Formlabs is a leading designer and manufacturer of 3D printers. The Somerville, Massachusetts-based company is valued at $2 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal, and is predicted to grow. When Formlabs leaders began searching for the best CAD software for the 3D printing business, streamlining the product development process was top of mind. 

When choosing a new CAD solution it’s important to know what’s needed to improve workflows and design processes. Mark Frykman, Engineering Lead at Formlabs, and Mike LaFleche, Onshape Channel Technical Services Manager, discussed the considerations behind choosing a new CAD system in the webinar “Driving Innovation Through Onshape: The Formlabs Story”.

Here are three business questions to ask yourself before choosing a new CAD software. 

1. Will Your CAD System Grow With Your Company?

Formlabs is growing – and fast. To avoid growing pains, Frykman said, the team decided to reevaluate their internal engineering tools and find the best CAD package to continue moving forward.

“Formlabs is about 650 folks across the whole company,” including the Massachusetts headquarters and sites in North Carolina and around the globe, he said. “We wanted to make sure that we pick the right thing that's going to grow with us with the right capabilities and set us up five years from now to be in the best spot.”

The benefits of going forward with a cloud-native, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform include scalability, security, profitability and reliability because of its flexible architecture — an important consideration for businesses on the rise.

2. Where Are the Snags in the Product Design Workflow?

Before adopting a cloud-native CAD solution, Formlabs engineers struggled to share designs and relied on a stopgap review approach.

Frykman would take screenshots, deal with PDF downloads, and communicate solely through email in some review processes. He found that after using Onshape, many of these inefficiencies were no longer an issue. 

“Onshape really lowered the barrier for me to quickly do designer reviews or drawing reviews in between other things,” he said. “It allows me to context shift between meetings to unblock engineers getting parts out. That's what stood out to me mostly from a modeling perspective.”

Now, Frykman said, he only needs 5 minutes to review simple drawings, compared to the 30 minutes or more needed when using on-premise CAD systems.

Onshape was able to cut out all the middle ground of PDM vaults, screenshots and email attachments for the Formlabs team, mitigating an issue that plagues design work.

An image of engineers in the drafting room before CAD was a thing.

3. What’s the Cost of Change in the Development Process?

“The longer it takes to find a problem, the more costly that problem will be because more work has been put into it,” LaFleche shared when discussing the benefits of using a cloud-native CAD solution.

Meaning, the longer the review process, the costlier a project becomes. (Time equals money, after all.) 

At the core of the problem is that the digital transformation from the physical drafting board of the pre-internet age to the first versions of CAD has stalled, LaFleche said. 

“The world hasn't really changed that much compared to the drafting room in a traditional PDM-based, file-based CAD,” he said. “Everybody has CAD files on their computer. They're taking file copies out of some filing system, whether it be a regular Windows file server, cloud-based storage or a PDM system.”

But with Onshape, the second generation of CAD technology, the old ways of doing things are put in the background along with their inefficiencies. 

The interfacing with PLM and PDM, the data organization, ease of communication, and revision control is much simpler with cloud-native CAD, Frykman said.

“Right now overall, it is a much better solution for us, and we see the trajectory of it getting better over time,” he said.

Request a demo today and see for yourself what Onshape can do for your business needs.