I was sipping a hot coffee and Ding! An email from GrabCAD pops into my email this morning. A very unexpected email. “I have some great news – Workbench is now free!” Hardi Meybaum, CEO of GrabCAD says in the email. Workbench is GrabCAD’s highly rated, browser-based model management and collaboration software that was selling at US $70/user/month and US $107/user/month for unlimited storage. It’s now completely free–Free as in ‘Free Beer’ and ‘Free Backrubs’–A surprising move considering they were acquired by Stratasys last September for $100M whose stock just nosedived last week. Although GrabCAD is an operationally distinct subsidiary, it makes us think, “What was their reasoning behind this?”


According to Hardi, the reason is a focus on growing the community. “Our goal with this change is to reach more people. Returning to the free model of Workbench will increase the speed of adoption and support uninhibited product design collaboration.”

I remember fondly the last time Workbench was free–It was two years ago during beta. Its name wasn’t even certain at that time. It was a dynamic product changing daily.

Getting Workbench into the hands of every Engineer and Designer is a return to form according to Hardi. He says, “We are excited to supply every engineer with a free solution that enables rapid iteration on design concepts, mobile access to designs, and generally increases the speed and quality of the design process.”

Stratasys acquired a large community and a potentially disruptive force in 3D modeling and management software, so we’ve been waiting to see their next move. Now they’re making it by knocking down the barrier to use and likely sparking interest from professionals. One thought is that Stratasys would help in continuing to build the community and make all GrabCAD products free. They in turn have immediate access to a wider pool of users who would user 3D Printers and services. Later, making a premium offering with a version of Workbench that adds much more functionality.

Regardless, GrabCAD still intends to develop Workbench, with Hardi saying, “GrabCAD will continue to invest in Workbench and develop it as the tool of choice for CAD collaboration.” Many already love using it and if the response on Twitter is any evidence, people are very excited about what this means. Keep an eye on GrabCAD. This is certainly going to be interesting.

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