When SOLIDWORKS users are looking for alternative CAD solutions, there are a number of factors to consider – including cost, available features, tech support, training, etc. – along with SOLIDWORKS price vs. Onshape pricing.

However, it all comes down to business value, and the only question that matters is whether your current CAD system provides you with the optimal value for your business. Or, if you don’t have a CAD system yet, then which option offers the best business value?

When comparing CAD systems – or anything for that matter – most shoppers only consider simple variables, like the sticker price, but forget to factor in upfront and maintenance costs. Additionally, shoppers may neglect to consider future fees and time costs associated with adding a new user, including acquiring a new license, procuring additional hardware, scheduling IT setup, and facilitating the onboarding process for the new employee.  

Taking it a step further, some may consider the hardware cost required to run the software. Now the questions become: How much does a CAD workstation cost? How many do I need? How long will they last before I need to buy new ones?

Although these fixed (and more obvious) expenses account for a good chunk of the cost burden of a CAD system, they aren’t the full picture. So what’s missing? What factors tend to get overlooked when evaluating a CAD system’s real cost?

Evaluating the True Cost of a CAD System

In addition to the price of software and hardware, a savvy CAD shopper must also consider the hidden costs. For example, how often do software crashes interrupt your engineers? With file-based CAD systems, it’s quite common to experience multiple crashes a week or even per day (take a quick glance at this Google search!)

If your engineers want to punch their computer screens multiple times a week – and have to waste time redoing lost work – what is THAT costing your company? Serenity now, insanity later.

To accurately assess value, it's crucial to account for all direct and indirect expenses.

Tangible Expenses

CAD Software Costs: The upfront and annual costs of just the CAD software. Some vendors require a 24-month upfront subscription for each new license in addition to the price of the license.

Hardware Costs: The computers required to run the software and how long they will last before needing replacement.

PDM & View-Only User Costs: The upfront and annual costs of PDM software, the server(s) required to run it, the price to implement PDM, and the price of view-only PDM seats.

Indirect Costs

Engineer Downtime Costs: This is time wasted by engineers due to crashes, lost work, waiting for installs and upgrades, and time spent on IT, measured by the effective hourly rate multiplied by time wasted. “The State of Product Development & Hardware Design 2023-2024” report reveals that users of on-premises CAD waste 7.1 hours per week dealing with these issues.

Ramp-Up Costs: Time lost by switching to a new CAD system due to training, getting up to speed, importing CAD data, setting up templates, etc.

Efficiency Costs: These are used to factor in how much time is saved on typical CAD operations for one system versus another.

Another element to consider is your team's current standing: Is the team already fully set up in one CAD system? Or is the team looking for the one CAD software to bring everyone together?

Let’s explore the two most common scenarios we see. 

Scenario 1: Switching from SOLIDWORKS to Onshape

Continuing to upgrade and pay maintenance for your current SOLIDWORKS seats may seem like a low-cost solution, but what is the status quo really costing your company?

In GenCell’s case, switching to Onshape from SOLIDWORKS became the clear choice. 

Founded in 2011, GenCell is a developer of hydrogen fuel cell solutions that provide clean and sustainable energy for the telecom, homeland security, healthcare, and utilities industries.

GenCell's engineering team faced major obstacles without a PDM system, causing significant delays and productivity losses. Seeking a solution, GenCell switched to Onshape from SOLIDWORKS, experiencing a remarkable tenfold acceleration in product design. 

Additionally, Onshape's integrated PDM not only saved $33,000 in upfront costs compared to add-on systems but also slashed $70,000 in maintenance fees and hardware upgrades required by SOLIDWORKS. With Onshape, GenCell has eradicated CAD crashes, boosting productivity by eliminating a major source of interruptions.

Migration Station

Find everything you need to know about
transitioning from SOLIDWORKS to Onshape.

Scenario 2: Starting With Onshape vs. SOLIDWORKS

Picking the right CAD system is even more important for a young company or startup, where you’re often stretched thin for resources and need to maximize the value of every tool used. For these companies, Onshape’s value proposition looks just as compelling.

Let’s take a look at Zenblen’s experience.

Zenblen, an automated smoothie kiosk startup, faced the complex challenge of engineering its machines to deliver delicious, customizable beverages swiftly and flawlessly. With intricate machinery and customer-friendly interfaces, they needed CAD software tailored to startup needs. Initially considering SOLIDWORKS, a platform used by their contractors, Zenblen found it too costly and complex for their budget and collaboration needs. 

Instead, they turned to Onshape, a cloud-native CAD and PDM solution. Onshape's affordability, collaborative features, and ease of use proved perfect for Zenblen's requirements. 

Through the Onshape Startup Program, they gained access to professional-grade tools, streamlining their design process and enabling seamless collaboration among dispersed team members.

The Onshape
Startup Program

Equip your team with full-featured CAD, built-in
PDM, and enterprise analytics all in one system.

The Bottom Line: Onshape vs. SOLIDWORKS Pricing

When evaluating CAD solutions, cost is a pivotal factor that can significantly impact your business's bottom line. Traditional considerations often focus solely on the sticker price of the software, but the true cost encompasses much more.

Traditional considerations often focus solely on the sticker price of the software. Still, the true cost encompasses much more, including upfront SOLIDWORKS license cost, annual maintenance fees, and potential hardware expenses. Additionally, navigating SOLIDWORKS pricing 2024 can be confusing and cumbersome, often requiring interaction with a Value-Added Reseller (VAR), and now 3DEXPERIENCE add-ons can complicate matters even further.

In contrast, Onshape presents a modern, cloud-native approach to CAD & PDM with transparent pricing and plans readily available, making it easier to conduct a pricing comparison of Onshape and other solutions. The collaborative features and ease of use offered by Onshape not only streamline the design process but also eliminate the need for costly hardware upgrades.

Ultimately, the decision between SOLIDWORKS and Onshape boils down to the business value each platform provides. While SOLIDWORKS may offer familiarity, Onshape's affordability, efficiency, and collaborative capabilities make it a compelling choice for businesses looking to optimize their CAD investments and drive innovation forward.

Design What’s Next with Onshape

With cloud-native tools, teams can
design better products faster while
reducing the overall cost of development.