We managed to wrangle Jon Hirschtick (Founder and Chairman, Onshape) and Carl Bass (CEO, Autodesk) into answering the same six questions about CAD in the Cloud, including the ultimate, whiz-bang question of the year at the end: “How do Fusion 360, Onshape, and 3DEXPERIENCE differ?” You saw it here first, folks. A SolidSmack exclusive, side-by-side interview with two of the biggest names in MCAD today.
We are seriously bummed that we can’t make it to Develop3D Live this year, not least because Carl, Jon, and Gian Paulo Bassi (CEO, SolidWorks) will all be speaking… at the same time. (That last bit’s not true, but we wish it were.) Since we can’t make it to D3D, we figured we’d get the party started early by asking Carl and Jon a few questions about their respective cloud services, Fusion 360 and Onshape.
You’ll notice we put a strict word count on these questions. We did that for three main reasons: 1) to keep it a readable Q&A format, 2) to keep the content on point, and 3) because we are lazy, and reading long articles makes us sleepy. Word count bumps up the thought octane–that’s what we were going for, at least. Carl and Jon each have plenty of long-form stuff to say on their corporate blogs, so if you want depth, that’s the place to look.
Neither participant saw the other’s answers before today. We expect there may be further clarification in the comments over time.
Fusion 360 was imagined for this new world, and because it’s built on the cloud, it will be able to easily evolve over time as our customers’ needs change and all the various platforms they use improve.
Users will work faster because they no longer have to worry about finding the latest version, copying files, checking out, or locking. Everyone on a team works on the same data at the same time.
What’s happening now is that easier access, lower price points and better devices are making CAD available to a whole new group of people. The availability of powerful software coupled with digital fabrication tools has gotten a generation of young engineers and an army of makers engaged, and that’s really exciting.
First many more professionals will use CAD. Instead of few people with precious CAD licenses, everyone will instantly get right into CAD with no downloads or installs or payments. Teams grow and shrink constantly — contractors, interns, vendors, customers, manufacturers, etc can all be easily added and removed as needed.
Second many more students and makers will use pro-level 3D CAD. Potentially millions that could never before afford it. Anyone with a low-end Linux netbook or even a phone can instantly and freely access it.
In the CAD world, access to designs and information on the factory floor, while on your commute, or at a customer meeting are important. Mobile is most valuable for things like viewing, monitoring what’s going on in a project and making small edits to a design. But for longer periods of work, most people will still be more comfortable working at a traditional setup with a larger screen and better peripherals. As mobile devices get more powerful and screens get larger, you’ll see more work being done on those devices.
Full-cloud has been a great new strategy for improving reliability. Because desktop and semi-cloud systems rely on installed CAD software, bugs cause crashes and data loss. Our full-cloud system is distributed across many servers and has no crash-prone installed software — so even when we have bugs they never result in any interruption or loss of work. This improved reliability from our full-cloud architecture has been astounding to users who suffered from typical installed software crashes.
On the other hand, I’m happy to have Jon on my side arguing that there are better tools than Solidworks.
It looks to me like the Onshape team has decided to try to build a better shape modeling tool—taking CAD as it was imagined 15 years ago and rebuilding it on a new platform. In some ways I understand why people are trying to compare the products, but if you take a close look, they couldn’t be more different. The similarity ends in that each has a cloud-based modelling tool.
We took a completely different approach. We wanted to solve many of the problems that people experience today in terms of the workflows necessary to accomplish their overall jobs—so we used the best of cloud and mobile technology to build a comprehensive CAD system that goes all the way from ideation to fabrication.
Onshape is unique in that the CAD system and the CAD data live in one place in the cloud and are never copied anywhere. Because all users are always looking at the exact same data there is never an issue with being out of sync or not looking at the latest version. No need for locking, checkout, auto-save etc. All users can edit anything with no fear of overwriting others.
SolidWorks and Autodesk have semi-cloud approaches. Traditional installed desktop software applications must be downloaded from cloud servers and installed on each computer. The full 3D CAD system does not run on browsers, phones or tablets. CAD files are downloaded and copied from cloud servers to each user’s computer. Copies of files means true unrestricted collaboration is not possible. Users need to worry about who is editing what, locking, checkouts, etc.