upFront.eZine 1,092: More Notes from OnShape's First User Conference

(Part ii of iii)

The Business of CAD | 19 April 2021

Here are more notes I took during Onshape’s first annual user conference.

Onshape for Solidworks Users

One of the aims of Belmont Technologies was to capture Solidworks users. The founders were, after all, mostly ex-Solidworks folk. I don’t know if there was some kind of animosity going on (as sometimes happens with ex-employees) or if they were just targeting the largest mid-range MCAD market with its 1.5 million commercial users (today).

The campaign didn’t go well. By the time Onshape sold itself to PTC, it had merely 5,000 commercial customers, let alone 1.5 million. There is, after all, little reason to switch away: Solidworks users are comfortable with their software running on speedy desktop computers while accessing more functions than Onshape.

OnShape has its advantages, naturally, but they aren’t the ones that Solidworks users would necessarily find useful. They have largely ignored Dassault Systemes’ entreaties to “come on over” to the 3dexperience cloud. In 30 years in this business, I find that any CAD vendor’s entreaties to switch falls mostly on deaf ears; it simply doesn’t compute.

The dream of luring Solidworks users hasn’t, however, died. And so the Onshape user conference offered a “making the switch” session by Lindsay Early, technical services engineer at PTC.

The process involves these steps:

1. Evaluate what you have, as only parts and assemblies can be imported into Onshape, albeit back to Solidworks 1999.

2. Export parts and components out of Solidworks to a single folder in a Zip file named after the assembly

3. Import the Zip file into Onshape using these strategies:

  • Small assemblies: Combine into a single composite part in a single Part Studio

  • Medium assemblies: Import to a single document, with separate tabs for each assembly

  • Large assemblies: Split into multiple documents

4. Following import, direct model editing is needed as feature lists are not imported.

5. As an alternative, Cassini offers bulk migration at a cost of $10,000 for a thousand files.

Onshape cannot import the following items:

  • Feature lists

  • Mates

  • Configurations

  • Simulation data

  • Drawings, although you can save drawings separately as DWG files

Post-import, you will have to repair and modify imported models, add in metadata, add mates, and move sub-assemblies to other documents, if you want. While attached DWG, DXF, and PDF files can be imported, they are detached from the 3D model.

One solution suggested by Ms Early is to do new projects in Onshape, and then transfer from Solidworks only models as you need them, such as library components. (Unlike Onshape, Solidworks licenses are perpetual, so you can keep a copy of the software running for as long as you need it.) This advice applies no matter which 3D CAD system you switch away from -- or to.

Other issues: In Solidworks, Y is up, but Z is up in Onshape. Imported components are all individual entities. Assemblies have no mates. In some cases, all imported parts end up centered on the origin -- the result of an unwanted explode. If the drawings are changed in Solidworks, you can right-click in Onshape to update them.

Ms Early demo’ed how direct editing works on imported Solidworks models, something that programs, such as BricsCAD, also do.

Overall, the process looks to me a bit of a mess. It’s seems like importing Solidworks files was not a priority development. After all this bad news, the good news is that Onshape uses the same Parasolid geometry kernel as Solidworks, which is a big barrier for Dassault, whose 3dexperience uses the incompatible CGM kernel, making translation tough.

The Future of Onshape

Here is some of what users can expect in future releases of Onshape:

Frames will gain custom profiles from any edge, combine geometry with different profiles, and generate custom cut lists. Another goal is tight integration with drawings, and edit cut lists in drawings.

Computed property functions will be in Feature Studio and bills of materials, such as calculating the shipping size, area, and mass. It works with parts now, and will work with assemblies at some point in the future. Your access to computed properties depends on your license level, and you need to know how to use FeatureScript.

For 2D drawings, Onshape will edit cross-hatching in section views, apply patterns to faces, and add to the pattern library.

As mentioned earlier, PCB design will be done inside the mechanical model. We were shown designing a PCB board in Onshape, exporting it in IDF format for designing the circuitry with ECAD.MCAD, and then back into Onshape to check the fit; traces do not come into Onshape.

It was hard for me to tell, but it seemed that the ECAD was visually integrated into Onshape but not data-integrated -- there was a lot of IDF translation back and forth during the demo, but maybe that is the way it is supposed to work. For instance, while electronic components can be added in Onshape, the presenter said “it is kinder to do it within the ECAD.MCAD system,” because ECAD.MCAD might not fully recognize components models in Onshape. When a component is moved in Onshape, the IDF export tells ECAD.MCAD to also move it, and adjust the traces. Messy.

Simulation in Onshape will let you place loads on assemblies, and then run the simulation in a separate panel, which is performed in the cloud, then returned to the Onshape window. The stress plot results can be exploded or driven by displacement. Simulation is highly parallelizable, so it can be computed with many cores or GPUs. “We are not targeting post-design validation at this time; we have great partners apps that will continue to provide facilities for that,” says Evan Nowak, director of graphics at Onshape.

A new change management page named “Changes” lists and adds change requests and orders. An auditor function checks whether all change orders are implemented. This technology is adopted from PTC’s Windchill PLM software, and will be available for enterprise accounts only.

The new RealityServer rendering facility operates in near-realtime. As former ceo of Migenius Paul Auden made changes to rendering parameters, updates took about a second or two, according to my eye. Renderings are run in a separate tab, then sent to Onshape when done.

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To watch the archive of the online conference, register at events1.social27.com/onshapelive21/home.

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And in Other News

Highlights from Monica Schnitger’s interview with Siemens Digital Industries Software ceo Tony Hemmelgarn:

  • To protect IP [intellectual property], vehicle manufacturers are developing their own chips.

  • Battery-operated vehicles expose sounds not audible with combustion engines.

  • WFH [work from home] means less access to labs, and so more use of simulation software.

  • Customer interest for CAD (aka “PLM authoring”) in the cloud is low.

Read the full article at schnitgercorp.com/?p=18114.

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MachineWorks Ltd releases MachineWorks 8.3 with complex concave polygonal tools, improved surface detection, direct access to dexel grid in Visicut sampled stocks for rest machining analysis, and better bending simulation. Get your details from machineworks.com/news/machineworks-8.3-release.

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Product update 1 for Ironcad 2021 offers enhancements to sheet metal design, point clouds, drawings, and all kind of miscellany. Detailed details at ironcad.com/blog/whats-new-in-2021-update.

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PTC gets bumped up to first class, as the S&P stock index moves the CAD vendor from the MidCap 400 class to the full S&P 500.

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Here is one of the posts that appeared recently on my WorldCAD Access blog:

Subscribe to the WorldCAD Access blog’s RSS feed through feeds.feedburner.com/WorldCadAccess.

Letters to the Editor

Love this PragArchDesignTech blog, after being pointed to it by Grabowski. BricsCAD is my tool.

I like how you’re starting from ‘for dummies’ principles, while jumping straight in at the level of BIM’s sophisticated capabilities.

Now what I would love someone to do is similar but without the assumption that architecture is all rectilinear. Yes, 2D CAD can go off-angle but far less easily; 3D CAD including BIM can, too, but multifold less easily again. Off-angle is like a clunky afterthought.

I’m not talking ‘freeform’ or even curvy, but strictly geometric straights and flats precisely intersected (like 2D) -- not just in plan or just in section, but in multiple planes. Stuff that can be built (given exact dimensioning) by a local builder from straight, flat, commodity materials from the Builders Merchant [construction materials supplier in England].
- Tom Foster
Tom Foster Architecture

Re: Keynotes from OnShape's First User Conference

I like the happy delusion that what separates <success> and <a guy with a product idea> is simply a week of a designer's time.
- Jess Davis

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A small correction to #1,090. OSArch.org supports the aims and work of the organizers of the FOSDEM [free and open source developers European meeting] conference. We were glad our friend Dion Moult could make a presentation to their track on Open Source Comput-Aided Modeling and Design.

However, we weren't involved in organizing it. Maybe next year though. Thanks for mentioning our project.
- Duncan Lithgow

Notable Quotable

“When the software company holds your tools in their cloud, they have control over your productivity.
When your data is in their cloud, they have control over your business.”
- RC, quoted by Robert Green, Cadalyst magazine

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