Finding the best CAD system for your company can be a minefield. First, you have to decide if the design tools meet your needs. Then you have to decide which of the myriad of add-ons you have to buy and pricing options you have to choose from to get all the fantastic tools you saw in the demo. What is the upfront cost? What level of PDM do I need to buy? What sort of computers and servers do I need? How much for training and support?

Onshape likes to keep things simple. Unlike old file-based CAD systems, many of the extras you had to consider in the past are either not applicable or included as standard.

Hardware, for example, is often overlooked when purchasing the latest and greatest version of a CAD system. What was considered a decent computer for running the 2014 version is no way near good enough for the 2019 version. Upgrading or replacing all your workstations and servers, just to run the latest bloatware, is an overhead you just don’t need when you’re already shelling out for CAD.

In comparison, Onshape will run on practically any hardware and run equally as well on the 5-year-old hardware you were using to run the old version of your old CAD. This means that you can reuse and repurpose many of the older hardware systems that may otherwise become redundant. Onshape will run on a PC, Mac, Chromebook or Linux machine as well as iOS and Android tablets and phones. Having said that, if you’re designing large machines with thousands of parts, then more RAM and bigger and better CPUs and graphics cards definitely help. You can check out Onshape’s recommended hardware specifications here. Alternatively, you can test the relative performance of each machine (try before you buy) by opening a browser and running this system check.

PDM is also a big consideration. Even if you’re a one-person consultancy firm, managing all the design data for each of your clients can soon become chaotic if you are managing files using Windows Explorer. Files are easily lost, overwritten and corrupted. Things get exponentially worse when you’re working as part of a team. This is when you come to the realization that you should have bought PDM, but PDM comes with its own set of hassles.

Setting up and maintaining old CAD and PDM systems is a full-time job. If you haven’t got dedicated IT resources to manage these systems, the task often falls to your best engineer when he or she should be focused on what you pay them for – creating the best products! Moreover, PDM also puts extra strain on your already stretched design team. When files need to be worked on, they are checked out and locked. This prevents others from overwriting your work, but it also prevents them from doing any work at all, forcing teams to work serially instead of in parallel.

In Onshape, data management is included as standard, so you never have to worry about losing, overwriting or backing up your data ever again. Designs can be edited by your entire team, simultaneously and in real-time. Every change is captured and recorded for the lifetime of the project, so you always have a complete history of every design decision ever made (unlimited undo/redo). Versions can be created to bookmark important milestones and multiple branches can be added to explore different ideas without affecting the main design, until it’s time to merge the changes together.

These data management capabilities, as well as many of the advanced CAD capabilities, are the main reasons why companies of all sizes are choosing Onshape.

What’s Included in Onshape

Onshape comes in three flavors - Standard, Professional, and Enterprise - with each plan designed to suit the needs of different types of teams and organizations. In all three plans, the CAD and collaboration tools are identical – it’s the data management tools that are the main differentiators. Here’s how they break down:

  • Onshape Standard - For the individual user who only needs basic data management. This plan includes versions, history, branching and merging (as mentioned above) as well as tools for organizing your data by teams, labels and folders.
  • Onshape Professional - Our most popular plan is for teams and individuals who need integrated release management and company-wide controls. This plan includes everything from Onshape Standard, plus:
    • Formal Release Management - Manages your formal product release process. Create and submit release candidates for individual items or entire projects with custom revision schemes and part numbers.
    • Approval Workflows & Notifications - Routes release candidates and notifies specified approvers through approval and obsoletion workflows.
    • Custom Properties & Metadata - Creates and enforces company-wide custom properties.
    • Company-level Admin Tools - Manage users, teams, workflows and other company-wide settings.
    • Consolidated Billing - Manage billing for your entire company from one account.
  • Onshape Enterprise - For teams of all sizes that need real-time analytics, advanced security, and unprecedented customization of and visibility into the design process. This plan includes everything from Onshape Professional, plus:
    • Real-time Analytics & Dashboards - Generates graphical real-time dashboards with detailed overviews of your entire design process.
    • Project-based Activity, Reporting & Audit Trails - Delivers detailed insights into project and user activity with comprehensive reports and audit trails.
    • Centralized Intellectual Property Control & Visibility - Enforces company ownership of design documents and manages and tracks user access in real time.
    • Full & Light User Provisioning - Assigns full editing or view-and-comment only access by user.
    • Role-based Access Control - Creates one or more roles or job functions and assigns user access to projects by role.
    • Project-specific Workflow Settings - Creates custom permission schemes and designates access permissions for each project.
    • Advanced Provisioning & Security Settings - Manages users, global permissions, and security settings such as two-factor authentication (2FA).

Training and Support

Some CAD systems are very difficult to learn and use, so attending a training course before you embark on your first project is essential. With old CAD systems and Value Added Resellers (VARs), training is a vital source of income. For your employees, this can mean spending precious weeks away from the office. For your business, this can mean excessive training costs, hotel accommodation and meal expenses, and lost time and revenue. VARs also act as the middleman between you and the CAD vendor for technical support. While this is generally okay for “how to” style support questions, it should be noted that bug reports and enhancement requests often take many months or years to address.

Onshape’s approach to training and support is different. Onshape’s Learning Center offers self-paced video training, technical briefings and instructor-led courses. The self-paced videos cover Onshape essentials for sketching, parts, assemblies and drawings, plus many advanced topics. Each learning pathway includes exercises and course completion certificates, for free. Instructor-led courses, consisting of 8 hours of live, web-based training are available for a small fee.

Support is handled directly by the Onshape Support team and accessed directly from within the Onshape app, where you can use the built-in markup and collaboration tools to explain your issues clearly. As a testament to our Support team, many Onshape customers report having their issues resolved within days or even hours.

Get In Touch

You can get more information on the latest pricing plans and request a trial of Onshape Professional here. If you’re still unsure which is the right plan for you, contact your Onshape account manager who can explain the benefits of each plan in more detail. Alternatively, if you want a more technical deep-dive or just want to see it in action, you can request a live demo by signing up using this form.