One of the many unique aspects of full-cloud 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. Having 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?

Viewing apps for CAD models on mobile devices are nothing new. They’ve been around since the dawn of the iPhone, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. These viewing apps work fine if you’re a project manager or a customer and all you need to do is to 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 six Onshape sessions is logged into a phone or tablet. 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 apps?

So what’s wrong with mobile web browsers? You might assume that because 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.

First, mobile browsers do not support WebGL very well, if at all. This is a key component for rendering large assemblies on screen. By using a dedicated mobile app for iOS and Android, Onshape is able to access and optimize the built-in graphics engine for each device. On some devices, you may find that graphics performance is better than on your laptop!

Second, multi-touch gesture support in mobile browsers does not meet the needs for editing complex 3D CAD designs on small form factor devices. With a dedicated app, we 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 for those finer details, pressing and holding activates the crosshairs. If you have an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil or an iPhone 6s or above, you can make use of Apple’s 3D Touch feature to zoom in on small details while you make a selection – a huge productivity gain. The short video below shows each selection technique in action.

Wistia video thumbnail - Touch UI

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Why are some features not available in the mobile apps?

Every few weeks, we release a new update to Onshape. Typically, it’s every 3 weeks and 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. Although some of these new improvements may not be immediately available on Onshape Mobile, they are quickly added there as well.

The reason for the slight delay is that Onshape’s mobile development team need to create an optimized, easy-to-use interface for each new feature so it is customized to fit in natively with iOS and Android. Some new features in Onshape may not appear on mobile for a few weeks. However, if you are collaborating with someone who is using the web browser version of Onshape, any models created with the newest features can still be edited on mobile.

So why CAD on mobile?

Because you can. 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 designs 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:

  • Sales – 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.
  • Manufacturing – Mobile devices can all but eliminate paper on the shop floor. Using Onshape as the only source of truth in all areas of your business can reduce rework and scrap.
  • 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.
  • Design teams – With design teams being involved more in customer-facing activities, making or approving changes on-the-go helps to keep projects moving and deadlines in check.
  • Customers – 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.

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