Raines, the first mechanical engineer hired at Open Bionics in 2015, was initially using Blender – a 3D modeling tool better suited for animation and video games – for product design. Two years later, as the product development team grew, the startup was seeking to switch to a professional CAD program.
Raines recalls that he was initially attracted to Onshape – a cloud-native platform that combines CAD with built-in Product Data Management – because of its affordability to startups with tight budgets. The price of Onshape’s annual subscription, which includes regular software upgrades at no extra cost, was less than the competing vendor’s annual maintenance fee (on top of buying CAD).
However, more importantly, it soon became apparent that Onshape’s real-time CAD collaboration tools could better streamline communication between the company’s mechanical, electrical and firmware engineers.
“When we had Blender, there were five people working on various bits,” recalls Raines. “And it was okay as long as we were working in different files – the finger in one file, the palm was in another, and the thumb was in another. As long as you divided up the work like that, it was great. But if two people needed to work on the palm, it was a disaster. That basically meant that they would both do their work, someone would save, and then the other person would have to sit and copy all their work into the same file.”
With Onshape’s Simultaneous Editing functionality, whenever one member of a team makes a design change, everyone else on the team instantly sees it. A comprehensive Edit History tracks who made which changes and when, allowing teams to revert to any earlier stage of design anytime if desired.
According to Payne, Onshape’s multi-user environment also gives 24/7 project visibility to internal company stakeholders without the need to wait for scheduled formal design reviews.
“A great thing about Onshape is that it enables us as an exec team to check our progress on our product roadmap,” she says. “So we can check 3D models live as they're being edited, we can make suggestions, and we can get really good insights into where we are with R&D.”
Payne adds that these same collaboration tools are perfectly suited for the R&D and manufacturing teams in the UK to share the latest bionic arm designs with their clinical teams locally and with their United States clinic in Denver, Colorado.
Onshape Configurations Saves Significant Design Time