One of the many unique aspects of fully cloud-native Onshape is that you can CAD anywhere on any device using a web browser on Mac, PC, Linux, and Chromebook, as well as apps for iOS and Android tablets and phones. 

Instant access to your CAD data through a mobile device lets you truly CAD anywhere and capture every design idea when inspiration strikes. Let’s face it: How many of us ever leave the house without our phones? (And we all know how easy it is to download an app.)

Viewing apps for CAD models on mobile devices are nothing new. They’ve been around since the dawn of the iPhone in the late 2000s. These viewing apps work fine if you’re a project manager or a customer and all you need to do is sign off on the latest design changes (and hopefully, there was an engineer on-call in the first place to create the intermediate viewing file and upload it). But what if you need to make those changes yourself and don't have your laptop/desktop CAD workstation with you? With Onshape, you can make the changes on your phone.

Skeptical? Perhaps you suspect that editing CAD designs on mobile devices is a gimmick, that it’s not an efficient or viable way to design? In fact, CADding on mobile is more practical than you may think.

One in every eight Onshape sessions is on a phone or tablet – a testament to the power and productivity of our mobile apps.  And it’s all due to the clever way our mobile development team implemented the touch interface and the massive parallel processing power of the cloud.

Why Does Onshape Have Mobile CAD Apps?

What’s wrong with mobile web browsers? You might assume since we perfected running Onshape through a web browser on a Mac or PC, the easiest thing to do would be to use the web browser built into your phone. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.

The small form factor of a phone makes it near impossible to do effective CAD work using a standard CAD user interface. Icons are too small, measurements are hard to read, and dialog boxes are difficult to traverse. 

Viewing what’s on the screen at all times is a must. Using Onshape’s standard web interface, built for high-resolution screens, would require too much zooming in and out, which is distracting. Also, multi-touch gesture support in mobile browsers does not meet the needs for editing complex 3D CAD designs. 

With a dedicated mobile CAD app, Onshape can optimize every aspect of the user interface for touch. One of the powerful usability tools within the Onshape app is the crosshairs used for selection. Most interaction with UI elements and large geometric features can be done with a simple touch, but pressing and holding activates the crosshairs for those finer details. 

If you have an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil or an iPhone 8 or above, you can make use of Apple’s 3D Touch feature to zoom in on small details while you CAD on your mobile and make a selection – a huge productivity gain. The short video below shows each selection technique in action.

5 Reasons Your Team Needs Mobile CAD

Using a bigger screen and a full-size keyboard and mouse on a laptop or desktop machine is going to be faster, no doubt, but the flexibility offered by creating and editing your CAD model on a tablet or phone can sometimes make or break a project. If you’re not at your desk, Onshape opens up a bunch of previously unavailable opportunities.

Here are a few ways your company can take full advantage of the power of Onshape Mobile:

1. A Better Sales Tool 

Using Onshape on a tablet or phone, sales executives can meet with customers in any location and discuss proposals and options with fingertip access to your entire product portfolio.

2. Improve Communication with Manufacturing

Mobile devices can all but eliminate paper on the shop floor. Using Onshape as the only source of truth in all business areas can reduce rework and scrap.

3. Easy Access for Field Service Engineers

On the shop floor or at a customer site, Field Service Engineers can use the readily accessible data in Onshape through their mobile device.

4. Keep Design Teams on Track

With design teams involved more in customer-facing activities, making or approving changes on the go helps keep projects moving and deadlines in check.

5. Provide Customers with Valuable Insights

Keep your customers in the loop when designing bespoke equipment. Having View and Comment access to your designs in real-time can help avert any issues early on.

Continual Updates for Mobile CAD Apps

Every few weeks, we release a new update to Onshape. Typically, it’s every 3 weeks; on average, there are about a dozen new customer-driven improvements. 

In addition to these improvements, we also update our mobile apps. Anyone who follows our blog closely will be familiar with our “What’s New” format: a string of in-depth videos with practical examples of how to use each new improvement. 

Some new features in Onshape may not appear on mobile for a few weeks. However, if you are collaborating with someone using the web browser version of Onshape, any models created with the newest features can still be edited on mobile CAD.

So the next time you urgently need CAD, try Onshape Mobile. You won’t be disappointed. You can download the apps for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.