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Is on shape a realistic starting point for a CAD beginner?

geoff_zephyrusgeoff_zephyrus Member Posts: 2
I've been working to get the hang of OnShape for about 12 hrs now. I've watched youtube tutorials and taken the onstage selfpaced classes -- but I'm still struggling to feel like I understand how to build within the application. I'm trying to build something akin to a beehive, and I can't seem to understand how to build the separate sides of the boxes and assemble them together within onshape. Unless I'm mistaken, all of the onshape tutorials, even those intended for beginners, say that they are for people who already know CAD and who are looking to transition to the sleeker model. Is there a path to mastery for users like me? Or, as an absolute beginner, should I give up and try AutoDesk or Solidworks?


  • mlaflecheCADmlaflecheCAD Onshape Employees, Developers Posts: 71
    @geoff_zephyrus have you gone through the intro to CAD course?  It was just published on our learning center recently:  https://learn.onshape.com/learn/learning-path/introduction-to-cad
    Mike LaFleche   @mlaflecheCAD
  • john_mcclaryjohn_mcclary Member, Developers Posts: 2,710 PRO
    Onshape modeling is fundamentally the same thing as all the other Sketch->Extrude style CAD systems.
    Onshape makes it easier because they have a much cleaner interface, with fewer buttons.

    Systems like SolidWorks for example:
    If you want to extrude, you need to pick the feature based on what type of extrude you need...
    In other words, if you later on want to cut instead of boss extrude.. then you have to delete the feature and create a new extruded cut

    Surfacing is on it's own tab with even more buttons...

    Onshape is much more intuitive.. you want to extrude Anything? It's in one handy button.

    Want to change from a cut extrude to a boss extrude.. edit the feature... You want it to be its own part? just click New... (in solidworks you would need to create a whole new file.. etc..)
    much easier and more intuitive.

    On the other hand. There are simpler CAD programs that offer Push/Pull style modeling.
    Google SketchUP does this, and makes creating shapes fast, when you just want a general idea of a shape.
    They do offer ways to give more precise dimensions, but mostly you will just be touching faces of your model and eyeballing it.

    But if just quick fun 3D modeling is what you're looking for, try the other free cad options, like sketchup, fusion, freeCad.

    In my opinion, Onshape is the cleanest, simplest sketch->Extrude (Free and Expensive) modeler out there today.
  • Jake_RosenfeldJake_Rosenfeld Moderator, Onshape Employees, Developers Posts: 1,558

    I made you a honey comb to try and help you get started!

    If you follow this link:

    You can make a copy of my document.  Then, in your copy, you can use the rollback bar to roll one feature at a time and see how I built up the design. If you double click on a feature in the tree, it will go into edit more so you can see what inputs I used.
    Jake Rosenfeld - Modeling Team
  • jakeramsleyjakeramsley Member, Moderator, Onshape Employees, Developers Posts: 602
    Hi geoff_zephyrus,

    The majority of our tutorials and training are for people who already know CAD, but we've recently released an introduction to CAD self-paced course that is targeted towards the absolute beginner (https://learn.onshape.com/learn/learning-path/introduction-to-cad).  This goes through the fundamentals (and some of the history) of parametric based CAD and the process of making parts, assemblies, and drawings.  It should be a good jumping off-point for corresponding courses.
    Jake Ramsley

    Director of Quality Engineering & Release Manager              onshape.com
  • steve_shubinsteve_shubin Member Posts: 230 ✭✭✭

    I’ve been around Supers, but I’m no expert. Never took the time to really study them so I came up with my own design — good or bad. The main thing this is about is showing a way to go about modeling something like this.

    In the first sketch, I drew 4 long and narrow rectangles around the perimeter. These are extruded to make the sides. Notice how they overlap at the corners. That’s because I wanted dovetail joints at the corners. To make dovetail joints, you have to have the wood overlap at the corners.

    Notice in the sketch how I only showed the .75” dimension ONCE. Now if I change that dimension, it’ll change the width of all the rectangles, because I used Mirror, and then the Equal constraint

    In the GIF, on the very last step, I used the front face of the very bottom board, which is gray in color, to make a sketch. I used the USE tool to select the bottom edge of of the gray board and the top edge of the red board right above it, then I drew some vertical lines at each end to enclose the area and then I extruded that enclosed rectangle outward. At the same time, I used Merge scope to select the gray board and the red board directly above, in order to merge both with the extrusion I was making from the sketch

    Below you’ll find a link to the document. You can copy it and you can step through it to see exactly how it was done

    With regards to what would be the best CAD for you to go with as a beginner, in my opinion I think Onshape is the way to go.

    My opinion — It has the best user interface

    I believe as a beginner you’ll find it’s quite stable compared to other programs

    You’ll find there are a lot of FeatureScript tools that you’ll be able to add as you advance, and these FeatureScripts are free

    It’s not a file based CAD system — and this is one thing I really like, because I don’t have to worry where this file is and where that file is or worry if I’ve lost a file.

    There’s numerous other reasons I could list as to why I like Onshape

    Stick with it for a while. Ask some specific questions as to what it is you’re trying to do. And post a link to any document that you’re having a problem with, and people will be able to get in there and look at it and give you advice as to how to go about it


  • steve_shubinsteve_shubin Member Posts: 230 ✭✭✭
    edited September 2019

    Some of these GIFs are not very fluid. They are jerky or have a stutter to them. That’s because of the GIF app that I’m using to make these with, which  unfortunately is the best thing I could find for making GIFs on an iPhone. This GIF app is really only meant to make GIFs that are about 10 seconds long, and I’m using it to make GIFs as long as 1 minute and 45 seconds.  That’s why there are so many dropped frames  and hence the jerky motion. So don’t let the unfluid movement of these GIFs be interpreted as something Onshape is responsible for, as the Onshape interface operates in a very fluid manner when I’m using it on my iPhone.

    Anyway, there is enough information in the below GIFs to show you exactly how to go about making the beehive box

  • john_mcclaryjohn_mcclary Member, Developers Posts: 2,710 PRO

    Onshape released a new CAD Intro course you may want to check it out:
  • mike_masarmike_masar Member Posts: 4
    One thing that really helped me was a book I bought on Amazon "Onshape Tutorials".  It leads you step by step through many operations including creating assemblies and drawings.  I found it more understandable than some of the Onshape videos. 
  • Evan_ReeseEvan_Reese Member Posts: 245 PRO
    I've used a number of different CAD packages and Onshape is probably a bit easier to learn than Solidworks, and likely much easier to learn than Fusion 360, though they are all similar in approach once you get into them. Some new learners like Shapr3D for iPad, but from watching some videos and testing it myself it seems like it's got a ceiling on capability. Could still be a good way to get your feet wet, but I'd recommend Onshape, personally, especially if doing models is something you want to learn to do for future projects
    Evan Reese / Agency Owner and Industrial Designer
    Website: fractalmade.com
    Instagram: @evan.reese.designs
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