Onshape’s Sharing feature gives you tight controls over who can access your designs in a secure cloud workspace.

What’s the Most Secure Way to Share CAD Data?

By Neil Cooke / January 2, 2018

My colleague Cody Armstrong recently covered the flip side of sharing your designs in Onshape: It’s also incredibly valuable to be able to UNSHARE, pulling back permissions to view or edit your designs once a project is over or a partnership ends. So let’s take a step back for a moment and review the power of Onshape Sharing itself. What is the value of sharing CAD data in a secure cloud workspace?

One of the biggest differences between modern Onshape and old-generation CAD is that Onshape has no files. Modern CAD is based on a unique database architecture that stores your designs in a Document, which is best described as a project-level container. Every part, assembly, drawing, image, video, PDF, or any other project data can be created or stored within a single Onshape Document. This makes sharing project data and collaborating with others easy. Unlike other CAD systems, Onshape enables multiple people to work on the same Document at the same time, even work on the same assembly or even the same part, regardless of where they work.

Anyone, with permission, can access the latest version of your design data from anywhere on any device, via a web browser on Mac, Windows, Linux or Chromebook and via a dedicated app for iOS and Android tablets and phones.

Instead of sharing files by email, FTP or Dropbox (with all their inherent delays and security flaws), all Onshape requires is entering your recipient’s email address!

By clicking the Share button in Onshape, you are presented with a comprehensive share settings dialog with granular permission controls. Once another person has been shared into a Document, they will receive an email with a link that will take them straight to that Document. If they are not currently an Onshape user, your Document will be displayed “view-only” regardless of the share permissions you set.

Each user or team of users can be assigned different permissions for each Onshape Document:

  • “Can Edit” – This permission level gives each shared user edit access to that Document. They can add, edit and delete any content within your Document, essentially having the same permissions as the original author. Since every action in an Onshape Document is recorded, you do not need to worry if somebody else deletes all your hard work. You can always restore to an earlier point. If you are not all working on the same version of the same part or assembly, one way to avoid conflicts is to make use of Onshape’s Branching and Merging capabilities.
  • “Can View” – This permission level gives each user view-only access to that Document. They can view each part, assembly and drawing within the Document, move and hide assembly components, and take measurements, which is more than enough for a supplier to provide a quote.

In addition to those broad permissions, you can also specify more granular permissions:

  • “Copy” – The recipient can make a copy of your Document. This is a complete copy of the entire Document with no link back to your original. This permission should only be used if the recipient is trusted and has a legitimate reason for copying your Document.
  • “Link Document” – Onshape enables elements from a Document to be inserted into other Documents (like using standard parts in an assembly). Unchecking this option will disable this capability.
  • “Export” – Enables the recipient to export an element from your Document in a neutral format such as STL, STEP or Parasolid. If “Link Document” is enabled, “Export” will also be enabled.
  • “Share” – Determines whether the recipient can reshare the Document to other users.
  • “Comment” – Gives the recipient permission to add comments to the Document. This is a good way to communicate with suppliers, so this option should remain checked.

Since the Document you are sharing never actually leaves Onshape’s servers, sharing is both instantaneous and secure. You can also change a user’s permissions at any time. For example, if you are sharing a Document with a supplier for quoting purposes you can share as “Can View” with “Comment” enabled. If you decide to go ahead with that supplier, you can change their permissions to include edit or export capabilities.

How big of a deal is this to design teams? A pretty big deal. Onshape Professional customer Petrak Industries, for example, credits the Onshape Sharing feature for saving them five weeks in the design process for a tight deadline project for a major oil company.

And as Cody pointed out, unsharing is just as important as sharing. If you decide that a partner or supplier is not a good fit for your company, just press the “x” button next to their name and their permissions are instantly revoked.

Instant means instant. Even if they are currently viewing your Document, they will be immediately disconnected. Sharing Documents in Onshape is the most secure way to communicate your intellectual property without sending uncontrolled copies of files.

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