CAD-in-the-Cloud is the World’s New Lever of Change


Thank you to John McEleney,  CEO at Onshape for contributing the below guest blog!

archimedes level

Inspiring engineers for generations to come, Archimedes once said, “Give me a lever, a place to stand, and I will move the earth.”

If Archimedes were alive today, he would observe that the design and manufacturing worlds have moved considerably. Not only since the 3rd Century B.C., when he invented the Archimedes Screw Pump (still in use for agriculture and mining today), but most dramatically over the past 20 years.

Not so long ago, products were designed and manufactured in the same facility. Engineers and designers could walk down to the shop floor and immediately watch their visions come to life. This is often no longer the case. With today’s distributed design and supply chains, it is far more common to work with CAD professionals, vendors and factories across the country and around the world.

Globalization has created amazing new business opportunities, but it also has introduced serious challenges. Using the same design tools we used 20 years ago can no longer meet the accelerating demands of today’s world.


The lever of change to move the CAD world is the Internet, but most designers, engineers and manufacturers are not yet leveraging the full power of the cloud. Most CAD tools used today are still running on Windows desktops. Files are being shared by email or Dropbox, but there is no control over who ultimately can access or modify them. And when it comes to managing your files, the restrictive check-in and checkout approach of traditional PDM is increasingly creating roadblocks to productive collaboration.

As an engineer, I love having candid conversations with CAD users about their daily challenges. Designers and engineers tell me they have been pulling their hair out trying to keep track of multiple versions of a file or watching their changes get accidently erased by another team member. What these users say they truly need is the CAD version of Google Docs, a way for people to collaborate on the same model at the same time. They seek a better, more efficient way to understand each contributor’s changes without tripping over each other’s work.

Engineers’ brains are racing non-stop and don’t slow down when they leave the office. Granting them immediate access to their projects on their personal tablets, mobile phones or any web browser — without the hassles of entering license codes – would be transformational. There would be no obstacles or delays to acting on their ideas in the moment.


CAD professionals also have a more flexible business model on their wish lists, expressing a desire to purchase CAD as a monthly service instead of at a fixed cost of $5,000 to $6,000 per seat (plus regular upgrades and maintenance). The reason: Today’s companies have fluctuating workforces and need tools that are highly flexible and scalable. Using an SaaS version of CAD would be a competitive advantage because it allows you to quickly add people to your team for a short period of time.

For similar reasons, many other industries have already migrated to the SaaS model. For example, Customer Relationship Management software used to be only accessed by logging onto servers. That world, of course, has moved to Salesforce. But we’re not suggesting that you switch to a browser-based solution because everyone else is doing it. CAD in the cloud is about boosting collaboration, making all of your engineers, designers and manufacturers more productive. It also gives you access to thousands of cores for computing versus, say, only 1, 2, or 4 cores on your PC.

That’s why we’ve built Onshape, a SaaS platform that facilitates CAD collaboration (synchronous and asynchronous) on any device, for any browser, at any time.

In Archimedes’ terms, we’d like to be your place to stand when you pull that lever of change.

The time has come for engineers and designers to take advantage of the same benefits others have enjoyed over the past decade. As the business world continues to speed up, we look forward to working with you as we improve the next generation of CAD to meet your most critical demands. What are your biggest challenges with designing and manufacturing products? How would you improve the collaboration process?

by John McEleney,  CEO at Onshape


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(IMAGE CREDIT:  The Archimedes illustration is an 1824 woodcut featured on the cover of London’s Mechanic’s Magazine. Source: Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences/New York University.)

Tony Glockler
About the Author

SolidProfessor Co-Founder and CEO, CAD junky, sailer, surfer and former world traveler (before kids, that is).