Reinventing CAD – Where are we headed? – Part 3

In this series of posts, I’ve laid out a few observations on some of the new trends in the CAD industry and where we might be heading as new platforms are developed for the future. You can catch Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t seen it already. Let’s dive into Part 3.

So Part 3 is going to take a glimpse into the future and what COULD BE a game changer for 3D CAD.  For years now, ever since desktop CAD was introduced on Windows in the mid nineties (SOLIDWORKS was one of the first to do so) processing power was limited to what the desktop computer was capable of.  Fast forward 20 years and things haven’t changed all that much in this area in mainstream CAD.  Most of the CAD users out there are still chained to the limits of the desktop (or laptop) computer.  Sure – processors, graphics cards, RAM, and data drives have jumped in speed by leaps and bounds, but the limits of the machine still remain in place.  Much of your CAD system’s performance is directly linked to how fast your machine can process the data.  Multi-threading has made its way into a few areas such as photo rendering, simulation, and a few aspects of file processing, but it really hasn’t been tapped into for bulk model processing operations.  Some might say that Windows itself stands in the way of more multi-threading capability, but I have a feeling that is just part of the reason we haven’t seen much progress in this area.

Imagine opening a large or extremely complex model and not having to wait very long for it to be ready for editing.  Imagine not having to employ all those all important Large Assembly techniques when your component count gets over 5,000+.  What if you could TRULY spread all those model calculations across a large number of processor cores?  I believe a truly hosted CAD solution is can make these thoughts a reality.

With some of its shortcomings (which I’ve mentioned in Part 1 & Part 2) aside, a hosted CAD solution truly has the potential to do this.  The reason?  There are no desktop processor limits.  The only limit becomes how efficiently the graphics updates can be ported to the display for the user.  Of the systems available today, Onshape seems to be the only solution that is truly capable of this.  Because all of the model storage AND processing is in the cloud, the system is in a position to take advantage of more processing power.  Is Onshape able to open ridiculously large assemblies in a matter of seconds yet?  No – but the potential is there.  Because their system was written from the beginning to be a hosted solution, they are certainly in a better position to have that capability in the future vs other CAD systems.

Let’s imagine for a moment that that “hosted” solution could be made available for an onsite/on premise installation?  That somewhat changes the game when it comes to some of the cloud security concerns.  Companies are much more comfortable with a software solution if it is behind their firewall.

If indeed SOLIDWORKS Xdesign ends up being a 100% hosted package, then they will also have the potential to open up more processing horsepower to the package.

Anyone remember the “SolidWorks in the Cloud” demonstration from SolidWorks World 2010?  Hard to believe that was over six years ago.  Processing power was one of the benefits touted.  Even if you couldn’t have your data on the public cloud, the thought of installing this package across an internal server cluster was intriguing to say the least.  If you look at what was shown in that presentation, much of that capability has become a reality today with Onshape.  If you would have told me then that six years later we still wouldn’t have a CAD solution that was capable of leveraging more processing power, frankly I wouldn’t have believed you.

So which CAD company is going to be the first to truly step up and leverage more processing power for model operations?  Only time will tell.

Till next time…..