault Systèmes, Autodesk, Siemens, and PTC have fundamentally changed the way we create, and it often goes under appreciated - these systems are incredibly powerful, yet we often would rather complain about how they are overly complex, buggy, missing features, and take too long to open and navigate large files.

So what point was Carl Bass trying to make? Are we overdue for a massive step change in 3D design, equivalent to that of the birth of SolidWorks - something that completely disrupts the industry? Perhaps in the area of additive manufacturing or generative design? Today these are hardly more than buzzwords as far as daily design processes are concerned. But in a decade will they have changed the way we work as drastically as CAD itself? Only time can tell.

What we do know is that one of the biggest disruptors worldwide in technology today is the transitioning of old archaic processes and software to ultra-accessible, reasonably priced and efficient cloud solutions. Moving CAD to the cloud seemed like an impossibility years ago; even today it presents a large number of challenges, including perceived security issues, lack of functionality, and process change impact. However, products like Onshape and Fusion360 are proving that it is far from impossible. And that’s exciting. Cloud CAD opens up a whole new realm of opportunities, many of which result in incredible efficiency benefits in the long run.

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Onshape's Cloud Based CAD

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Fusion 360 Web Browser Interface

Obviously, these benefits can’t be realized over night, and there are a ton of technical challenges ahead. But, I am hopeful companies like Onshape will make it work. If you follow OnShape you will have noticed significant technical and user base growth in a short period of time, and thinking about the demographic of our future designers, most will be familiar with using cloud applications and less hesitant about making the transition. The future looks promising.

But Carl Bass doesn’t seem to feel the same way, calling Onshape a “classic example of the CAD industry worrying about technical problems rather than the needs of their users”.

What do you think? Do you foresee your organization moving to a Cloud-based CAD application? If you don’t think it will happen, why not?

Have thoughts or feedback? Check out the post or email me at akeating@colabsoftware.com

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