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Frame Unveils Powerful New Visual Supercomputer in the Cloud

Frame used Autodesk University to announce that Autodesk had certified their platform for use with AutoCAD & Revit. This week Frame is using SolidWorks World to announce their new Pro 64GB version. Here is a snippet from the press release…

DALLAS, TX – (February 1, 2016) – Frame (, the cloud service that lets users run any software in a browser, announced release of its new system, Pro 64GB, that designers and engineers can use to run their most performance-demanding applications in the cloud.

Frame Pro 64GB is optimized for modern, multi-core simulation and rendering applications. It packs 2 Intel Xeon CPUs, 4 NVIDIA GRID GPUs, 64GB of memory, and an SSD flash drive in a cloud-based system that users can access on demand for under $4 per hour.

Conventional rendering hardware and high-end virtualization solutions come with a very high price tag,” said Nikola Bozinovic, CEO of Frame. “Our new Pro 64GB offering allows designers to shift to powerful visual workstations on demand. Access to stunning interactive photorealistic rendering has never been easier.


What is Frame? Think of Frame as an online computer in which you put your software, applications, and related tools and access it through a web browser, anywhere, on just about any device. Their tagline “All you need is a browser“, sums it up perfectly.

Frame - How It Works

There are many benefits of using Frame, including the flexibility of working from any location, only requiring an internet connection and a browser. (Take a look at my first review for more details). There is no client software to install, no plugins, it doesn’t need java or flash, all it needs is an HTML5 capable browser like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer.

This new option extends the line of online systems. A huge benefit is that you can scale up and down depending on your need. Just doing office type things? Use the Air 4GB or Air 8GB. Drafting, modeling, video editing, or graphic designing? Bump up to the Pro 16GB. Working with a large assembly, performing stress analysis or doing a lot of rendering? Use the new Pro 64GB | quad GPU “supercomputer“.

The new Pro 64GB is running Dual Intel Xeon CPUs, Quad NVIDIA GRID GPUS, and 64GB memory.

Frame - PhysicallyBasedRenderingPerformance


How much faster will this yield results in rendering and simulation?

“Modern multicore and multithreaded applications are built to take advantage of the combination of CPU and GPU processing power. While your mileage may vary, our ISV partners, such as Ansys, Luxion, NVIDIA, Dassault, and Chaos groups, see near linear scaling as a user moves up the Frame system product line.”

Frame - Performance64


Interested? Visit the frame website and start your free trial. Or give SolidWorks a go, in the cloud, on frame, at


Feature image courteous of

Is there a Place in the cloud for Product Data Management (PDM)?

Product Data Management (PDM) has for a long time been perceived as a complicated environment, slowing down engineers, some even considering it as an unavoidable necessary evil. While it is still not easy to install and configure, new options such as cloud virtualization can bring some alternatives.

Cloud Product Data Management?

I had the honour of collaborating with Oleg Shilovitsky of BeyondPLM as we decided to share our thoughts on PDM system implementations outside of the traditional on-premise configuration. It seemed like a good fit as I’ve recently blogged about using Frame as a platform to host traditional desktop tools in the cloud and on BeyondPLM Oleg looked at What can make a difference in a new collaboration paradigm and if we need super cloud PDM?.(amongst many other great articles).

Is there a Place in the cloud for Product Data Management (PDM)?

Many years CAD users’ only option was to use PDM (Product Data Management) system to manage CAD files and revisions. PDM was also a system to help a team of engineer to access data and collaborate. Engineers is one of the most innovative groups of people. However, when it comes to their own tools, engineers are very conservative. You can easy expect the following vision for data management from an engineer – “I want to work with my designs (files), please leave me alone and stop selling me PDM tools”.

Continue reading on BeyondPLM


You can follow Oleg on twitter 


Featured Image “Clouds in the evening” by Marlis Börger

Data Management in the Cloud with Frame

A question was posed to me after my last article on Frame (via the comments)…

Did you try to install PDM system in Frame environment?

The answer was no and I did not know if it would work. Honestly, it was something I wanted to try, so thanks Oleg for the motivation (aka kick in the butt).

Quick review, for those just joining us. Think of Frame as a collection of computers in a network, similar to what you have in a bare metal environment. Each online computer is where you put your software, applications, and related tools and access it through a web browser, anywhere, on just about any device. There are many benefits of using Frame, including the flexibility of working from any location, only requiring an internet connection and a browser.

“Frame is the future of both software distribution and personal computing in the post-mobile era I’m going to call ubiquitous computing.” – Robert X. Cringely, forbes frame

Frame Personal is your online computer, where Frame for Business is your online network of computers. As I already had a Frame Business account, the next step was adding the Utility Server. After an email to support it was added and ready to go within a couple hours.


The Utility Server provides a general purpose Windows 2012 Server to host license managers, databases, and really anything you want to share amongst the users.  Basically, it’s an area to put things that are accessible by all systems within your Frame ecosystem. And while it starts as a 1 CPU/2GB system, the number of cores, ram and storage can be scaled to meet your server needs.

[Note: this feature is currently in beta for use with Frame for Business, there is no pricing in place for the Utility Server]

Frame - Utility Server Access

Within the Utility Server, I downloaded and installed the Autodesk Vault 2016 Basic Server. [Not related to Frame, but why Autodesk have you made it so difficult to get the server installer for the basic server?] There were no issues, and the cloud internet connection is really fast!

Frame - Utility Server Install Vault

The base Utility Server has 50GB of local storage, enough to get started with Vault. When this becomes a permanent option, I’ll either have the local storage bumped up or consider using an “external” cloud-based drive to host the Vault filestore and databases.

Frame - ADMS

It’s funny how when using Frame you forget that you are actually using a “real-life” Windows Server 2012 system. If you fail to enable the SQL Server Agent, Vault will not work… just as if I was working with a local physical server. And yes this is a true story, and reflects on how well they have integrated the server into the environment…. it is Windows Server 2012, absolutely no different than if it was run on a physical box.

With the Server configured, I installed the Vault client into the Frame Sandbox. The Sandbox being the environment to setup and configure what the users see and have access. As I already had Inventor installed I just reran the Product Design Suite installer and enabled the Vault Client option. With it installed, I added it to my launchpad so that I can quickly launch Vault after logging into my Frame account.

Frame - Vault Client Launchpad Option

Now, here is the only “catch.” As the Frame client is reset after each use, you cannot use the local storage as your Vault working folder…. unless you plan to be diligent in checking-in all your files each time. A better solution is to use attached cloud storage and configure individual user working folders.

Frame - Box Vault Working Folders

This is an option within the Vault client to adjust the details of a folder to set user-specific working folders. In this example “X” is the mapped drive location to the attached Box cloud storage.

Frame - Vault Setting Working Folder

No one wants to have to enter in the Vault login details (Server and database) each time, nor configure their working folder location, so an important Frame feature is App Setting Persistency. With this feature, you identify folders, files and/or registry entries you need to be preserved for each user. This way specific settings are saved and restored each time they use Frame. Currently App Persistency is configured by the Frame Support team, but it is on the list to expose the Frame administrator in the future.

Tip… one file for persistency is  “C:\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Autodesk\Autodesk Vault Basic 2016\ApplicationPreferences.xml”, which is where your login details are stored.

Now it is just normal working with Vault, either from the client or the CAD Application. Here’s an example… from my account I create a drawing using AutoCAD and check it into Vault.


The next user comes along and from their AutoCAD attaches it as an xref.


As they continue to work on their drawing I check out the drawing and make changes. When they refresh,  notice how the drawing shows checked out to me, just as when I’m working in the office off the local server.

Frame Vault XRef Refresh
Again, thanks Oleg for the comment, as it was great to work through this. This proves that Product Data Management (PDM) is possible “in the cloud,” at least within Frame. I was expecting much more effort to make this work, but there wasn’t, it was not different than setting it up in the office. Other than enabling the Utility Server and capturing my desired App Persistence, I did not require Frame Support… all the hooks were already in place. This is a real testament to the robustness of their offering.

A Review of Frame for Business

What is Frame? Think of Frame as an online computer in which you put your software, applications, and related tools and access it through a web browser, anywhere, on just about any device. There are many benefits of using Frame, including the flexibility of working from any location, only requiring an internet connection and a browser.


Frame uses the power of the cloud to let you work freely from anywhere.

I recently got a chance to test drive frame, and after using the “Personal” edition for a couple weeks I decided to upgrade to Frame for Business. Frame Personal is for a single user – used as your own online system. Frame for Business is a single administered “sandbox”, published to a pool for users to access. If you haven’t heard or seen Frame you should start by reading my previous article, found here.

Frame - Sandbox

The Dashboard is where the administrator installs applications and selects products to include for the team members. Using the dashboard, external “drives” are connected to act as the “local” storage. This includes support for Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. Connecting drives is as simple as clicking the button and logging in.

Frame for Business is really “IT light.” Your software only needs to be installed and setup one time and then can be accessed by any number of users from the Frame Launchpad (in a browser). Frame is easy to use and you will literally be up and running in a few minutes, well a few minutes plus the time it takes to install the software.

From the dashboard you literally power on the Sandbox (which is the “online PC” you use as your master image) to install the application you require, as you would with your own system. You are running Windows, no differently than you would on your own system. As the Administrator you configure the environment and then publish it for access by your team members.

Inviting users is accomplished via the Team Settings section. An email is sent to them with the instructions to set up their new account. Added team members will only have access to the system you have configured.

Frame - Team Members

There is a bulk option when you have multiple people to invite all at once.

Frame - Invite Users in Bulk

After adding users, direct them to the Knowledge Base, specifically the “End user Quick Start Guide”, which will get new users of Frame up and at it in under 15 minutes.

The Knowledge Base serves other purposes other than just for new users. I accidentally navigated away from the Frame page and wondered what the best course of action was to restore my session…. the Knowledge Base had the answer!

Frame - Oops I Closed My Browser

The Administrator of a Frame for Business account is provided tools to track usage. This includes real-time viewing of the active sessions and usage by hours over a day, week, month, or the entire year. Additional settings include things like setting the maximum length of any session.

The basic Air system contains 1-CPU, no GPU, and 4-GB of RAM, but this can be quickly kicked up to the Pro system with instance switching under “My Account” to get access to 4-CPUs, 1 4GB GPU, and 16-GB of RAM. With this flexibility, you can use the Air system for “lighter” type work and consume less credits.

Frame is subscription based, based on a monthly fee, which gets you an amount of credits. The credits are consumed as you use your online PC. The amount of credits used however is dynamic, based on the system type you are using. For example, the Air system is great for working with less graphic intensive applications like Microsoft Word and it consumes less credits per hour than using the Pro system – which is best for graphics apps like 3D CAD.

One of the things that impresses me the most about Frame is how they seemed to have thought of everything. The Utility Server addon provides a general purpose Windows 2012 Server to host license managers, databases, and other things like that. Basically, it’s an area to put things that are accessible by all systems within your Frame ecosystem.

People hate waiting, especially for technology. That’s why Frame incorporated elasticity to automatically scale the system between minimum and peak usage. With elasticity, you set the minimum and maximum number of instances and the desired buffer. A buffer is up and running constantly, so that a system is ready to go when someone wants to connect. After the first person logs in (and consumes the buffer system) the next system boots automatically to become the buffer.

Frame - Production Pool (Electasity)

As mentioned earlier, the process is to launch the Sandbox and install the applications as you normally would. When the application is installed you will be prompted to Onboard it. When an app is onboarded it is accessible as a standalone application that can be run without first starting a desktop session.

Frame - Successful Onboard


What else can I do with Frame?

How about sharing your session with your customer, vendor, co-worker, or good buddy? It’s doable with the Share Session feature, meaning you can invite someone else to join your session and see your application, sharing the mouse and keyboard. The other person does not need a Frame account to join in on the fun.

How about embedding your apps on your website? Yep, it’s possible with the embed code feature.  Embed your app by adding just a single line of code to any web page, just like you would embed a YouTube video — only this is a fully interactive application.

As I said in the last post, the Frame offering is well thought out and creates a great user experience. With the connection to cloud storage, it truly does provide the ability to log in anywhere, anytime, and continue right where you left off.


The exclusive offer from Frame  just for Design & Motion readers has been extended until the end of November. Enter the code DESIGNMOTION2015 for $25 off Frame Personal or Frame for Business (expires 11/30/2015).

The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Just before I went on vacation Jonathan Landeros (Inventor Tales) posted a great article about old technology vs. new technology – how new doesn’t always mean better. It should really be about picking the right tool for the job. On my vacation the family and I went away for 7-days to Prince Albert National Park (Waskesui) and I left my computer(s) at home. I still had my phone, so I wasn’t completely disconnected, but with no laptop at my disposal it left me lots of time to think and contemplate things.

What I ended up thinking the most about was my day job and the current technology at use. What I mean from this is that we are not adopting new technology and processes, we’re not even evaluating or considering most of them. Why is that? and is this ok? I also though about the current “rut” that I was starting to feel, from a technology standpoint. Which is odd as I never have considered myself bleeding edge, but I’ve always felt that I’ve had a good handle of what was going on….. but now? I’m starting to feel left behind.


So what “new” technologies am I thinking about? The Cloud [social, mobile, analytic, big data], Robotics / AI / Drones, Electric Power, 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, New Materials, IoT (Internet of Things), Easier more integrated access to CAD / CAM / FEA / Visualization, and the the blurring of lines between BOM / PDM / PLM / ERP / MRP / CRM / add acronym here. There is also generative design and many other unbelievable things happening.

There is also the change in how business is being done… crowd sourcing, crowd design, open source new-shoring, …. and the blurring of what’s public and what’s private. What does Intellectual Property (IP) really even mean anymore?

Change happens, and hopefully when it happens its a good thing. At my day job what really changed things for us was the acquisition of an electrical vehicle manufacturer. This has made us look at how we do things differently, and how we can approve. The status quo is no longer the status quo, which is good as one never wants to become stagnant. The new mine being built in the province has mandated 80% electric use for machinery and equipment, with a clear goal to exceed this. What an opportunity for us!

As you can see I was thinking about a lot! But also note that not everything is new, some items have been around for years but are just now becoming mainstream.


I’m going to embark on a series of posts exploring each of these trends and the new technology. I am far from the expert which I think makes it great as there will be plenty of opportunity for feedback. What has worked? What are you looking at? How are you approaching it? I want to explore how to approach the new technology from an individual personal and professional aspect as well as why companies may or may not look at the new tech.

For this series we’ll use an example company “ACME Mining Equipment”, that I’ve made up, but I don’t think is that dissimilar to a lot of small to medium companies. Here’s their profile:

ACME Mining Equipment is a  company that primarily manufactures, repairs, and services underground mining equipment. The company started as a custom machine / fab shop over 35-years ago. They have one facility and around 150 employees. They have a very small, but very loyal customer base, many whom we’ve done business with for over 35-years. ACME (or AME) is classified as a small, engineered-to-order, manufacturer (at least as far as ERP companies classify things) as they customize just about everything that goes out the door to meet their customers requirements. The customization is what separates ACME from their bigger competition that just pushes “boxes” out the door.

  • ACME is an Autodesk shop – through-and-through – they use Inventor, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Mechanical, Vault Professional, Simulation Mechanical, and even have a few seats of PLM 360 floating about.
  • They make things from purchased items and steel (laser / plasma cut profiles & standard structural shapes). Welded or bolted together
  • Although they have some CNC capabilities, most of the programming is done by hand on their NC machines (for various reasons – I’ll explain more later)
  • Communication with the customer is done mainly via the phone and email. Outside of quotes, sales order confirmations, and manuals very little other types of documentation are exchanged.

Keep watching the site!

All imagery from GRATISOGRAPHY

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.

GrabCAD Workbench just got a lot smarter…

Today was an exciting day. I’ve been following the development of over the past year or two and they keep impressing me. I’ve always been excited by companies that diversify in unpredictable, but sensible directions. GrabCAD is one of these. Starting out as an online CAD file sharing platform, they broke the mold in the… Continue Reading

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