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Concurrent Engineering Blog

Five ways Onshape Fundamentally Improves Parametric CAD

Posted by Concurrent Engineering on 25-Jan-2021 08:46:00

Onshape is CAD - but not as you know it. It isn't burdened by decades of "best practices" and preconceived ideas; it enables a fresh, new approach to the product design process from a different perspective.

With Onshape, many of the tools used to build parts and assemblies will feel familiar, but most of their application workflows are very different from what you will have experienced before. 

Onshape offers fundamentally better ways of modelling in multiple areas, such as:


  • Multi-Part Design
  • Configurations
  • Standard Content
  • Managed In-Context Design
  • Simultaneous Sheet Metal Tools
  • Custom Features


Onshape’s features are unique and groundbreaking enough to list and explain here in this blog. So, here's a rundown of the six primary ways that Onshape has fundamentally improved Parametric CAD.


  1. Multi-Part Design 

Onshape has transformed the power of parametric design from one part at a time to multiple connected components that are treated independently in assemblies, BOMs and downstream applications. This may seem minor, but in reality, it is a considerable change.  


With Onshape, if you want to drive multiple parts from a single layout sketch, you can. Or if you're going to fillet all the edges at the interface between two parts, you can do that in one operation. 


In Onshape's multi-part studios, all interrelated parts are designed together in one place. This allows you to use single parametric history powers to build robust relationships between multiple components and enable simple top-down design. Defining standard features and inter-part relationships in one single source of truth – instead of between files – means you can be confident that the results of your design changes are reliable and robust. 


  1. Configurations 

File-based CAD systems need all configuration options to be represented in a single table with entries for each possible permutation, which in some cases can lead to thousands of rows in a single table. As configurations get more complicated with more choices, the table grows dramatically – making it almost impossible to understand, troubleshoot or control.


Onshape's fresh approach focuses on making it easy for users to build and use sophisticated configurations that designers need. Onshape lets you create complex families of parts by presenting separate tables for each set of independent configuration options. This massively reduces the number of required table rows and cells. 


For example, in file-based CAD, a simple bracket with five lengths, five heights and five-hole patterns will result in a giant 375-cell table to manage in an awkwardly embedded Excel spreadsheet. In Onshape, this same configuration presents in 3 tables of only five cells each and is editable with a native intuitive user experience.


  1. Controlled In-Context Design

File-based CAD systems can add relationships between parts in the context of an assembly - modifying one part will affect others. Unfortunately, changing in-context parts or their parent assemblies can awkwardly amend other elements in detrimental ways. 


This event happens because relationships between components are stored in the part files and rely on the assembly file, making it difficult to keep track of how they are all interrelated together. An easy change may need the entire assembly and all its part files to be downloaded locally. If it's gigabytes of data and you're dialling in over VPN, it could take some time. If the assembly file is missing or corrupt, you can't update your part. Or worse, you may edit the element relative to an old out-of-date assembly. Even a simple change of a mechanism can cause a part's shapes to move in surprising ways.


Designers are utterly despondent in this situation. They have no control over how or when these complicated relationships update. But the good news is - it’s avoidable with Onshape. 


  1. Simultaneous Sheet Metal Tools


Unlike file-based CAD systems calculating flat, folded and tabular sheet metal representations in three separate unsynchronised views, Onshape computes and displays all models simultaneously. When you edit one picture, the other two are synchronised immediately with Onshape's parallel computing architecture. Seeing the flat and folded views, next to each other creates complete vigilance over errors and interferences.


By also allowing editing in Table View, the designer or even the downstream manufacturer can quickly change things. When you change the table, you instantly see the impacts on both flat and folded views.

  1. Custom Features

Do you ever wish you could transform the way your CAD system functions? It may not work quite the way you want it to or need it to. 

All CAD systems have some form of macro programming language or API to enable automated processes for adding features to your design. All these macros do is allow some user input, do some calculations on-the-fly and save you several minutes. They are just adding standardised CAD features of a specific size and in a particular order. 

Automation helps minimise repetitive design tasks, build-in company or industry-specific logic or experience, and reduce human error. But automation won't work if it is only correct at the time of application. If the macro features do not update when the design changes, they are of little use.

Onshape solves this issue with custom features, built using the same tools and programming language that Onshape's developers use to create built-in features. 

This programming language allows every user to create bespoke features that appear and behave exactly like Onshape's built-in features. This gives them the tools to understand their surroundings, so as changes happen, the feature geometry updates accordingly. 

Onshape's FeatureScript makes it simple to build robust, industry-specific CAD features that you wouldn't usually find in a CAD system. And you don't need to have the brains of a programmer to use a custom feature, if someone has created a new feature, you can easily add it to your toolbar.


Onshape offers a fresh new approach and crucial functionalities that your design team shouldn’t have to live without—interested in finding out more? 

Try Onshape Today