5 questions to ask before moving your CAD work to cloud using Fra.me [UPDATED]

July 27, 2015

cad-frame-cloud-nirvana

I keep following new cloud software outfit Fra.me. Few months ago, at Siemens PLM conference, I’ve seen how SolidEdge runs in the cloud using Frame infrastructure. You probably noticed my blog – Fra.me and bridge to the cloud earlier last week. Another article about Frame by SolidSmack is bringing a news about the availability of two Frame plans – Personal and Business. Here is the passage from the article:

Today, company CEO Nikola Bozinovic has just sent word to SolidSmack that Frame is now available in two distinct plans – Frame Personal and Frame for Business – for both individuals and teams to install, manage, and share their desktop applications using nothing but a browser. Among other reasons why the platform has been of interest is because it will allow users of CAD software offerings that aren’t currently Cloud-supported – such as SolidWorks or Solid Edge – the ability to work from any internet-connected device in the world without being tethered to a particular workstation.

So, maybe Fra.me is that magical “single click” solution that will solve all problems of engineers to move their work into cloud environment? The idea sounds very appealing- create your cloud computer, which will make all your existing desktop top available via just browser.

frame-cloud

At the same time, it made me think about basic checklist you do before jumping into Frame nirvana.

1- Does my CAD license valid for cloud?

I know, legal stuff is boring. Some of you might remember Autodesk eBay lawsuit. As a user, you can check small letters in your CAD EULA document. It is a good idea if Fra.me will publish some clarification about licensing on their website. From tweet chat with Frame CEO Nikoa Bozinovic, I understood that he is aware about licensing issue.

2- How to bring my existing CAD project library to Fra.me?

Engineering work is rarely done from scratch. It is usually about re-using existing projects, using standard library of parts, etc. Sometimes, existing libraries are large and to move them into cloud environment can take time and cost money. At list this problem exists for many cloud based environments. Will Frame provide services like Amazon Import/Export? Frame is addressing speed of data exchange between Frame computer and Dropbox, but I didn’t find any information how to import file.

3- How to share data in a team?

For many years of desktop CAD software use, customers developed many best practices about how to share data. It starts from well known “z-drive” concept and also use of more advanced techniques and software such SharePoint. So, how my z-drive library will be available on Frame?

4- How to use PDM tools together with Frame?

The usage of PDM is growing. Many CAD users found the real value in managing their CAD data using PDM systems. PDM systems today are bundled with many mainstream CAD systems. What will happen with my PDM installation? How to move it into Frame environment? Does it mean I need Frame IT option to do that?

5- How to escape Frame (in other words how to get my data out)

The last, but also important – how to escape from Frame in case something goes wrong or company will move into another solution. Nobody likes data lock-in these days. The idea of Google takeout is very appealing and I wish it will become part of CAD data liberation. It is not clear how to handle export of data from Frame computer. It might be simple, but can take time and money like import of data.

What is my conclusion? It takes time to bring cloud tools such as CAD, CAE, CAM to the level of maturity available in desktop systems today. Cloud providers are pushing forward to develop new tools and re-use existing components. However, in many situations, existing desktop tools have better support for needed functionality and complete workflows. Frame is digging into an interesting opportunity to take “desktop world” to the cloud. The short term value proposition is clear. In my view, existing CAD / PLM vendors can be interested to use technologies like Frame to prolong existing solution lifecycle into cloud time. My hunch, it can influence the speed of early cloud adopters to move into full cloud solution. Cloud companies should watch it closely. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[UPDATE 27-JULY-2015]

Frame CEO Nikola Bozinovic kindly agreed to provide answers on my questions and publish them on blog.fra.me. Meantime, don’t miss Frame white paper which is specifically focused on “Frame for CAD” that can be downloaded here.

I captured few interesting passages that can give you ideas about Frame strategy to provide value proposition of running existing desktop CAD and PDM/PLM system in the cloud using Frame virtualization environment.

Previous to Frame, adopting the cloud for CAD workflows primarily had to do with moving to cloud-based file storage. This essentially meant splitting up your workflow and spending a lot of time downloading and uploading files. While some CAD options exist as native cloud apps, these options don’t have anywhere near the feature set of established Windows-based CAD tools. So, in the past, cloud options created an inefficient and fragmented CAD environment. With Frame you can continue to use the tools that you’re used to, the way that you’re used to using them but get all the benefits of being able to access them through the cloud including seamless integration with cloud storage.

Focus on being a CAD expert, not an IT expert. Managing desktops and laptops used for CAD, license servers and PDM systems can be a pain because they are generally distributed across multiple locations, owned or managed by different departments and configured in different ways which lead to different behaviors. With Frame, every element of CAD management and administration is centralized. License servers and PDM systems can be installed on Frame utility servers to make them accessible from anywhere and by any department. Similarly, CAD software only needs to be installed and setup one time and then can be accessed by any number of users from the Frame Launchpad in a browser.

I captured the following architecture diagram from Frame for CAD white paper:

frame-cad-pdm-architecture-use-cases

Cloud storage is required in case you want to store your files and data. Frame white paper recommends to use services like Dropbox (the only released support) and Box (in beta) or Google Drive (in beta). The installation and configuration is not exactly “single click”. White paper provides instructions and recommendation how to setup and configure environment. Frame confirmed several CAD systems already on-boarded to Frame environment – Dassault Systems Solidworks, Siemens’ SolidEdge and NX, PTC’s Creo, Vectorworks and ANSIS). I guess more to come. It is notable that none of existing Autodesk desktop systems are not tested for the moment. For some installation and configuration related topics Frame white paper recommends to contact Frame directly.

Stay tuned for more information.

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Fra.me

 



Will Minecraft Experience take off in design and PLM?

July 20, 2015

minecraft-plm-experience

We speak about new technological trends and how to simplify enterprise implementation. At the same time, large CAD and PLM deployments are experiencing integration and user experience challenges. File based paradigm is the one all mainstream CAD systems are supporting. The challenges of enterprise integration and complex user experience are real and customers are experiencing it every day.

The article Collaborative Design Software in Today’s medical development is discussing few trends and gives few examples how to solve these problems. It brings back the idea of gamification, but takes it for real with the example of Minecraft software. Here is the passage from an article:

Gathering online to design buildings and cities, more than 100 million people worldwide are registered users of the low-resolution video game Minecraft. In early 2015, the pocket edition of the game for iOS and Android devices passed the 30 million download mark. Called by some the Legos of the 21st century, Minecraft is more than just a game, it’s a sign of where design is going.

The idea of cloud software that can stitch fragmented data is appealing as something that will take off in the future PLM platforms. This is where execs from both Autodesk and Dassault Systems are agreeing. According to Carl White of Autodesk:

“When we came off the drafting board into CAD, we were looking for ways to get rid of the roadblocks in design,” says Carl White, senior director of manufacturing engineering products at software provider Autodesk. “One of those last roadblocks is fitting different designs together. With the cloud, you’re not dealing with different designs. You have one version of the product, and everyone’s using that.”

Somewhat similar idea of integrated experience is coming from Monica Menghini of Dassault Systemes.

“Our platform of 12 software applications covers 3D modeling (SOLIDWORKS, CATIA, GEOVIA, BIOVIA); simulation (3DVIA, DELMIA, SIMULA); social and collaboration (3DSWYM, 3DXCITE, ENOVIA); and information intelligence (EXALEAD, NETVIBES),” explains Monica Menghini, Dassault executive vice president and chief strategy officer. “These apps together create the experience. No single point solution can do it – it requires a platform capable of connecting the dots. And that platform includes cloud access and social apps, design, engineering, simulation, manufacturing, optimization, support, marketing, sales and distribution, communication (PR and advertising), PLM – all aspects of a business; all aspects of a customer’s experience.”

Both examples are interesting and can provide some space to fantasy about future ideal experience when files are gone and applications are integrated. However, the real life is much complex and can set many roadblocks. Here are top 3 things that design software companies need to solve to open roads towards future PLM minecraft universe.

1- Platform openness. It is hard to believe customers will use a software package from a single vendor. What is the future concept of openness that will be powerful enough to support companies’ business and don’t block customers workflows?

2- Legacy data. Engineering and manufacturing companies are owning a huge amount of existing data. This is live IP and knowledge. How to make them available in new platforms? This is not a trivial problem to solve from many aspects – technical, legal and time.

3- Educational barrier. Technologies are easy, but people are hard. Vendors can bring new technologies and platforms. At the same time, people will be still looking for known and familiar experience. Yes, new generation of people likes web and online. But engineering and manufacturing workforce is different.

What is my conclusion? Minecraft experience is a brilliant marketing idea. However, I’d be thinking first about customer adoption and transition. After all, many great product initiatives were dead on arrival because of customers had hard time to adopt it and use it in a realistic environment with existing data and everyday problems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why cloud CAD is closer to solve some PLM problems than you think

July 18, 2015

cad-enterprise-data-share-plm-problem

One of the topics I’m following closely these days is cloud CAD development trend. To make cloud CAD work from the cloud, vendors must solve some fundamental data management and PDM problems first. The two most visible players in cloud CAD domain today are Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape. Although Fusion360 was released almost 3 years ago, I can see some similarity in the way fundamental data management problems will be solved by both products. Note, that Fusion360 is using Autodesk A360 platform for data management. You might be interested to catch up with some of my previous writing about these systems – Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus and How Fusion360 and Onshape are solving fundamental CAD collaboration problem.

To continue, I want to have a conversation about cloud CAD and Product Lifecycle Development. 3D CAD World recently published an article Onshape: Future of CAD – or Future of PLM? The article brings good points about Onshape built with data management in mind. Here is an interesting passage:

Steve Hess, another member of Onshape’s UX/PD team, followed up Gallo by posting: “As you know Onshape was built with data management in mind. The data management features of Onshape are at the core of the product and will become more exposed as Onshape matures. “In time, Onshape will be the system of record for all types of data & meta-data (data about the data) allowing you to run analysis and simulations…without having [to] copy or reproduce the information in another system. The data stored in Onshape will be visible and accessible to your other enterprise systems.”

Autodesk and Onshape are in a different time phases related to enterprise deployments. While Onshape just started with public beta version back in March, Autodesk released cloud based PLM 360 back in 2012. The last blog from Onshape can give you some interesting perspective on what cloud CAD and Onshape can offer to enterprises out of the box. Navigate to the following link – 5 Ways to advance your career with Onshape. Yes, it speaks about career opportunities, but I want to focus your attention on some technological and product capabilities of Onshape. It related to the native ability of Onshape to share 3D data using browser. One of the uses cases – introduce 3D to manufacturing. Here is my favorite passage:

Stop using email, FTP and Dropbox to share files. Let’s face it, every time you send a copy of a file to someone you create issues with file compatibility, data security or version control. Human error adds to the problem when assemblies are sent without part files, old versions are used, or email size limits are exceeded. There is a better way with Onshape. Just upload your existing CAD data into Onshape and hit “Share.” Now everyone can reference the same data, translate on demand when needed, and you can easily revoke a person’s access if you choose. You will reduce daily frustration while increasing your company’s control of its data.

Introduce 3D to the manufacturing team. Too often, there are a few licenses of 3D CAD being used for product design, while the people designing the fixtures and tooling are using older 2D systems – or even pencil and paper. With Onshape, the entire manufacturing team can experience the benefits of 3D design. You will introduce design efficiencies and give others the tools to drive innovation.

One of the functional requirements for PLM is to make data widely available and used across all teams in the company and extended enterprise. Although, it sounds simple, it was a challenging requirement for many PLM products. Two main reasons – product complexity and expensive licensing mechanism. Onshape has some good news here such as sharing data similar to Google Drive and free licensing model (according to my understanding when engineer shares model with somebody, person is getting free license automatically). The licensing issue is probably require some additional validation. I’m not sure what happens when number of shared document with a single person will grow beyond 5 documents limit. Of course, companies in specific industries might have a problem with public cloud both A360 and Onshape are using.

What is my conclusion? Cloud CAD is getting close to solve some fundamental 3D sharing problems. These problems caused traditional PLM to slow down in their ability to spread across company departments. It is web based, simple and (there is a chance) free or has affordable cost. So, both Onshape and Fusion360/A360 can solve problems that addressed today by premium features of traditional PLM systems. In my view, this is an interesting shift that can disrupt current PLM status quo. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Wikipedia Data Share article


Fra.me and bridge to CAD & PLM cloud

July 15, 2015

bridge-to-the-cloud-cad-plm

Back to my trip to Develop3D Live conference earlier this year, I shared my thoughts about future of cloud competition. The cloud space in CAD is getting more dynamic. It also shakes other traditional applications surrounding CAD – product data management, simulation, etc.

In my first slice of PLM cloud service comparison, I provided a view on how PLM companies are applying different cloud architecture approaches to get into cloud business – from just leveraging IaaS layer to run existing system and up to full rebuilt of systems from grounds up. While traditional applications doesn’t fit very well new cloud technological schemas, it gives a way to come faster with mature implementations. On the other side, to build system from scratch takes time (especially in rich applications such as CAD and PLM).

One of the approaches that driving some attention is virtualization of existing applications via browser. Since my Develop3D live conference, I’ve been following Fra.me – software outfit building technologies allowing to virtualize and run any existing desktop software in a browser. Earlier, at Siemens PLM world in Dallas, I’ve seen how Siemens PLM is running SolidEdge on the cloud using Fra.me.

My attention caught by SolidSmack article – Frame Secures $10 Million to Put All of Your Apps (Yes, Including SolidWorks) in the Cloud. It looks like Fra.me is up to provide a bridge to existing mature CAD and potentially PDM products to the cloud. Fra.me is planning to provide 3 levels of service – personal, business and platform. Here is the passage, which outlines Fra.me strategy:

While there are dedicated Cloud-based apps, Bozinovic’s Frame allows users to install their own software on the company’s servers which can then be used in real-time from any device with a web browser – which effectively gives users the power of a finely-tuned desktop PC workstation within their much lighter $200 netbooks or a Macbook Air.

“After we previewed Frame at Develop3D LIVE in March, we were blown away by the interest to run SOLIDWORKS and other CAD software on Frame from users and businesses from around the world,” said Bozinovic in an email to SolidSmack. “We’re in the middle of the biggest computing platform shift in decades and we’re excited to be bringing the power of the cloud to engineers and designers everywhere.”

It made me think about virtualization service as a bridge to the cloud for existing CAD and PLM vendors. While building new software architecture takes time and resources, to run existing applications using service like Fra.me can be a good shortcut vendors would like to us.

What is my conclusion? The advantages are clear – same software, no need to change and re-architecture things. However, it comes with price. In case of CAD, users will keep existing paradigm of file storage. It will require some additional effort to enable collaboration between users (feature that usually comes natively with cloud CAD platforms today). I can see some opportunity for PDM vendors to run existing PDM/PLM platforms using Fra.me. However, the architecture of such deployments as well as customization / configuration can be tricky. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



How to innovate and compete with CAD and PLM behemoths

July 9, 2015

plm-innovation

You cannot stop innovation. Global manufacturing environment and changing technological landscape is a good foundation to think about how to develop new technologies or product to improve what industry uses today. The demand for quality, low cost combined with mass customization is creating significant challenges for manufacturing companies. It inspires people to find a better way. I’m often receiving emails from people and companies thinking how to develop new technologies or improve business in engineering and manufacturing. Some of questions are repeating. The most popular one is how to disrupt dominant vendors in engineering and manufacturing eco-system.

Today, I want to share some of my thoughts about possible ways to attack CAD-PLM behemoths. It comes together with retrospective analysis about how companies did it in the past. I’m not pretending to create a comprehensive research about it- maybe I will do it in the future.

1- Core geometry modeling, design and viewing technologies

Geometry is a core function for 2D/3D design. Parametric feature based modeling became a de-facto mainstream standard. Nevertheless, new companies attempted to compete with CAD/PLM vendors by developing new modeling paradigms (direct modeling) or simplifying the design interaction by new user interface and experience. A specific niche of competition in 3D design is related to technological platforms – computing and operational systems. CAD systems moved from expensive Unix workstations to PC, later to Windows and Web/Cloud. The last one is actually one of the most active trends in CAD industry these days. Few examples of products and companies in this segment of competition – AutoCAD, SolidWorks, SpaceClaim, Onshape.

Viewing technology and products is an essential element for non-CAD users to access data. In the past, the number of "viewers" was large. Most of them were acquired by different CAD and non-CAD vendors. I can see very few independent companies today providing 2D/3D viewing technologies.Few examples of companies here – Cimmetry and Right Hemisphere. The last spark of innovation in this segment is to focus on viewing technologies for web and mobile devices.

2- Data, process management, search and data analytic

Data domain was always a stranger space for CAD vendors with core technological roots in geometry and design. Therefore many companies tried to attack or complement CAD business by developing products and technologies to manage or process data. These companies traditionally positioned as PDM or PLM. Lately with web expansion, companies created products and technologies to crunch data, search, process management, data analytic, reporting, etc.

Data and process management is providing clear value proposition. For most of CAD vendors, data management was unknown field. Vendors didn’t know how to handle or didn’t pay attention to the problem. At the same time, PDM and PLM business didn’t outgrew CAD business (with some exception of PDM systems selling systems to very large companies). Some PDM companies got very vulnerable because of selling to the same customers and dependent on core CAD technologies and APIs. Acquisitions closed the doors for PDM competition for CAD-independent PDM vendors. Most of PDM vendors got acquired by larger CAD vendors or merged with CAD businesses.

Few examples of products and companies in this segment – mostly PDM/PLM companies (trueEVault, SmarTeam, MatrixOne, Conisio, Windchill, etc.), search and big data (Exalead, Inforbix)

3- Vertical and under-served markets

You cannot boil the ocean. The same can be said about CAD and PLM vendors. Large vendors followed low hanging fruits, profit, experience and as a result served diverse markets. It developed some specialty in vertical domains – MCAD, ECAD, AEC. Some of market segments became under served and attracted new companies and technologies. Some companies expanded by focusing on specific verticals. Few others got acquired by larger CAD vendors. Few examples of companies here – Cadence, Bentley Systems, Revit.

In PLM market, companies focused on how to provide specific solution for vertical industry (discrete, process, food, fashion). Typically it was a result of specialty in data and process knowledge. Sometimes, it was a result of developing technologies for specific data management needs. One of the examples – bill of material for process industry. Few examples of products and companies – Prodika, Accelrys. I can see future development of this segment driven by high diversity of solutions for manufacturing industry.

Another opportunity in this segment of competition is to provide solution for SME/SMB market. Historically CAD and PLM companies were focused on on the large high-end businesses. It left smaller companies under served. It is still very attractive segment of the market today to spot for new technologies and product initiatives.

4- Disrupt business models

To change business model is another way to disrupt and compete with existing businesses. This strategy is partially overlapping with improvements of core technologies (especially in 2D/3D design segment). It led to development of cheaper systems that can run on less expensive platforms. AutoCAD and SolidWorks are probably two best examples, but I’m sure there are few more.

In PLM, business model disruption was focusing on introduction of new licenses mechanisms, subscriptions, open source and free software. The opportunity to disrupt vendors by providing lower cost is very attractive. The demand of customers for lower cost is clear. At the same time, the complexity is not always technological. The cost of sales (especially in PLM business) is high, which creates many challenges to lower price of the solution. Cloud technologies has a potential to disrupt PLM industry by providing subscriptions and potentially lowering cost of solutions by shared multi-tenant software models. A company to mention in this segment is Aras Corp (you probably had a chance to read recent news about Aras and Airbus, which is a great example of business model disruption).

What is my conclusion? To learn from previous successes and failures is an essential part of innovation. Manufacturing and industrial businesses are very conservative. For many of them, the decision process is way too long for startups. Inertia is still a major problem for competition to solve. Take a look on my earlier article here. The threshold to provide solutions for large companies is very high. Back in 2013, I posted – 3 ways to disrupt PLM today – eliminate complexity, break technological barrier, alternative business models. It still sounds to me as a very compelling guidance to win for startups. And, this is a reminding note for strategists and technology leaders at large CAD/PLM companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Cloud CAD/PDM and mass customization future

June 25, 2015

mass-customization-cad-cloud-3d-local-motors

The era of mass production is near the end. The demand for mass customization is coming. We can see signs of customizable products everywhere – e-commerce configurators, personalization in apparel industry, individual shoe design, personalization in medical devices etc.

At the same time, the opportunity around mass-customization is facing challenges in engineering and manufacturing environments. I shared some of my thoughts about PLM, mass customization and BoM vertical integration last year. The problem with management of bill of materials to support manufacturing integration is real. We can achieve an improved product customization by improvement of BOM management and providing configurable BOM solution integrated with manufacturing systems. However, in many situation, product configuration capabilities are defined in the core of product design – CAD system.

You can manage product configurations using CAD system. Most of 3D mechanical CAD systems are supporting the ability to create some sort of product variations. But here is the thing, it is very hard to connect CAD product configurations to engineering and manufacturing systems.

My attention was caught by an article Building Adaptable CAD Databases—How and Why written by Chris Loughnane. In a nutshell, it speaks about how to make a traditional CAD design more data driven. The idea is fascinating and goes much beyond discrete configuration parameters. Here is my favorite passage explaining that.

Adaptable databases. By implementing additional techniques on top of traditional best practices, design intent is able to be so thoroughly baked into an adaptable database that its flexibility is no longer limited to a few discrete parameters. Instead, it’s able to read user-specific scan data and adjust the height, length, width, and surface curvature such that the resulting database is now custom-fit to the user.

It made me think about potentially mind blowing future of adapting CAD models. Imagine CAD design that can be changed based on customer data scanned using your mobile phone. Whoa… that would be amazing, but I stopped dreaming for a moment… The data integration chain in engineering and manufacturing systems is broken in many ways. CAD design is hardly integrated with PDM databases. Engineering BOMs are not synchronized with manufacturing BOM and shop floor and production facilities. To connect dots is possible, but it is a very complicated and expensive process.

The industry is discovering cloud CAD systems these days. One of the significant advantages of cloud CAD is the fact it includes data management functionality. In fact, these data management functions are giving us an option to control design on a very granular level. You can see an example of how cloud CAD systems are capable to control versions and collaboration between people.

Cloud based CAD systems can leverage data management capabilities to control more design parameters and product features. By doing that, it will enable better integration between design configuration and product features. Today most of these parameters are hardly can be captured. New cloud CAD systems can provide data driven environment to control important design parameters and to support data-driven design.

What is my conclusion? Mass customization and personal product developing is a future. One of the problems to solve in order to make it happen is to integrate engineering and manufacturing environments. The wall between design models and manufacturing product configuration should be removed. The first step into that direction is done by cloud CAD / PDM systems today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture Strati BAAM 3D printed car. (c) Photo courtesy of Local Motors.

 



How Fusion360 and Onshape are solving fundamental CAD collaboration problem

June 24, 2015

3d-puzzle-design-collaboration

For many years, design collaboration and change management was an ultimate requirement for PDM tools. To manage revision history, share data in the team and apply changes made by different team members was a dream for many users. I’ve seen many attempts to solve this problem by PDM developers with questionable results. The challenge for PDM system was to connect two islands of data – CAD files and PDM database. More successful implementations in this space are belonging to CAD/PDM bundles provided by a single vendor in the situation when both CAD file structure and PDM data is controlled by a single tool.

Cloud CAD technologies are breaking the barrier of existing CAD/PDM bundles by introducing embedded PDM functionality as part of CAD tools. You probably remember my earlier post – Cloud CAD will have to solve PDM problem first. Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape are two cloud CAD products today that are supposed to turn design collaboration dream into reality. Earlier in my blog I explained why I think Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus. There are differences in data management approaches, offline mode support and application technologies used by both vendors. But, at the same time, it is very interesting to compare how both products are solving similar problems.

Autodesk Fusion360 blog – June product update review by keqingsong speaks about functionality added to Fusion360 to support distributed design and allows collaboration in distributed teams.

fusion360-distributed-design

The following passage can give you a good description of what means distributed design for Fusion360 including usage of reference geometry and specific version inside of the project. What is interesting is how Fusion360 holds top down relationships between different elements of the project.

This release lays the foundation for distributed designs that will allow for future enhancements. In this update, you will able to insert referenced geometry that is part of the same project. Models outside of the project you are working must be moved or copied to your current project before they can be referenced. When a referenced model is inserted into another model, a reference image appears before the name identifying which components are being referenced.

A “component is out-of-date” notification will appear when a referenced part is updated. You will then have a choice to update and receive the change or keep the current version in your model. Simply right click on the referenced component and select “Get latest”. This intended workflow allows for designs that are in production to reference one version of a model while other versions are being created for a future design. If a component is inside a model that is referenced by another model you must update the sub model first, save it, and then go to the top level and update.

At the same time, my attention was caught by Onshape blog – Under the Hood: How Collaboration Works in Onshape by Ilya Baran gives you a deep insight on how Onshape is managing changes by introducing a concept of "microrevisions".

onshape-microversions

The following passage is explaining how microversions technique applies into distributed environment with multiple users.

For a given Part Studio, at each point in time, the definition is stored as an eternal, immutable object that we internally call a microversion. Whenever the user changes the Part Studio definition, (e.g., edits an extrude length, renames a part, or drags a sketch), we do not change an existing microversion, but create a new one to represent this new definition. The new microversion stores a reference to the previous (parent) microversion and the actual definition change. In this way, we store the entire evolution of the Document: this is accessible to the user as the Document history, allowing the user to reliably view and restore any prior state of an Onshape Document.

These definition changes are designed to be very robust: a change stored in a microversion is intended to apply to the parent microversion, but could be applied to a different one. For instance, if the change is “change the depth of Extrude 1 to 4 in,” as long as the original feature exists (identified using an internal id, so it can be renamed), this change can be applied. As a result, changes coming simultaneously from multiple collaborators can simply be applied to the latest microversion without interfering with each other. Traditional CAD systems based on saving an ever-changing memory state into files cannot do this, even if run on a remote server or with a PDM system attached: the data itself has to be collaborative.

What is my conclusion? Fusion360 and Onshape are trying to solve the problem of design collaboration. Both systems are leveraging cloud data management backend (Autodesk A360 and Onshape) to create robust mechanism to manage data, changes and relationships between design components and projects. The advantage of cloud architecture is that all "implementation mechanics" will be hidden from end users, which is absolutely great news. At the same time, it would be interesting to see how robust these approaches for use cases where Fusion360 and Onshape will have to manage CAD data coming from other CAD systems. To avoid "double PDM tax" is a challenge both systems will have to deal with. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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