If you take a moment to look around your home or office you might be surprised to see how widely structural frames are used today. From the brushed steel frame of a modern coffee table to the heavy duty scaffolding holding stage lights above a concert stage, structural frames play a critical role in many aspects of daily life.  

Because of the integral role of frames in so many products and the growing need for frame design capabilities, I am pleased to announce the addition of a structural frame toolset in Onshape. Onshape Frames lets users design and develop industry-standard frames more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Here is a brief rundown of what this new capability delivers:

  • Accelerated Design with Standard Frame Profiles. A convenient drop-down menu eliminates the need for manual frame profile creation, letting users quickly select from industry-standard frame profiles, including ISO, ANSI, AS, AISC and 8020.

  • Faster Automatic Frame Trimming. Automatic frame trimming lets users trim frame segments more efficiently. Instead of having to trim each segment individually, users can now prioritize the dominant segment with secondary segments trimmed back to that segment. For anyone who has spent time manually connecting and editing trims and joints, this new capability will be a huge timesaver.

  • Improved Accuracy with Built-in Cut List. Ensuring that design specifications are accurate in the hand-off to manufacturing is critical to the product development process. Onshape Frames helps eliminate inaccuracies with a Cut List tool that keeps a running tally of all the segments in a frame. 

Below is a brief video overview of Onshape Frames.

Structural Frames: Display Ready

One of the challenges of highlighting the form and function of an innovative product is sometimes simply creating a display that both supports the product and provides an unobstructed view. Located on the 17th floor of the PTC headquarters building in Boston, the Corporate Experience Center (CXC) provides visitors with many compelling examples of cutting-edge products and technology.

One example on display in the CXC is the truck gearbox shown below. While the intricate machined components of the heavy-duty machinery rightfully attract the attention of most visitors, the structural frame holding it aloft also plays a vital role in the display.

Designed by the Onshape team with aluminum 8020 structural members and fasteners, the frame effectively carries the weight of the display piece, without obstructing the observer's view. It is both sturdy and mobile, allowing the display to be shifted around the room as needed. All in all, it is a great example of the practical, useful nature of structural frames. 


Accelerating Design

While it is always rewarding to see the final results of a project, designing frame structures can be a lengthy and tedious process. One of the aspects of Onshape Frames that I particularly like is that it has an intuitive set of tools that dramatically speeds up that development process.

Below are some of the elements that I have found particularly helpful for every step of the development process.    

Onshape Frames useful tools

Efficient Trimming

Onshape Frames trimming tools enable users to trim frame segments in a streamlined, workflow-driven process. As opposed to manually trimming each segment, users instead can opt to group frame segments, selecting a segment to which the others are trimmed, and then performing those edits in bulk, in a single step. This new capability is a huge time saver.

efficient trimming

Ensuring Accuracy: Built-In Cut List

The final stage of product development – the handoff from design to manufacturing – is the one with perhaps the greatest potential for miscommunication. 

The built-in Cut List utility in Onshape Frames ensures that the Bill of Materials (BOM) is always in sync with the current version or release, guaranteeing all critical purchasing information needed by manufacturing partners is always available and up-to-date. 

The detailed tube segment information and resultant BOM entries provided by Onshape Frames eliminate any second-guessing as to whether or not what is being shared with manufacturing is in fact in alignment with the current state of the frame design.

detailed tube segment information and resultant BOM entries

The Trellis Motorcycle Frame

As a longtime rider, and someone who spends many waking hours involved with product development, I believe the importance of precision and fit in frame design is evident in some of the world's most iconic motorcycle brands. 

Just about anyone who has heard the distinctive sound of an Italian twin-cylinder superbike may be forgiven for thinking that the engine is the most compelling component of the bike. As a longtime rider, I would respectfully argue that the distinctive trellis frame itself is as important to the overall "feel." Let me tell you why. 

While some have compared the intricate lattice of tubing in the trellis to a work of art, I would simply argue that the frame is an incredible example of ingenuity that demonstrates the importance of structural frames. 

Engineered to provide the rider with just the right balance of stiffness and flexibility, the frame really is a unique expression of form and function.

Think about it: In addition to supporting the weight of the engine, the frame provides a critical connection between the rider and the road. It is the feel the frame provides that uniquely enables the rider to anticipate the response of the bike and calibrate the needed split-second adjustments to keep the bike on a chosen line regardless of road contours and conditions. As many riders will attest, there is something unique about the experience of riding a trellis-framed superbike.

Frames are critical to good design
For anyone who is interested in learning more about Onshape Frames, I would highly recommend this new on-demand webinar that provides an overview of the frames toolset. Led by my colleague Jay Tedeschi, the webinar provides an excellent overview of the new capabilities. 

Feel free to also share your favorite frame designs on the Onshape Forums, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or wherever you love to show off your CAD work. I can’t wait to see what you create in Onshape next!

Take a tour of
Onshape Frames

In this webinar, see a product demonstration 
of the Frame feature in Onshape.

(Greg Brown is Head of Product Management at PTC.)