CAD Tech News (#13)

19 Mar, 2015 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Onshape Offers a New Paradigm for CAD Collaboration

The new cloud-based 3D software is notable not for its MCAD capabilities, but for its fresh approach to collaboration, file management, and licensing.

By Randall S. Newton

A recent Cadalyst survey yielded grim statistics: Nearly 80% of surveyed CAD users admit their organizations rely on e-mail to share and collaborate on CAD files. The second and third most-used methods were shared folders on a server (72% of respondents) and an FTP site (47%). To put a point on it, the vast majority of CAD users in this survey rely on 25-year-old technologies to enable design collaboration.

That would be perfectly acceptable — if these technologies did the job. After all, we still drive automobiles, which are an old invention. But only 15% of respondents in the Cadalyst survey claim to not be experiencing "significant issues" with file collaboration. And that's no surprise, since all three of these methods require manual intervention for tracking and maintaining file versions, and the first two put a strain on bandwidth and storage resources.

Meanwhile, these same CAD users can pull out a smartphone and create an instant "collaboration team" to decide where to meet after work. Their banking information is only a couple of screen taps away. They can cocreate text files or spreadsheets in Google Docs without breaking a sweat. Why can't CAD file collaboration and management be that easy?

Onshape is new cloud-based MCAD software that runs in a browser. Image courtesy of Onshape.
Onshape is new cloud-based MCAD software that runs in a browser. Image courtesy of Onshape.

Of course there are solutions on the market to address this abysmal state of affairs, but despite years of hard work, vendors have only reached a small portion of the addressable market for CAD data management. If ever an industry needed a knight in shining armor — or perhaps someone to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century — it is CAD-based design collaboration.

The timing couldn't be better for Onshape, a brain trust assembled by an industry legend, SolidWorks cofounder Jon Hirschtick. He created the company in 2012, bringing together notable veterans not only from CAD development but also from the cloud software industry. They worked under a cone of silence for more than two years, unveiling their answer earlier this month. The eponymous Onshape product is a completely cloud-based CAD solution that runs inside a browser with no downloads required (with a caveat, which we will explain). It offers a novel approach to a very specific discipline — mechanical design — and it does so in a way that presents a significant challenge to the established order in CAD. Read more »

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Randall S. Newton is principal analyst at Consilia Vektor, and a contributing analyst for Jon Peddie Research.

▶ Program AutoCAD-Based Products Using AutoLISP

Customize AutoCAD Electrical and other software products that lack a .NET API.

By Andrew G. Roe

In previous articles in this programming series, we have explored how to customize AutoCAD-based products using Visual Studio .NET, AutoLISP, and other techniques. While .NET is often the first choice for experienced programmers, some AutoCAD-based products do not include a .NET application programming interface (API), so another approach is needed. The article addressing Raster Design demonstrated an example where AutoLISP provided the most viable customization solution. AutoCAD Electrical is another application without a .NET API, so again, AutoLISP may be your best bet for customization.

AutoCAD Electrical, an Autodesk vertical product geared for circuit and wiring layout, schematic design, and other electrical tasks, was largely developed in AutoLISP, so using AutoLISP for customization is a natural fit. If you are not an Electrical user, most of the concepts still apply in customizing AutoCAD-based products.

One of the more common AutoCAD Electrical tasks is inserting wires into a drawing. Electrical provides several options for inserting and labeling wires, but perhaps you need to provide additional customized labeling. For example, you may want to track the sequence in which a wire was drawn and indicate the last point of a wire. You can do this by executing the standard Wire command in an AutoLISP routine, then extracting some data from the last wire segment, and inserting some text to label it. This example will show how to consecutively execute AutoCAD Electrical commands and standard AutoCAD commands in the same routine. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Andrew G. Roe is a registered civil engineer and president of AGR Associates.


Be More Direct with Autodesk Inventor 2015's Direct Edit Feature
In this IMAGINiT Tricks tutorial, Imran Bhutta shows how easy it is to use the new Direct Edit feature in Autodesk Inventor 2015. Watch the video »

Cadalyst Survey: Most CAD Users Today Face Significant File Collaboration
New report reveals the extent of issues related to slow data transfer, lack of file version control, unreliable data synchronization between locations, and other consequences of inadequate technologies and procedures. Read more »

CAD Manager's Toolbox: TBM Conference Publishes IT Management Videos
If your job as a CAD manager requires you to understand IT management strategies, these online videos are invaluable. Read more »

A Data Management Wake-Up Call for All CAD Managers
Network technologies are changing with the times, and your data management strategy must follow suit — or it will put your company at risk. Read more »


Stress and Frequency Analysis with Simulation Professional
March 24, 2015
2 p.m. ET
This interactive, thirty-minute Fisher/Unitech webinar will concentrate on conducting vibration analysis in SolidWorks Simulation to see which design will vibrate less and therefore last longer. Read more »

SPAR International 3D Measurement and Imaging Conference
March 30–April 2, 2015
Houston, Texas
This event will bring together professionals from diverse markets to discover the latest advances and technologies in 3D data capture, processing, and delivery to drive efficiency, improve workflows, reduce project timelines, save money, improve safety, and mitigate risk. Read more »

Fiatech 2015
April 13–15, 2015
Boca Raton, Florida
This conference will comprise more than 50 sessions on the latest in building information management (BIM), workface collaboration and management, and related topics. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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