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When to use Fusion 360 Bodies and Components

A lot of users new to CAD or new to a 3D CAD modeller may be confused by the concept of Fusion 360 Bodies and Components. You don’t know, what you don’t know right? For those users, bodies and components can appear to be too similar to one another, and keeping things organised can be a challenge. So what’s the story? What are the differences between Fusion 360’s Bodies and Components, and when should Components be used?

Fusion 360 Bodies vs Components


Bodies are essentially collections of 3 dimensional features connected to one another, until they form a static representation of a part. People can create multiple bodies within a Component. Modern Top down design methodologies use the concept of bodies as the bed rock of its power. Essentially you are modelling one body relative to the next, as they will be built in the real world, allowing users to ‘borrow’ geometry from one body to drive features on the next. It’s a very powerful and convenient way to model.

Fusion 360 Bodies and features

  • Collections of features
  • Predominantly used with Top-Down modelling techniques
  • Geometry from one body can be used to drive geometry on another
  • Perfect for ‘fleshing out’ your design in the conceptual stages of the process
  • You can have more than one body per component
  • Bodies can be promoted to Components
  • Typically you would only have one body per component during the final stages of design
  • You CAN’T create Joints between Bodies


First of all, you need to understand that as soon as you create a new Fusion design, it is already a Component, additionally it will always be the top level Component for the design. Then by default the first 3D features you create will start to form the first Body for the design and therefore the Component. Components can contain one or multiple bodies. Typically though, as your design takes shape and you move into creating movement within your model, you would only expect to see a single body in each component.

Fusion 360 Component Properties

Components can represent either parts or sub-assemblies, so naturally sub-assembly components will be made up of other components. Building the component structure is how you communicate to the tradesman reading your drawings, or viewing your model, how you want them to assemble your design. Any downstream user of your designs will benefit from what is in fact, the Bill of Materials for your product. This structure cannot be achieved with bodies alone. Properties are a huge part of BOM’s as well, so components allow users to enter custom property values for Part Number, Part Name and Description. More properties and the ability to create custom properties will no doubt be added to Fusion 360 Components in the future.

  • Any new Fusion design is always a Component in it’s own right.
  • You can only create Joints between Components
  • Components can contain other components to form sub-assemblies
  • Defining components allows you to create a Bill of Materials (BOM)
  • Custom values for properties can be assigned to individual Components
  • Drawings are associated with components
  • Components can’t be demoted to bodies
  • Positional representations can be created, allowing a single component in multiple positions to determine the geometry of a neighboring component
  • Components are used in the animation and simulation environments

Fusion 360 Bodies and Components in Summary

Fusion 360 Bodies and Components

So, essentially Bodies form the geometric representation of your designs, either independently or as a result of relationships with other Bodies.Then Components allow you to define an assembly structure, and via the use of Joints, you can determine how parts and sub-assemblies function with respect to one another. When working with Components, you need to make sure you have the Component you are working with activated, otherwise you may get unexpected results. Just remember that the Fusion Design file is a Component of its own, so any additional features you add may end up as part of the top level Component, instead of the Component you thought you were adding it to. If you would like any further clarification, have any questions or tips about using Fusion 360 Bodies and Components, then please don’t hesitate to fire away in the comments below.

Oh, AND!!

If you are wondering  what Top Down design is, Paul Munford wrote a great piece explaining the various assembly modelling techniques within the context of Autodesk Inventor. The concepts discussed also apply for SolidWorks, and of course Fusion 360. The only difference is Fusion 360 doesn’t explicitly label components as parts and assemblies.

Solidworks BIM Content Creation Tips & Tricks

Solidworks arguably has the largest install base of the mid-range CAD products globally. Naturally this translates to a lot of Building Products Manufacturers also being Solidworks users. As BIM adoption accelerates at a rapid rate of knots, with large swathes of companies using products like Autodesk Revit and ArchiCAD, the pressure to provide high quality BIM content is piling up for Solidworks users around the world. However, although the simplification tools in Solidworks are extremely capable, and certainly adequate, there are limitations when it comes to Solidworks BIM export formats and embedded data (the I part of BIM). In this post I will highlight the most compatible workflows within Solidworks, but also show how easy it is to create poor BIM content.

The Base Dataset

The most likely scenario when starting to create BIM content, is having to do so from a completed and highly detail design. Ideally you would plan for BIM content creation during the preliminary stages of fleshing out your model in Solidworks. There is no reason why you couldn’t use the simplified geometry required for BIM content, to drive the complex forms and detail of your product. The benefits are twofold, you end up with a stable model driven by simple envelopes and instant access to a simple model to create Solidworks BIM content with.

Methven Aio Faucet Render Section

For the benefit of our readers. I’ve kindly been provided permission to use a fully detailed model of a Methven Aio Basin Mixer, skillfully modeled in Solidworks 2014. Methven make beautiful products, and I can say that, given my wife and I ended up choosing to use the Methven Kiri range of products throughout our house, long before I had the opportunity to work on this Solidworks BIM project with them.

Organization & Suppression

Solidworks 2016 New Assembly Folder

As with most high end 3D CAD products, Solidworks allows users to organize components within the assembly environment into folders within its browser. This provides a great opportunity to visually sort components into two folders, internal and external components. In doing so you can quickly toggle the visibility of components in between the two folders, making sure you end up with all the relevant Solidworks ‘BIM’ components sitting in the external components folder, allowing you to suppress all the internal components in one hit.


Solidworks 2016 Simplify command

This command is a cheeky little number, and like the Remove Details command in Autodesk Inventor, it relies on the features you want it to remove being native to the CAD application. So essentially this means you can’t effectively use the Simplify command with 3rd party models you have imported.

The Simplify command requires you to select which features you want to remove, a simplification factor, and if you want the simplification to be feature or volume based. A nice touch is the ability to ignore removal of features which affect assembly mates. In this case I’ve used all the default options, then after clicking the Find Now button, I enabled the All checkbox, but you can explicitly highlight which features you want to keep and which ones you want to suppress. Highlighted features will be suppressed once the Suppress button is clicked. You can also create a configuration with this tool if the situation suits. As you can see from the image below the result can be quite beneficial, but retain the overall appearance of the component.

Solidworks 2016 Simplify comparison


Solidworks 2016 Defeature Powerful, but a tad unreliable, the Defeature command has 4 stages. Component removal allows you to automate the removal of all internal components, manually select components to remove but also specify exceptions to any other rules set during this step. Stage 2 allows you to maintain some movement between components by creating rigid groups. The third stage provides the ability to choose which features to keep, either explicitly or via some auto select tools and filters. The final stage presents itself after the Defeature command processes all the selections so far, two windows appear, with the original model on the left and a defeatured preview on the right.

Throughout the process you have access to a Section View panel in the Property Manager. This is particularly helpful during the final and 4th stage of defeaturing. You can use it to check to see how much of the model, if any has been defeatured as you would expect. Luckily this stage gives you the opportunity to select additional faces, features, bodies or components to remove. Select any face and a mini toolbar pops up near your cursor, then you can choose how to expand your selection beyond the face you chose. I find this quite an effective method of refining what you need, my only complaint it deciphering what you have selected. This is a unique issue to the Defeature command, but rather a global issue with Solidworks once you have a lot of entities selected. To be fair the development team have eased this issue a bit, by allowing the user to expand the selection box in the Property Manager with the 2016 release.

Solidworks 2016 Defeature - Link to OriginalClicking through to the final page of this process, you can decide what you want to do with the model. In the context of this article, the first option makes the most sense. You can choose to Link the resulting model back to your original assembly if you want. Which could prove to be particularly helpful to building product manufacturers.

Repair, Patch & Fill

Solidworks 2016 BIM - Repair Patch FillFrustratingly in this case I wasn’t able to get the Defeature tool to fill in all of the voids, even after selecting all the features in this area of the model (at least I’m pretty sure I did… tough to tell). So if you come across this situation, you an take advantage of Solidworks modelling tools to extrude a boss, then make use of the copy body, boolean subtract and add commands. Ultimately this will create a new body you can use to fill any additional voids. In this case I chose to take it a step further, and create simplified geometry of the clamps as well.

Export Options

So this is where the good BIM, bad BIM play comes in. There are three effective ways of getting model geometry and metadata out of Solidworks and into Revit or Archicad. I’ll briefly cover each of them, as well as showing the geometric results in Revit & ArchiCAD, as well as the resulting file sizes.

Solidworks BIM Export (Export to AEC)

Solidworks BIM - Export to AEC

This is more of a workflow tool than anything else, whereby it brings together a number of tools available elsewhere in Solidworks. It starts with a request to define the type of BIM component it is and it’s orientation. I believe this is the only location in Solidworks where this vital part of BIM content creation can be achieved. After defining the ‘Host’ (floor, wall or ceiling), you are required to define a plane and an origin about which your BIM component will be attached within its destination model in the future. You can choose to Flip the Normal of the plane you select, but there is no way of telling which was is correct until you have imported it into the destination model.

On the next page you have to specify the level of detail you want to get achieve in your target model. Selecting either High, Medium or Low will pre-configure the Defeature command, allowing you to skip all the questions it asks of you, otherwise selecting Custom will take you through the full Defeature process. If you take the quick option, there aren’t any view section tools available so you can quickly check if you are being delivered the result you need. The final stage then allows you to export the result as a SAT file, I find it quite bizarre that IFC (and it’s Class definition toolset) wasn’t included as an option here.

This is my preferred option of the three for exporting you Solidworks BIM model. It gives you some BIM metadata and very clean geometry for the destination BIM based CAD system. SAT files are definitely the best option to get model data from Solidworks to Autodesk Revit.

IFC Export

Solidworks BIM - IFC Export

IFC is an extremely popular neutral file format in the BIM world. It’s certainly highly compatible with ArchiCAD and can contain rich metadata and various geometry options. It’s great news then, that IFC export has had a stealthy upgrade between Solidworks 2015 & 2016. Previously you could only export using IFC 2×3 with OmniClass classification, but you also had to set your document’s image quality to a suitable level, since quite bizarrely that drives the quality of the IFC output. 2016 delivers the option to export using the IFC 4 format, then additional improvements deliver the option of using UniClass2 classifications, as well as defining if you want Solidworks to use BREP, BREP and Tessellation or Tessellation export methods. However, you do still need to set the Image Quality in your document to determine the output resolution of the IFC file, why this can’t be specified during the export process is beyond me.

Based on my tests, exporting to IFC is an acceptable way of creating good Solidworks BIM content for ArchiCAD but a pretty terrible one for Revit. However, ArchiCAD 19 currently doesn’t support the IFC 4 file format, you will have to continue using IFC 2×3 for now. Given that the Solidworks IFC imported into Archicad delivers clean geometry, whereas in Revit the result is frankly quite disgusting, I’d say Autodesk have really dropped the ball when it comes to importing IFC files into Revit.

SAT Export

Solidworks BIM - Export as SAT

It doesn’t get any simpler than this. If you’ve followed the steps in this post and created a nice, clean and simple model for export. Then all you need to do is Save As your model and select ACIS as the file type, and save it out. The downside is you don’t get any actual ‘BIM’ metadata exported with the model, like you do when you use either Export to AEC or IFC Export.


Solidworks certainly has some decent tools when it comes to simplifying models of its own creation, albeit with some issues. Automating model simplification will always be an extremely tricky prospect with history based parametric modellers. The second part of the Solidwork BIM creation story isn’t about model geometry, its about Information. Although Solidworks does provide some tools to deliver BIM industry standard meta data, they do fall short. It’s at this point the reality sets in for Solidworks, it has some way to catch up before it can produce the same quality BIM content for Building Product Manufacturers as some of its competitors can. Nevertheless, I hope I’ve shown that with a bit of preparation and effort, you can indeed create good quality Solidworks BIM content.

Jon Hirschtick loses Onshape to Carl Bass

It was clear for attendees and onlookers of the Develop3D Live event held at Warwick University last week, that it was a rip roaring success full of brain food and networking. Of particular interest was the dual attendance of CAD royalty; Mr. Jon Hirschtick and Mr. Carl Bass. Given the history of Autodesk and Solidworks, having these two gentlemen in the same room together will always be a curious affair. However, this time their encounter has the power of CAD in the Cloud behind it. With Autodesk showing off and giving away Fusion 360, and Onshape doing likewise, the scene was set for a competitive environment.

Autodesk Slips in behind Onshape for the win

The competition didn’t stop at the event itself though. During the event’s invite-only after party at a local casino, it has come to our attention that a watershed moment for the CAD industry occurred.

Fueled by Kraken, the stakes were rising between Carl Bass & Jon Hirschtick. With their respective products about to go head to head in the market place, a bystander suggested they play for them at the Blackjack table, winner takes all. Carl refused to put Fusion 360 on the table, insisting the wager was completely unbalanced compared to Onshape. Instead, he proposed Tinkercad as a much more appropriate bet.

Our source relayed that Jon was disgusted by the proposition but quickly came around, figuring his legendary skills at the table would surely mean Carl’s defeat. As the game played out towards the end, a small crowd gathered as Jon doubled down with the last half of his markers… and busted… Carl walked out with Onshape and the opportunity to finally bring AutoCAD solid modelling into the 21st century.

*We sincerely hope no Onshapers were harmed in the production of this post.

Autodesk Inventor 2016 Now Uses AnyCAD format

Ok, not quite anyCAD format, but all the really important ones are covered; Solidworks, CATIA, NX, Pro Engineer and PTC Creo. Hey, what did you say? you may be asking… Yes Autodesk Inventor 2016 will now natively import and maintain associativity with all major CAD file formats. BOOM! Now that guys & gals, is a game changer for the wider CAD / CAM industry.

Autodesk Inventor 2016 Multi-CAD

Why’s it a Game Changer?

There are plenty multi-CAD workplaces knocking about, whether that’s because of mergers, legacy decisions in different departments or a heavy reliance on contract design staff. But this is also a big deal for the CAM users out there, those guys are receiving various data formats from all their clients every day… and they are also subject to in process change just like everyone else is.

In the way the Navisworks changed the way multi-disciplinary design review was carried out forever (and it’s competitors), Autodesk Inventor’s Multi-CAD functionality promises to do the same for the modelling process itself. Yes, PTC got in there first with Creo 3.0 delivering their Unite Technology supporting Solidworks, CATIA and NX files. Inventor 2016 supports those same file formats, as well as PTC Creo, Pro Engineer Wildfire and Autodesk Alias. I never got the opportunity to try out Unite in Creo 3.0, so I can’t compare real-world functionality unfortunately.

How does it work?

I have absolutely no clue, beyond knowing the translators in use are from a 3rd party* (which other CAD vendors will also be using) and a heavy dose of wizardry from the Autodesk developers! What I do know, is you can open any of the supported file types, either parts or assemblies, straight into an Inventor part or assembly. You even get to read the BOM of the source files via Inventor’s Bill Of Materials dialog. Check out this video to see how it’s done:

Does it work?

I’ve only been able to test it using datasets created in Solidworks 2015 SP1.1. So I can’t speak for the other file formats at this stage, but the harsh reality is there are issues. Bearing in mind that there is a lot of Black Magic going on here, it is hardly surprising. However, this is the first release of the technology and I have no doubt that PTC’s Unite Technology will have issues as well. But the great thing is, both of these companies are having a go at breaking down the barriers put up by competing CAD file formats.

The problems I have encountered initially are:

  • 80% of the time a projected edge from a Multi-CAD source will fail on update when the source model geometry around it changes.
  • Geometry changes within the boundary of the Multi-CAD model work better than changes which result in the overall model size changing.
  • Assembly Joints & Constraints are a bit hit & miss at release, but those relationships are more stable than sketch projections are.

So basically, if you stick to a bottom > up modelling workflow with these components you are more likely to succeed than using a top > down approach.

I did manage to program a native Solidworks part file, inside Inventor HSM though and maintain an associative relationship:

DWG Underlay

Another excellent feature which arrives under the ‘Multi-CAD’ banner, is the AutoCAD DWG Underlay. I was honestly speechless when I saw this for the first time. Having worked with Inventor in the Super Yacht interiors industry for 10 years, I’m acutely aware of how poorly Inventor handles large amounts of AutoCAD 2D objects. General Arrangement plans are highly detailed beasts in the marine (and aerospace) industry, because they’ve historically been used to sell yachts there is a lot of stylized line work. It can be a pain to clean it all up, only to receive another version the following week. God I wish I had this tool in the past. Feast your eyes on this:

* Digging through the Autodesk Inventor Trademarks and credits declaration, you will find a reference to CADCAM-E.COM. Credit to a very curious colleague of mine for finding that!

Autodesk 2016 Products Download Links – Including Suites

The Autodesk product launch season always offers up a mixture of excitement, disappointment or trepidation. Have they delivered the improvements you had been hoping for? Will the software be stable straight out of the box? Will your team of designers be as excited as you are about the features you got to use during beta? This post gets you one step closer by showing you where you can find direct download links for the latest and greatest releases of your Autodesk CAD tools.

The primary location for downloading your Autodesk products this year can be found in the new Autodesk Accounts site. You can get there via, since that will take you straight to the Products & Services download or activation page:

Autodesk 2016 Product Download

This is the best place to get the latest stable builds of your Autodesk applications; AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, Vault, 3ds Max, Maya etc and all the extra subscription goodies for you to get your geeky mitts on. And what an absolute joy it is to use compared to the now retired Subscription Center, THANK YOU Autodesk. Oh and with this site… if you fall off Maintenance Subscription, bad idea, but if you do, you will still be able to access this site and download the last version you paid subs for. It was always an absolute mission trying to find download links for previous release installers when you weren’t on subscription.

But occasionally the Autodesk Virtual Agent is a more direct and therefore handy location to get what you need (Download links will likely take longer to appear on here than on the Autodesk Account portal). Of course both of these locations will also have links for all the Autodesk Suites.

Autodesk Virtual Agent direct download links

Either way, the Autodesk launch season is upon us, so which ever method you use to get your software, keep an eye out on Design & Motion for 2016 What’s New & Review posts.

Autodesk 2016 Product What’s New Reviews:

Onshape’s Roll of the Dice – Initial Review

A few different articles have popped up over the last few days discussing Jon Hirschtick, his new company and the Browser based CAD product, Onshape. Predominantly they have focused on the enviable history of those in charge and the recent success of raising a decent whack of funding to continue development. You have to give this team respect, they absolutely nailed it with Solidworks from the mid 90’s onwards, then John McEleney and his executive team went on to grow Solidworks into a US$400m revenue company, they clearly know what they are doing! But let’s not hide from Onshape’s elephant in the room, Autodesk delivered Fusion 360 several years ago now and it was in development long before that. Onshape have their work cut out, and as of today they will be doing it publicly with the launch of OnShape Beta. So how are they doing?

Design & Motion have had access to Onshape for a couple of months now. Personally I haven’t played with it anywhere near as much as I would’ve liked, so this evening I threw myself into it, watched most of the tutorial videos and set about trying to recreate Jon Landeros’ 12 sided dice.

Pricing Model

Onshape pricing

Free – This edition, touted for students, makers and startups, is fully featured, but limited to 5 active private documents. You can create unlimited numbers of public documents, but nested away under the feature pull downs is a limit of 5GB storage space. We can’t tell the size of each document, so there’s no way of telling how many documents you can store publicly, at this point it’s not clear if the storage limitation applies to both private and public documents, or just the 5 private ones.

Professional – The first paid for version of Onshape. At US$100 per user per month right off the bat, and for a beta grade product… it seems a bit steep. But, Onshape will need some revenue and there is no better gauge of a product’s usefulness than if people will actually pay for it. What did take me by surprise was the lack of a discount for the annual subscription, that rolls in at US$1200. For that money you get ‘Unlimited’ private documents and billing management tools. I put unlimited in quotes, because again there is a storage limit of 100GB.

Enterprise – This level of the product is Price On Application. So I would imagine it would be much better pricing based on your negotiating skills and the clout you can wield within the industry. Most of the additional goodies revolve around enterprise level support & SLA’s etc.

While you can’t tell the size of individual documents, you can see the amount of storage you have used so far from your account page. So far my account contains 3 basic parts, and I’m up to 31.59 MB…. they are some seriously storage hungry documents.

My Documents

When you first get access to Onshape your initial view of the product is the Documents page. Here you can access and view your Private documents, but also Public documents. Tutorial and sample files and can be accessed from the navigation pane on the left side of the page. Essentially it’s no different to using Windows Explorer, but with a web UI twist. Each document displayed in the center of the page is listed in a Detail view, with a settings button at the end of each row. This allows you to inspect the history and versions of the document, as well as share and make the document inactive.

Onshape My Documents

Inactive? What’s that all about? At this stage I think it only applies to the Free product. So you can actually create more than the 5 documents listed, up to your storage limit. I haven’t come across any significant road blocks as a result of the active/inactive behaviour. But I would imagine it being a pain when it comes to collaborating with others. And that’s the point I believe, after all, they need us to pay for the use of this tool.

So what’s a document? Essentially it represents a single design set, within the document you can create parts, assemblies and eventually drawings. These appear at the bottom of the screen in tabs, Onshape refer to these different environments as ‘Studios’. I actually quite like that name and may give a hint of what’s to come with the product.

One area of the Documents I haven’t really explored yet, and one which is clearly at the forefront of this product from an architectural standpoint, is the version branching. I will try to circle back and review that in a later post. I’m keen to compare it to the similar functionality about to be released later this week with Autodesk’s Fusion 360. Exploring design ideas, managing internal change but also change imposed by customers is a big deal within design and engineering companies the world over. This feature could end up being a big differentiator between the two products, making it inherently functional but intuitive will be important for these ‘next-gen’ CAD products.

Help & Tutorials

Onshape Help and TutorialsOne area where Onshape has to perform is within the support network for the product. They don’t have a worldwide network of support staff and sales people yet (although they are openly accepting applications for partners). Is it needed? I don’t think it’s needed for sales necessarily, but large deals in large companies are done face to face. There is no doubt the current Onshape sales team will be doing face to face sales with large companies in the USA moving forward. But the general stand alone user and SMB, probably couldn’t care less. What they will care about though, is getting good support and training. Can that be delivered satisfactory with online resources & phone support? That remains to be seen. So what is there now?

At any point you can access Help, Videos and Tutorials from the Help drop-down menu in the top right corner of every page. So far I haven’t done any tutorials, but I have watched most of the videos and used the help file. I enjoyed watching the videos and the help file is well laid out and appears to be complete. Without a support channel in the form of resellers around the world to provide a support buffer, I’m interested to see how well they keep this documentation and these videos up to date as the product quickly develops, and navigates in line with users needs. This is an area where Fusion 360 has struggled, you often find videos & tutorials for Fusion features, but the product has moved on since then. As you will find within CAD departments with Standards documentation, it can be hard to keep up with the pace of change. Cloud driven products accentuate this more than ever.


Onshape Sketching

I slipped straight into sketching in Onshape, it’s remarkably similar to Autodesk Inventor, placing sketch dimensions is visually different, but ultimately you are just typing in a dimension or Expression. Onshape refer to them as parameters, but to be clear, Onshape doesn’t support parametric sketching yet. There is no provision for global variables, you can however type in a wide array of expressions as values for dimensions (as well as mates in the assembly environment). There are also a number of cues within the sketch environment very familiar to me from Fusion 360.

The problem is, sketching is inherently a fiddly process and therefore it’s one which demands a dexterous user interface. As soon as your internet connection gets squeezed so does the responsiveness of the UI. This translates to multiple attempts at activating the dimension to edit it, or waiting for a sketch highlight to highlight only to become frustrated a click it again thinking you missed it… then you realise you just deselected the damn thing. The user interface is to it’s create more nimble than other cloud hosted UI’s I’ve played with from New Zealand, but they weren’t saleable products and not something being touted for production use. What is clear though is WebGL and browser based UI’s are improving fast (So is NZ’s local internet and connection to the USA).

Currently, the sketch environment doesn’t contain any tools for creating text objects, so I had to draw my 1 & 2 manually. In that respect I couldn’t reasonably recreate the embossing typically found on the face of dice. I really couldn’t be bothered trying to sketch out each number. It was upon zooming this close to my model, that I discovered an issue with the way the selections work when applying selections (I haven’t provided this feedback to Onshape yet). To select multiple sketch objects, you don’t have to hold down CTRL or SHIFT, you can just keep clicking. You can click a second time to deselect objects, but to completely reset the selections, you have to click on the graphics window background. That is fine if you aren’t zoomed right in. It’s not a major, but I found it threw me a few times and found it awkward to work around.

Part Modelling

Onshape dice closup - part ribbon

At first glance it seems like most of the modelling tools you would need are in the part environment. There are quite a few, but the immediate one I found to be missing while starting to create this dice, was a boundary patch command. I couldn’t find a way to create a flat surface other than extruding one. I worked around it by starting the model with an oversized lump, then hacking it up with work planes, splitting the solid into two bodies and deleting the orphaned body. Boundary patches are essential in CAD modelling, so I have no doubt they won’t be far away. It is still the first day of the beta after all.

There were a lot of work planes to create for this model… about 12 funnily enough. But the process, although repetitive, was a breeze. Onshape have done a good job with the user experience when creating work planes.

Onshape ChamferOne of my favourite modelling features so far, is the ability to select faces within the Chamfer tool. Inventor and Fusion require the user to select the edges they want chamfered. Onshape’s pedigree is showing through here, since Solidworks allows face selections for chamfers and fillets also. This will save a tonne of time eventually.

Beyond this I haven’t explored the modelling tools any further yet. But it is clear they are currently very limited, which you may be surprised to hear having already read popular press covering Onshape in the last 24 hours.


Onshape Sample Assembly

The assembly environment is an area where I need to spend some time, but I was curious about some of the samples. I quite liked the look of this cute little fan mechanism, upon opening I fondled it somewhat, only to find it doesn’t work. The components are all Mated into position, but none of them interact with one another (i.e: the gears don’t work). Clearly this is an area which will be improved.

But what surprised me about this particular assembly was the lack of edge smoothing being applied to the blue ring. Graphics of that quality are not acceptable by many in desktop products. Again I have no doubt this will be something the Onshape team will be keen to work on.

Onshape MatesI have of course watched the assembly tutorial videos to see what it’s all about. I was pleased to see Onshape’s Mates are very similar to the Joints found in Autodesk Inventor and Fusion. This approach is far more user & simulation friendly than the old skool Mates found in Solidworks and Constraints found in Inventor. In addition to being able to create Mates between placed components, you can create some additional design intelligence by applying Mate Connectors to your components prior to them getting anywhere near being used in an assembly. These in turn speed up the placement of the components and avoids repeated application of the same Mates in future assemblies.


Onshape Browser Based Errors

Earlier on today and late last night (just prior to the beta going live), I noticed a significant performance drop off from what I had been used to with Onshape. I had to continually reload the page whenever I opened a new document. The Onshape team were very responsive with respect to dealing with the issue, as evidenced with this tweet from John Rousseau:

To John’s credit, also immediately after that tweet, I didn’t see that connectivity issue again. However, I do still spend a lot of time looking at this rotating wheel of boredom. This product isn’t as snappy and responsive as it needs to be. Onshape LoadingI have fibre at my home office and the office in Auckland, in both those locations the UI lag is tolerable, but it does take a while to load documents still. Then I was using a hotel ADSL connection last night, and honestly, the experience was horrible. And this is the challenge Onshape must overcome to make this product successful. It’s all very well having it perform within the major centers of the USA, but the internet in New Zealand is faster than it is in the vast majority of continental USA. How many servers, in how many locations around the world can Onshape afford to have running to deal with this user experience issue?

As I mentioned earlier WebGL, HTML5 & Internet connectivity are all improving at such a blinding pace, these issues will likely dissipate over the next 2-3 years. But in the meantime, Onshape need to keep customers paying $100 a month.

Closing thoughts

I am aware this is day 2 of the beta, I can’t be too harsh, and some of my comments about product may seem harsh to some. But Onshape are asking people to pay to use this product from day 1, some they say, already are. So that notion has been in the back of my mind while writing this up.

Although it may not have seemed like it at times, I am genuinely glad Onshape has arrived on the scene. Fusion 360 & Onshape will drive each other forward and hopefully keep each other honest. Competition is good. However, my biggest disappointment with Onshape so far relates to a word I used in the opening paragraph, Respect. Onshape have continually brushed off the existence of Fusion 360 as viable competition for them, I don’t think they have used the name Fusion once. Fusion 360 started out life as a desktop based technology preview, Inventor Fusion, available from Autodesk Labs in mid 2009. Then in March 2013, it graduated into a full blown cloud hosted CAD product sitting inside a custom browser. While it did work (with similar issues I’ve experience with Onshape), it wasn’t what users wanted. Autodesk listened, and chose to focus on a hybrid approach. This kept users coming, trying the product, then continuing to use it. So all this ongoing hoopla about Onshape being the first true CAD product in the cloud, is misleading and assumes the users they are communicating with to be fools. Business is business, but so is competition and with competition, there is sportsmanship. If an up and coming athlete behaved the way Onshape have been, then their peers and fans would most likely look quite dimly on it. Far better to acknowledge the competition in public, then take greater joy from kicking their arse in the future.

I enjoyed reading Adam O’herns post earlier today, the first few paragraphs got me all riled up but he then diffused me with aplomb. However, I don’t entirely agree with one section of his post:

“What about all those folks buying ShopBots, OtherMills, Carveys, Form 1’s, and those love-to-hate Makerbots? Every stinkin’ one of ‘em just signed up for Onshape. What about the rapidly increasing number of engineering contractors, freelancers, and boutique design shops all over the world, Dads with too many power tools, kids who take things apart, or anyone currently using Sketchup?”

While I think they should definitely sign up and take a look at Onshape, at this stage they really would be silly to use it over and above Fusion 360. They just get so much more from it from freeform surfacing to FEA and CAM to 3D printing. Given the fact Onshape do have a free plan, you would be silly not to sign up and have a play. I will say this, from the very first time I tried to use Inventor Fusion until very recently with Fusion 360 I found it a struggle to ‘click’ with the program. But Onshape immediately felt different, I felt relatively comfortable pretty quickly (helped by it’s similarities to Autodesk software), for all it’s issues and challenges ahead, it does have a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’. I even quite like all that grey iconography.

3Dconnexion CadMouse – Hands On Review

Last week 3Dconnexion announced the imminent release of the world’s first mouse for CAD professionals. The announcement coincided nicely with this weeks SolidWorks World 2015 event in Phoenix, which allowed them to show it off in person to the masses. So for those of you who didn’t get to see it, or couldn’t attend SWW15, I’ve put together this hands on review of the CadMouse. Continue Reading

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