GrabCAD Workbench: First Experiments

(Updated with some modification. May 3, 2013 @9:42a)

In my yesterday post, I’ve been talking about PDM software, obvious value proposition behind PDM implementation, the fact a substantial amount of manufacturing companies are afraid of implementation PDM software as well as about how cloud software startup are trying to crack the idea of PDM and may be implement it differently. I wanted to have some hands on done and experiment with new apps on the cloud. Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD was kind to grant me an access to Beta preview of GrabCAD Workbench.

After some confusion around multiple GrabCAD accounts (actually I have two accounts now), I succeeded to login and get to the project page (below). You can see project browser and area dedicated for file viewing. Nothing special, you can see it in many engineering software – CAD, viewers, etc.

I experimented with GrabCAD viewer. The “explode” feature is nice. So far, I get an access to SolidWorks assembly Hardi shared with me and was able to play with navigation between parts and sub assemblies.

Next thing – you can collaborate by sharing files with other users (which I did by sharing with my another gmail account – as a result a new GrabCAD account was created). The new user (account) provided me access to SolidWorks assembly with all parts and not only to a specific part I shared. This is probably a hint to GrabCAD engineers to think about security model, which will be absolutely must if you want to get your software closer to PDM functions of secured collaboration.

Another collaborative feature – pins and comments. I can put a pin in the viewer, put comments, screenshot and share it with other people. Nice collaborative feature. Also, you can put comments alongside with viewer file.

The last step in my experiments was to make a change or to upload pseudo “new version” of the assembly. The original file shared by Hardi was labeled as V1. So, I downloaded the file and change its name to something different in hope to have V2. I succeeded to upload the file, but didn’t get a preview (that was my fault of file renaming – see update below). Instead of preview I’ve got a nice feature allowing me to request a preview feature for this type of file. That was true for dwg and dwf files I tried to upload.

I’ve been working on viewer problem I faced. That was actually my fault by renaming file with wrong extension. I’ve been re-do it again and… voila, GrabCAD viewer captured it with nice message about queueing file for 3D viewing preparation, which ended with absolutely correct preview after 5-8 seconds processing.

Another interesting observation was “switch to old look” button, which gave me an access to traditional GrabCAD profile page with file access, properties and comments. Project was marked as private project – good sign of thinking about security. On the other side, it means GrabCAD workbench is a natural extension to GrabCAD website with the ability to access other projects as well.

What is my conclusion? GrabCAD Workbench is focusing on providing engineers with the tool to share CAD models and collaborate around CAD design. Because of cloud/hosted nature, it is easy to start. I found user experience nice and soft. I’ve been disappointed by absences of basic security implementation between parts and assemblies. I’m looking forward to talk to GrabCAD fellows and learn more. This is just my first impression… More to come.

Best, Oleg

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