Early collaboration between designers is clearly a critical element of any successful project. 

Particularly on larger projects, it is not uncommon for managers to divide up facets of a design into smaller pieces, assigning roles and independent projects to each engineer. In this scenario, designers and engineers may be working independently on a piece of a project that has interdependencies. 

In order to achieve fast and efficient product development, designers and engineers must collaborate with one another early in the life of the design. Users must ensure that each “piece” successfully comes together as a whole as intended. Collaboration ensures the team avoids unexpected surprises or delays at the moment of truth. Unfortunately, traditional, file-based CAD doesn’t always address these challenges. 

Legacy on-premise CAD systems, designed for an earlier era, were not built for collaboration. These systems require users to work independently at their own dedicated workstations. In order to share ideas with a teammate, users must manually send a copy of a design file via email (or a file-sharing service like Dropbox) to a colleague. They must then wait for their colleague to return the copy with any suggested edits or comments. This process is often slow and prone to oversights. 

Although many firms have recently adopted remote communication tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to improve communication, these tools do not deliver the capabilities to engage in the “work” of product development – creating and iterating on a product design together. 

For designers and engineers accustomed to working face-to-face with peers and perhaps walking across the office for input or collaboration, remote work presents a clear change in the way of doing business. For many teams, the existing file-based CAD systems that they have long used have become inaccessible or inconvenient to access and use. 

How Cloud Design Collaboration Tools Accelerate Production


Engineers need to not only communicate with each other, but they need to get work done. They require the ability to work in real time on the same product design to share ideas. Members of the core design team must be able to ask and answer questions, iterate on concepts and finalize product designs together. Only a cloud-based product development platform can enable this dynamic.

PTC’s Onshape Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform allows multiple engineers to simultaneously work on the same CAD model remotely online from any computer, tablet or phone. Whenever one engineer makes a design change, everyone else on the team instantly sees it – whether they are working together in the same room or in different time zones across the globe.

A comprehensive Edit History also records who made what changes and when, allowing the team to return to any prior state of the design at any time. In addition, Onshape’s Branching and Merging feature allows teams to explore multiple experimental design paths and later merge the best design ideas into one CAD model – without the risk of overwriting each other’s work or having to recreate the original core design.

Onshape empowers design teams to take more creative risks and experiment with more iterations, often resulting in better designs.

How Delta Development Uses Onshape’s Real-Time Collaboration Tools

Delta Development designs products to help U.S. military medics more quickly respond to wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

Delta Development is an Arizona-based R&D company specializing in military applications for cooling and heating systems in extreme environments. The product development company was contracted by the U.S. Air Force to design and manufacture the Autonomous Portable Refrigeration Unit (APRU) for deployment by medics on the battlefield.

Current military procedures require wounded troops needing blood to be evacuated by helicopter to the nearest base or field hospital. The APRU enables medics to replenish blood to patients faster on the ground.

Onshape’s real-time collaboration tools allow multiple engineers to work simultaneously on the same 3D CAD model in the cloud. Whenever one team member makes a design change, everyone else on the team instantly sees it. A comprehensive Edit History tracks who made what change and when, allowing teams to instantly revert back to any prior stage of the design.

“Whenever I describe Onshape to anybody, I always say, ‘It's like the Google Docs of CAD,’ and they're instantly like, ‘Oh, that makes so much sense. Why haven't they (the CAD industry) done that already?’" says Robert Futch, CTO of Delta Development.

“Being able to collaborate in a browser just makes CAD extremely more useful for a distributed team like ourselves. I previously spent 30 years doing it the old way and I’m very glad we decided to change our approach,” adds chief engineer Bill Barg, who has used a number of file-based, on-premise CAD systems in his career. 

Although its core design team is based in Arizona, Delta Development has an electrical engineer based in Montana and frequently partners with an injection molding company in Detroit.

“The ability to do mechanical design reviews remotely has been critical for us,” says Futch. “When the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to work at home, we were able to continue as normal with our design process.”

Get Your Copy of “The New Collaboration” eBook

Interested in learning more about how forward-thinking companies have benefited from switching to a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CAD platform? 

In this eBook, you’ll be introduced to a brand new class of real-time CAD collaboration and sharing tools, engineering productivity features made possible only by a cloud database architecture.

 Cloud-based CAD and data management are no longer a nice-to-have technology, but a must-have technology. Download your copy of “The New Collaboration: A Guide to Transforming Product Design” today and find out why!