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Yes, People Really Do CAD on Mobile!

By Neil Cooke / May 24, 2016

Full-cloud CAD gives you many benefits such as no downloads, no installs, no sending files by email, and built-in version control. But one of the other benefits which should not be overlooked is accessibility. By accessibility, I mean being able to access your work from any device at any time, even on devices you don’t own (great for testing the performance of new devices before you buy).

Onshape runs on Windows, Mac and Linux on desktop and laptop computers; and on Android and iOS on tablets and smartphones. Given all these choices, why would you choose to CAD on mobile? Well, by our reckoning, a lot of people like to CAD on mobile – especially those who work on tight deadlines and don’t have the luxury of being able to spend eight hours a day sitting behind a desk.

Onshape is not a mobile CAD viewer

Using mobile devices in a design through manufacturing workflow is nothing new. Search the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store and you’ll find a plethora of mobile CAD viewers. These viewers are great at what they do, but that’s just what they are, viewers. You’re not seeing the real CAD model – there are no features, nothing to modify or edit – just a graphical representation. Consequently, all you can do is pan, zoom, rotate, measure, and add comments. To make a design change, your only option is to email your comments back to the office and hope that an engineer is available to act on your request. Your comments must then be interpreted, transformed into actual CAD geometry, exported as a viewable file and emailed back to you for approval. All you can do is sit and wait and hope that your comments were interpreted correctly. This is a less than ideal workflow and a problem that only full-cloud CAD can solve.

Full-cloud CAD on mobile

Onshape doesn’t have a CAD viewer, only real-time, multi-user 3D CAD. You can view, measure, and comment if you prefer, but you can also create, edit, version control and branch your designs in real-time on a mobile device. There’s no interpretation, no miscommunication, and no waiting for others.

If you need to review or change a design, you can do it in seconds on the smartphone in your pocket. With almost ubiquitous access to 3G/4G cellular networks and low cost data plans, as well as free WiFi in many locations, CAD on-the-go is becoming more and more popular. How do we know this? Statistics.

1 in 6 sessions of Onshape are on a mobile device. And that’s not just viewing – that’s actual designing and editing. The table below shows some sample data taken over a short period of time, highlighting the number of sketches, extrudes, and other features that were created on a phone or tablet.

With over 70,000 sketches and extrudes created directly on a mobile device, I think we can safely say that yes, users really do CAD on mobile. Impressive numbers, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Another set of interesting statistics shows us when users CAD on mobile instead of a browser. The two graphs below have been scaled – the graph for browser usage is an order of magnitude bigger, but you can see a trend. The regular dips represent the weekend, but the dips are relatively smaller for mobile. It also shows us that usage over the holiday season at the end of last year was lower as you would expect, but on Christmas Day, mobile usage did not dip as much. I guess showing the relatives what you’ve been working on while tucking into a roast turkey dinner is too much of a temptation.

The data shows us that CAD on mobile is not a gimmick or a toy, but something that Onshape users value and make use of every day. If you haven’t tried CADding on mobile yet, why not give it a go? With such a wide range of Android phones and tablets to choose from, plus iPhones, iPads, and iPad Pros (with Apple Pencil support), there’s a mobile device for everyone. Welcome to the future of CAD!

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Topics: Industry Perspectives