Professor Alison Olechowski leads the Ready Lab at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada, where she aims to understand and improve the ways that engineering design teams work together to create products. 

She made the trip to LiveWorx to share how her lab has started using Onshape Analytics in their research and how those insights can help engineering teams work smarter. 

The motivation for her work with CAD analytics is to push the frontiers of designer expertise and collaboration. This could mean improving the efficiency of how a team uses CAD or the way they tackle complexities in a design, ultimately reaching for a collective understanding of how teams can work together to make better products.

Through her work and with the help of Onshape Analytics, Professor Olechowski was able to identify four different CAD personalities as well as connect different design approaches to a designer’s past experience. She shared her findings along with their implications during her session at LiveWorx 2023.

“Onshape is My Research Laboratory”

Unlike other research labs that require a lot of instrumentation, Professor Olechowski said “Onshape is my research laboratory” thanks to the enterprise analytics. Her lab has particularly leveraged the audit trail, which is a complete list of the changes made to Onshape models and data, tagged by user and time.

This enables her to analyze how companies like Avidbots are able to break down barriers between disciplines and fully leverage the team’s skills to create autonomous cleaning robots. 

Neo the Avidbots robot at the mall. An Avidbots autonomous floor-scrubbing robot deployed at a shopping mall.

For companies embracing agile design methods, it becomes increasingly important to streamline collaboration. The Ready Lab analyzed the Avidbots team’s CAD clicks to identify distinct individual “styles” or “personalities” on the team.

The Four CAD Personalities

The Ready Lab’s initial analysis showed four CAD personalities:

  • The Architect, who established the structure of the model and contributes a lot of creation actions throughout its lifecycle. 

  • The Collaborator, who shares documents, leaves comments, uses Branching and Merging, and often manages interfaces and assemblies. 

  • The Reviewer, who views CAD and leaves comments, but does not modify the model, often representing someone from a non-core engineering function. 

  • The Observer, who is able to identify and fix issues, contributing intermittent editing actions and overseeing the geometric dimensioning, tolerancing, or CAD standards.

Professor Olechowski asked the audience to reflect on what role they play when collaborating with a team and what other types of personalities might appear in different scenarios. 

After leading a discussion about how collaborative design happens in the real world, she shifted focus to findings from a more structured experiment her team conducted previously. These results could shed light on the specific ways different designers approach a problem.

An Experiment Reveals Different Approaches to CAD Modeling

For this experiment, Professor Olechowski and her team recruited students and professionals familiar with Onshape to complete a CAD task where they modeled a part based on a 3D drawing. 

The analysis focused on the different ways that designers with different backgrounds and experience levels would approach the same model.

One of the findings that she highlighted was how experience with different manufacturing methods influenced CAD designs. Students who are most familiar with 3D printing would tend to build up a model from the top plane like an additive manufacturing build plate, while professionals with more subtractive manufacturing experience like lathes would tend to build a model from the front plane like a chuck holding material stock.

different modeling techniques side-by-side Digging deeper: Additive vs. subtractive design methods. (Source: Undergrad thesis of Victoria Velikonja, University of Toronto)

The Possible Impact of Manufacturing Experience on CAD Modeling

While the implications of a finding like this are not perfectly clear as of now, Professor Olechowski emphasized the importance of reflection in building a collective intelligence about what makes for a better design process – this way teams can adapt and create tailored workflows. 

Onshape Analytics enable this type of reflective behavior, and she encouraged the audience to examine their own analytics and, in turn, encourage their team or students to do so as well. Onshape Analytics is available to all Onshape Enterprise and Onshape Education Enterprise plans. 

She closed her talk by thanking her collaborators who have enabled her research by sharing their analytics data with her team and by welcoming anyone interested in better understanding how their team uses CAD to do the same. 

After the presentation, a line of people formed to talk with Professor Olechowski about how they could further enable this type of research and be more reflective in making their use of CAD more efficient and collaborative.

Keep Learning with Onshape Analytics

If you would like to know more about this research or get involved, go to the Ready Lab website.

To gather insights into your team's CAD modeling approaches and learn more about using Onshape Analytics, contact us today for a demonstration.

Request a Demo

See what Onshape can do for
your product development team.