Cloud-based mechanical CAD startup Onshape went from open beta to commercial release today, having logged 400,000 user hours since its March 2015 debut. Now the challenge for the team lead by SolidWorks founders is to build a business and an ecosystem around a product.
“This wasn’t your typical beta test. When we started Onshape, most industry insiders thought a production CAD system that ran entirely on the cloud could not be built,” says Onshape VP of R&D Dave Corcoran. “We’re very proud of what our team has achieved. We know we still have a lot left to do, but the foundation the team has built is strong and they are adding more functionality rapidly.”
Like most beta test periods for new software products, the Onshape open beta was a time for real users to test the capabilities and limits of the product. But for Onshape the stakes were higher. Although Autodesk has been online longer with its cloud-enabled Fusion 360 mechanical CAD, Onshape is the first pure-cloud MCAD application. Onshape needed to prove it was possible to do the computationally intensive tasks inherent in any MCAD product, and do it despite the vagaries of Internet access and hardware capabilities. According to the founders, it has done so spectacularly. There were 14 significant updates to the software, all instantly available to all users thanks to the centralization of cloud computing. The software is now in use at 200 schools at all levels, including more than 500 registered users at MIT. More than 1,000 Onshape users have been to at least one in-person meet-up.