Onshape Holds an Online User Conference

By on March 10th, 2023 in Event, news

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

David Katzman, GM of Onshape, kicks off Onshape Live 23 [Source: ENGINEERING.com]

Highlights and observations of Onshape Live 23.

Onshape held a live online user conference, Live 23, on Monday, March 1. Why is this important?

Onshape was acquired by PTC. That Onshape has its own conference—and is not just part of PTC’s annual conference, LiveWorx—allows Onshape to keep its mission and brand distinct from PTC’s enterprise and desktop design/manufacturing platform. That it is allowed to have its own conference, its own leasership on stage, not PTC executives, is a testament to PTC’s confidence in maintaining parallel product portfolios that are independent of each other. This is hardly typical in the design software industry, where a greater CAD company acquires a lesser one, enforces lesser functionality to protect its flagship products while forcing its branding and leadership on the acquired CAD users.

Onshape may have thought otherwise after learning that Onshape’s founder, Jon Hirschtick, was leaving his leadership role, but Hirschtick assures them this is not a problem.

Jon Hirschtick in his new role as Onshape’s “chief evangelist.” [Source: ENGINEERING.com]

“I’m leaving Onshape in the capable hands of David Katzman, Onshape’s general manager,” says Hirschtick, who is “very excited to take on his new role of lead evangelist.” Hirschtick treated the conference as if it were a pep rally … pumping up the audience as only he can. As founder of SOLIDWORKS, the upstart that knocked PTC off the top spot in mechanical CAD (MCAD), Hirschtick is assured of a place in the CAD Hall of Fame, if there is ever to be one.

It was a new look for Hirschtick at Live 23—quite svelte in a suit but with a familiar message. Pure cloud is the way to go, the CAD of the future—in case anyone forgot.

I joined the conference with 648 others. There are bigger conferences to be sure. The SOLIDWORKS conference draws 5,000 or more attendees. Autodesk conferences have had more than 10,000 attendees. But it’s not a fair comparison. Onshape users are not day-in, day-out users of their CAD programs. Their careers don’t rest on how well they can use Onshape. Many are hobbyists, CAD tire-kickers, infrequent users. CAD that can be purchased cheap, or used for free, licensed month-to-month, is like that. In additon, it goes against the spirit of an application that can be used anywhere to require its users to all assemble somewhere.

Onshape for the Enterprise?

Onshape is trying very hard to not be seen as small time, an application for amateurs with a list of enhancements. And the company found three enterprise users to attest to Onshape as a viable design tool in their companies.

Brandon Davies, process engineer at Dura-Line, says the company evaluated several CAD systems.

“It was a close race, but Onshape won,” says Davies. He doesn’t say who it beat. He doesn’t have to. It becomes clear through the conference that MCAD market-leader SOLIDWORKS is the one to beat.

“We found users with CAD experience could easily pick up Onshape,” says Davies.

Chris Whipple, animatronics engineer at Hasbro, does programming and tried Onshape after getting an unsolicited marketing message on LinkedIn. He liked it. Onshape, with its ability to roll back to previous design versions, resembled GitHub, the favored cloud-based development platform. Hasbro had been using SOLIDWORKS for several years, but Whipple is leading the conversion to Onshape. Whipple likes how using Onshape has allowed non-CAD users to be able to have access to CAD models.

Romeo Graham, technology director from Jabil Packaging, was using SOLIDWORKS but with a wandering eye for “new and improved” technology. He tried Onshape and went from days of anxiety about losing data (“save often” was the company rule, which was not always followed) to Onshape, which saves data automatically. He no longer worries about crashes.

Graham loved how easy it was to get tech support. Not only is Onshape’s support “super responsive,” but they also can immediately jump on the very model you are working on. This is a big difference from having to do a Pack and Go and email the package to support.

Was there any pushback to adopting Onshape, asked moderator Daniel Kane. The panelists dutifully recounted how they overcame the few minor pushbacks they encountered. Pushbacks in CAD replacement are hardly trivial, though. The Onshape panel did mention inertia and fear of the unfamiliar as resistance to overcome. But the many benefits of Onshape let it roll right over the resistance, they said: Onshape doesn’t crash, data is automatically saved, and so on. And because the software is hosted on a server, you don’t need a beefy workstation. Onshape works on anything.

But what about lack of connectivity, came a question from the audience. As Internet connectivity is a must for Onshape, the lack of it could bring productivity to a standstill, right?

“That was one of our questions, too,” admits Davies. “And Onshape scored a zero on that one. But look at the advantages. You don’t need a beefy computer, for example. We could run Onshape on any cheap computer. Besides, when the Internet is down, so are many of our other systems.”

The ease with which data could be shared was a dealmaker for Davies.

“You have these old-school guys in the shop and they are having trouble seeing your design,” says Davies. “Let me send you a link to the model so you can twirl the design around,” he says to the senior machinist. “You can even measure with it … in case I forgot a dimension on the drawing.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a model is worth a thousand pictures,” says Davies to the panel.

Read the rest of this story at ENGINEERING.com


ENGINEERING.com provides a variety of news and services to the engineering discipline worldwide and publishes a popular online blog focusing on the art of making in the industrial world.

Leave a comment