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Is ONSHAPE a true replacement for traditional CAD?

dr_hutchinsondr_hutchinson Member Posts: 10
Our company has used Solidworks for as long as I can remember. We receive Gigabyte big step model files from our customers from which we design our specialised tooling around their model. I have been trying to do things with ONSHAPE that I would do with Solidworks and it just seems so difficult. Even the basic importation of large step files is not satisfactory with the graphics starting to degenerate circles into polygons. Maybe in ten years time ONSHAPE might be a credible alternative for 'real' work, but for now I think it is a brave attempt with real promise, but still a long way to go.

I expect a lot people to disagree with me, but I would love to hear someone say that they have worked with assemblies with 500+ components in ONSHAPE and find it a true alternative from traditional CAD. 

Best Answers


  • dr_hutchinsondr_hutchinson Member Posts: 10

    Frankly I think it's debatable whether even Solidworks is an adequate performer on really large complex assemblies. and in that case, maybe it is coming up against limits in the architecture of the Windows ecosystem. 

    Yes, I can only agree!

  • andrew_troupandrew_troup Member, Mentor Posts: 1,584 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Frankly I think it's debatable whether even Solidworks is an adequate performer on really large complex assemblies. and in that case, maybe it is coming up against limits in the architecture of the Windows ecosystem. 

    Yes, I can only agree!

    Hmm, I wonder if many people think along those lines...

    BTW: this forum's software is a bit funky: when you quote someone, you need to safeguard the 'white space' below the quote by occupying it (like colonisation!)  
    I usually type a few characters there before editing the quote. Having done the edits, you have to append some meaningful text BEFORE deleting the placeholding characters, or your addition gets absorbed into the body of the quote, as in your "Yes....." in your last post.
  • andrew_troupandrew_troup Member, Mentor Posts: 1,584 ✭✭✭✭✭
    An irritating further limitation of this forum software: when you click on the "Format" icon (a reverse P symbol) there is no "Normal" option. 
    There are several problems arising from this, which I won't go into here. (sorry for the hijacks, already!) 
  • 3dcad3dcad Member, OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 2,466 PRO
    @andrew_troup  Perhaps you need new discussion: 'Cad forum induced rage' =)=)
  • christian_29christian_29 OS Professional Posts: 15 ✭✭
    3dcad said:
    I think you are right, currently Onshape is not a real alternative for even mid-size designs. It good for testing and for small projects - performance and tool set is not enough for serious cad work.

    Few reasons to back up my opinion:
    - Onshape renders whole model, even if you are zoomed to see only 1% of model - this causes performance issues
    - Model loading is too slow
    - Document list loading is too slow
    - Lack of parametric dimension, configurations, cross document references and other basic features of a modern cad
    - Drawings should be there soon, but the first stab will not be enough for 'moving in'

    But there are so many good things going on that I truly believe that Onshape team can make these things go away. As I have mentioned earlier, they could have done development on their own for few years, but I'm really happy they came out sooner and let us comment and request things we need in our future cad.
    I've been using onshape since about 6 month and have build a big model (3.75gigabytes) of the 90 year old 160 feet wooden Schooner Zodiac based only on the hull surfaces I imported into onshape. This model hardly contains any straight lines or flat surfaces. It's fairly complex and yes there are some issues with tessellation which I already have seen fixes for which just haven't been rolled out yet.

    And yes, there are a few features missing which I requested and within 2 month they showed up in onshape. Not sure how quickly your feature requests have made it into a version of SolidWorks which granted is used by a lot more people today.

    My point is that onshape in its beta version today might already be a much better choice than SolidWorks ever will be in the future. Here is why I make such a bold statement.
    • I have shared this model with quite a few people to collaboratively further detail it as we are discussing details over the phone or skype. None of them has to pay since I have a professional license and shared it with them. They have full edit capabilities for free.
    • I've been crawling around the boat with my iPad to verify dimensions and further detail the model when we are out on the water but there isn't much wind (I don't CAD when its blowing...)
    • I have shown the model and discussed the details with other professionals in meetings on my iPad and even iPhone.
    Now I have been working in the Software business for the last 25 years and onshape is probably the best piece of software innovation I have seen in the last 10 years. It solves a bunch of crucial issues in any design workflow that other CAD systems are not even close.
    • collaboratively and simultaneously modify the model similar to Google documents. 
    • no files to worry about
    • no expensive hardware required, runs on any device 
    • very easy and quick to learn without having to send your employees to expensive training seminars
    And yes, load times are sometimes a bit slow but other times are pretty fast. These are all software issues on the backend the onshape team will solve fairly quickly. Once they have a bunch of paying customers they will most likely be able to increase CPU priorities to address such performance issues. The fact that it runs in a cloud architecture you simply add more CPUs when things get slow. You might have even experienced some of this when processing extensive operations happen in the background but you can continue to model and don't have to wait for these to finish. 

    Now the one thing I don't have to much knowledge about is web gl limitations related to zooming and tessellation. I believe today Onshape is loading the whole model for rendering in the browser which with very large models can get a bit slow but I'm sure there are ways to optimize this. The fact that onshape is a brand new code base that does not have to deal with 20 years of legacy code is a huge advantage especially if it is architected right. And I trust they have the right guys working on that :-).

    In regard to the timeframe for addressing some of these beta issues we are talking month not years and for them to start taking serious market share from SolidWorks we are talking a couple of years at most. 

    And lastly if you want to play with the model I'm happy to share it with you so you can verify my arguments :-).
    You can find more screenshots here.

  • andrew_troupandrew_troup Member, Mentor Posts: 1,584 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2015
    Well said. Not so much rage, as perplexity with occasional flashes of irritation....
    I hesitate to raise forum software shortcomings,  because frankly I would prefer Onshape's focus to err solidly in the direction of fanatical devotion to the app.

    However, realistically, we also need to be wary of a possible future where a habituated (I daren't suggest, "smug") forum user in-group look, increasingly pityingly and with flashes of exasperation, at a never-ending stream of newcomers stumbling round trying to express their (often valuable) ideas clearly...

    We don't all speak fluent html :'(
  • navnav Member Posts: 258 ✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2015
    @christian_29 great demonstration of OS capabilities.  :) How many parts in your model ?
    Nicolas Ariza V.
    Indaer -- Aircraft Lifecycle Solutions
  • andrew_troupandrew_troup Member, Mentor Posts: 1,584 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Apologies again to the OP for the topic hijack.
    If anyone who wishes to discuss forum software, it would pay to start a new thread.

    Awesome post, @christian_29 . I tried bringing into Onshape, as a starting point, a similar model I've done a lot of work on in Solidworks, and burned my fingers.

    It's rather reassuring to hear you've had better outcomes from modelling from scratch; I've been sitting on my hands pending better performance on smaller models. I'll try copying yours to get a better idea of where things currently sit.

    With much gratitude.
  • christian_29christian_29 OS Professional Posts: 15 ✭✭
    nav said:
    @christian_29 great demonstration of OS capabilities.  :) How many parts in your model ?

    The schooner model is probably around 200 parts.
  • Mitch_PricerMitch_Pricer OS Professional, Developers Posts: 27 PRO

    I think OnShape's current position within the CAD package field can be pretty easily illustrated by another program that I work with every day...ZBrush. When ZBrush first came out, everyone was comparing it to Maya and 3DSMax saying it wasn't as capable and could not perform to the same standards. However, that was exactly the point...Pixiologic (company behind ZBrush) was not trying to fit in with the current standards, but rather change them completely to allow the user more freedom to sculpt and model in 3D space. Fast forward to today, and ZBrush has added elements that are very similar to those found in a Maya or Max program, but still slightly different, being focused more on the user and allowing them to get into the "flow" more easily without a massive interface to bog them down.

    So, view OnShape as a ZBrush, but in the Parametric CAD realm. It's not meant to be SolidWorks or any other established CAD package. The goal behind OnShape and web-based CAD is to focus more on the user and the ability of the user to transcend the overbearing interfaces of other CAD packages and simply focus on the task at hand. As one of the "power users" of OnShape, I have found there is nothing it cannot do that other CAD programs can...OnShape just has different ways of doing things with different workflows, which given enough time in the program, become second nature and more simple at their core. The largest beauty of OnShape is what everyone's complaint seems to be; not enough buttons/ready made features...the reason there are so fewer buttons in OnShape is because those are all you really need to create incredibly complex models. As for the technology of today not being able to keep up with WebGL…it’s always better to be ahead of the times than behind it.

    I have designed a fairly unique product that will be rolling out very shortly that has been designed ENTIRELY within Onshape...So shameless plug, watch out for a cool video involving an airplane and a 3D printer. :) 

  • kevin_quigleykevin_quigley Member Posts: 306 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2015
    In answer to the original comment. No. Onshape is nowhere near ready for SolidWorks replacement tasks, except on very simple, very basic or very specialist collaborative tasks. 

    I say this from experience of using many different 3D CAD systems and collaboration systems over the last 25 years. Right at this time Onshape is a beta system powered by a great team and unique cloud technology, but it still has to be proven to be scalable for very large file use and large installed base. 

    The issue for Onshape trying to pick up the SolidWorks lapsed maintenance user (and make no mistake that is their prime target) is that the cost differential between an on plan SW user and an Onshape user is minimal. If you switch you will be losing a huge chunk of functionality. Bottom line is there are many many things you cannot do in Onshape that take seconds in SolidWorks or others like it.

    we have 2 licenses of SolidWorks, on subs, but have no plans to switch. If we did switch to another CAD system it would need to offer IMPROVED functionality for modelling and production tasks over existing, not less. 

    SolidWorks came to dominance because they followed the 80/20 rule. They provided, in early releases, 80% of the functionality of Pro/E for 20% of the cost, and it ran on Windows NT rather than a Unix box. But the real change was most users came to it from 2D CAD, you could model a part, create a drawing, pull off sections, modify the model and drawing updated. Witchcraft! Even compared to UNIX systems of the time SolidWorks looked good and was fast. 

    Moving forward now, most professional designers and manufacturing companies already use 'low cost' 3D CAD and have substantial legacy files.

    My view is the real sales for Onshape will come in new companies or people starting careers or switching careers. It will not replace SolidWorks in companies with sufficient volume to pay back the investment until it can match most of the functionality. I have been shouted down many times over this but the reason you see lots of regular updates with new functions is simply that Onshape are starting from a low point. Exactly the same happened with SolidWorks in its early years, and indeed, any CAD system.

    The real benefit of Onshape, and systems like it, are the no buy in subscription model. This helps growing companies or start ups, or even established ones who experience a one off spurt. The secondary benefit is the multi platform centralised cloud file and collaboration platform. Onshape, and other like it, are fairly system agnostic. Pop into an Apple store, log into Onshape on a Macbook Air and a top end Mac Pro. Slight difference, but not much.

    if those benefits outweigh the drawbacks, buy it. If not, stick to your current system until something better comes along. Which is exactly what I do and all my customers do. Changing CAD in an established business with legacy is nothing to take lightly. I have done it several times. I reckon on 6-12 months transition for a 4-6 seat install with 10 years of legacy, and probably 2-5x license costs per seat in downtime and training. All the folks over at SolidWorks forum complaining about subs right now and switching to Onshape have no idea what is involved.

    like I said, new starts and career changers is the market for Onshape, and that one is a slow burn.
  • andrew_troupandrew_troup Member, Mentor Posts: 1,584 ✭✭✭✭✭
    @mitch_4 - regarding your statement that there's "nothing it cannot do that other CAD programs can" I'm sure I'm not the only user intrigued and excited to read that.

    It would be great to have details of your workarounds for 3D sketches with multiple tangent entities (including arcs and splines) at arbitrary angles.

    Not to mention splines on a complex surface, lofts with C1 & C2 controls at sides and ends, sweeps with twist/orientation controls, n-sided patches (with edge tangency and guide curves) for n values other than 4, face blend fillets with hold lines, corner fillets with setback, variable pitch helices, part and assembly configurations, drawings, design tables, flat pattern development, solid sweeps....
  • Mitch_PricerMitch_Pricer OS Professional, Developers Posts: 27 PRO
    @andrew_troup - Ok, might have gotten a little too optimistic with that statement, but it's pretty darn close.  :p
  • billy2billy2 Member, OS Professional, Mentor, Developers, User Group Leader Posts: 1,779 PRO
    edited August 2015
    dr hutchinson

    I totally disagree.

    I used pro/e on a pentium with less than 500 meg of ram and I used SW 95 on a computer with less than 1 gig of ram. This has always been an issue with CAD and you have to manage your data sets. It was true back then and it's true today. You have to make things go away and then you have to bring them back.

    If you don't want to manage your project, then it's true, you'll be frustrated. Many people don't manage their assets and they're screwed. I see project mis-management all the time especially at large companies who should know better.

    The 1st month OS was available, I loaded one of my large assemblies trying to break this crappy internet cad system. After this task, I was surprised and retracted the word crappy, I felt OS was ready for prime time and I could manage a large project on this system. They have all the mechanisms to make things go away and then come back.

    This is about 25% of the the total machine:

    SW was much slower than Pro/E. Microsoft is a pig and it's foundation classes can't compete against straight c-code, there's no comparison. But people went with SW. The performance difference between Pro/E and SW was worse than SW and OS.

    Dave Corcoran says OS will have more capability than SW in 2 years and at the rate they're moving I believe him. I'll be dropping SW before this time and standardizing on OS. There are so many benefits to an internet CAD system that old file based CAD systems are going to appear mickey mouse.

    This speed issue you talk about has always plagued CAD systems and it doesn't worry me because I'll manage it.

    There will never be enough RAM, CPU or bandwidth, so you might as well learn to live with it.

    BTW @christian_29 nice looking schooner model.

  • bobbybobby OS Professional Posts: 1
    @coleman- good points. 
  • 3dcad3dcad Member, OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 2,466 PRO
    @coleman Well said. We are somewhat alike. In my company we use Onshape also everyday and have used it for actual production. And I'm thrilled because I know all my needs are under consideration and the most important ones already in development.

    With the streetcar vs formula 1; I ment that Onshape is probably not after the performance of some dedicated cad software running on whatever dedicated special platform which handles complex assemblies with ease but learning curve takes decades.
    I'm sure Onshape will provide similar or more speed than mainstream cads within couple of years. I hope we don't have too much cat&mouse play with browser updates.
  • 3dcad3dcad Member, OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 2,466 PRO
    @christian_29 I'm glad it works for you, I have suffered performance issues with larger yet simple assemblies.

    This model has only simple constructions of warehouse (Ons modeled) and few pallet shelves (imported step parts, Ons assy).
    - Tried to get the dimension from wall to shelv with android app - model loaded but couldn't get the measure within decent time (samsung s6 + 4g)
    - Tried to make this screenshot with chromebook - couldn't do because no matter how I scrolled it didn't zoom close enough (without jumping through after a while) (100mbit limited by wlan)
    - Model takes a minute to fully load with w10 pc (100mbit lan, 64gb ram, i7-4930K @3.4GHz, Nvidia GTX660 OC). Runs fine on this machine though.

    But I am a bit concerned how long load time I will have when I finish the constructions and add the rest of shelves, not to even mention machinery.
    It would change things a lot if Onshape didn't render hidden or outside of view stuff.

    I know I could use simplified models of equipment, but I could also create layout in Micrografx Designer v3 from 1990 (if it would run on w10).

    ps. Designer is the one software I miss from the past, it was so fast on rough sketching that none of the current autocad copies can replace it. If it was possible to implement something like that piece of software into Ons drawings - I would be jumping for joy.
  • christian_29christian_29 OS Professional Posts: 15 ✭✭
    My gut feel tells me that most of the performance issues related to loading and rendering are related to how your specific PC supports Web GL.  Here is a good arcticle that has more details.
  • pete_yodispete_yodis OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 666 ✭✭✭
    My gut feel tells me that most of the performance issues related to loading and rendering are related to how your specific PC supports Web GL.  Here is a good arcticle that has more details.

    @Cristian_29 You may be right.  Onshape has more they can do with graphics, they've mentioned it (I think it would be in the area of view frustum culling).  Also Web GL may have a lot more growing to do over the next decade or so.  I'm not a graphics person either so this is speculation on my part... but I think the Onshape system will prove to be much more massively scalable than anything else out there at the moment.  Cloud will be growing phenomenally as we go forward.
  • 3dcad3dcad Member, OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 2,466 PRO
    @christian_29 Thanks, I think I have studied this earlier but I will check again.

    @pete_yodis If you compare how browser 3d capability has changed within few years we surely can expect performance not to be an issue in future.
  • pete_yodispete_yodis OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 666 ✭✭✭
    3dcad said:
    @pete_yodis If you compare how browser 3d capability has changed within few years we surely can expect performance not to be an issue in future.
    True, that's another factor... how the browsers support/implement these things.  I think once browsers started to move to 64 bit, this realm that we are talking about now started to be possible.
  • peter_hallpeter_hall Member Posts: 196 ✭✭✭
    @kevin_quigley I agree with most of your comment. Currently Onshape is not a match for Solidworks and it will take some time for it to be as good as Solidworks as a productive tool. The regular updates on Onshape are good but it has taken a while for any Drawing package to emerge.
    the drawing environment needs substantial improvements to get up to Solidworks standard. The sheet metal, fabrication and surfacing capabalities would all need to be in place before Onshape could be considered a replacement package.
    That said for me I find Onshape a breath of fresh air, the free user ability is fantastic for learning and hobbyists.
  • andrew_troupandrew_troup Member, Mentor Posts: 1,584 ✭✭✭✭✭
    @christian_29 Thanks very much for sharing your excellent model with me.

    At the time I was unable to get my equivalent test model into Onshape at all, because of a long-standing problem with translation, but that was resolved with the latest release, and I was finally able to get the hull plating and stern module in, with reasonable performance, not dissimilar to your model. There are some rendering issues which I'll try to nail down and will file tickets for.

    Your hull does certainly perform acceptably in Onshape, which is encouraging and indicative. However my complete model is an order of magnitude more demanding, being of a round-bilge metal hull, with intricate framing (frames, stringers, floors, deck beams, centerline girders, all running hither and yon, all varying in depth and flange profile and locally reinforced and mutually connected), separate bolt-on modules bow and stern, and a fancy enclosure for a lifting keel. The hull plating varies in thickness in different locations, and there are other complications I won't go into here. 

    Suffice to say the model makes Solidworks, even on a high-end workstation, sit up and pay close attention, and it will be some time, I'm guessing, before it will even load in Onshape.
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