GrabCAD, New Openness and Future Business Models

The world is changing fast. What was near to impossible 10 years ago tomorrow, becomes a reality today. It related to the field of engineers as well as to the software that used by people and manufacturing companies. One of the factors impacting everything around us is the internet. It brings unknown before opportunities and new problems. An example of creating a different way to work is a community website for mechanical engineers GrabCAD. Earlier, this week, I was following an interesting discussion on various aspects of GrabCAD development on Matt Lombard’s Dezignsuff blog. Take few minutes to follow the discussion and opinions on Matt’s blog. This discussion made me think about the internet, new openness and future of business models.

Non-systematic definition of GrabCAD

I had a chance to look over what GrabCAD is doing and posted about them on my blog before – The Future of Engineering Communities and Manufacturing Crowdsourcing and Cloud PLM opportunities. Take few minutes to read and make your opinion. Deelip Menezes was describing what his opinion about the future of GrabCAD. He was consulting GrabCAD back in 2010. Here is an interesting passage from Deelip’s blog:

To put it simply, GrabCAD is a free online CAD library, not very different from other online CAD libraries. But the CAD library is only a first step. Pretty soon, GrabCAD will evolve into an online Engineering marketplace where members will be able to post Engineering projects and other members will be able to bid on them…GrabCAD will have an eBay style rating system where a member can start building his “reputation” by fulfilling projects, uploading his personal models for others to download and use, etc.

Hardi Meybaum explains GrabCAD using words “Crowdsourcing and Open-Engineering”. Navigate to the following presentation to learn more. In my view, it confirms plans of GrabCAD to develop future online applications in the field of engineering and manufacturing. You can think about Facebook apps applied to CAD domain. It obviously brings lots of questions related to IP – copyright, reuse and many others that needs to be handled on time.

DMCA and Engineering IP

I can see Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is one of the fundamentals of online business when it comes to Copyright protection. History already created few examples when companies protected their work using DMCA. Among them, there is a famous Google-Viacom and some other cases. At the same time, I never heard about application of DMCA to the field of CAD models, engineering IP and some cases discussed in Dezignstuff blog.

Respect Engineering Community

From my experience, engineers are special kind of people. In the past, SolidWorks developed a very successful community that respects engineers and their work. That’s why we had a chance to see so many SolidWorks works online – blogs and shared online materials. You cannot see such amount of online work related to other CAD systems. GrabCAD is actually proven in GrabCAD’s infographic:

To respect engineers is one of the fundamental thing that can create a successful engineering and manufacturing community. Last changes in GrabCAD that allows you toreport this model and upload notification shows that GrabCAD is listening. At the same time, in my view, it happened very reactively.

What is my conclusion? Future engineering environment will be different from what we see now. It will be driven by new technologies and business opportunities. It will take time to develop them as well as to adjust existing legal definitions. Clearly, GrabCAD is trying to innovate in this space. Future development of GrabCAD depends on many factors and events. It looks like a fast drive on a narrow path between IP of engineers and manufacturing companies, legal rules and business interests. As we know from the history of the internet, driving fast can bring you a speed ticket :). Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Freebie. GrabCAD didn’t pay me to write this post.

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