Onshape went public with avidly anticipated details of its full-cloud 3D CAD system that lets everyone on a design team work together using any web browser, phone or tablet, and has data management and collaboration built in at its core. While this groundbreaking technological approach has generated high excitement in the run-up to today’s unveiling, Onshape’s pricing model is an equally disruptive component of its strategy to make professional-grade CAD radically more accessible than ever before.
Onshape offers Free and Professional subscription plans. Both plans allow access to full functionality. The Free plan has data storage limits and restricts the number of private documents a user can access at any time. A Professional subscription costs $100 per user per month, with no commitment beyond the one-month term. This simple, very affordable, permissive-not-coercive approach to building a customer following dovetails perfectly with its mode of technology delivery in positioning Onshape to be the first truly viral marketing phenomenon in professional engineering software.
Together with unsurpassed ease of entry, Onshape’s pricing scheme gives customers valuable freedom to have their CAD technology expenditures closely track fluctuating project workloads and billings, both up and down. For many, the accounting classification of subscriptions as operating expense rather than capital expenditure will make buy-in that much easier still.
“This time around the world has a base of 3D data and training,” chairman Jon Hirschtick observed to us. Given those conditions, together with the new tool’s ease of adoption and implementation—indeed, the latter word hardly even has meaning with Onshape—large numbers of existing parametric CAD users look poised to start using Onshape even more rapidly than happened when SolidWorks wrought a similar transformation in the industry two decades ago. Most intriguing to watch will be how quickly, and in what numbers, users migrate to more or less exclusive use of Onshape. Of course its radical accessibility can be expected to attract many users new to 3D as well.
For geometric trade studies and design space exploration in the spatial-envelope sense, Onshape’s 3D direct modeling capabilities, its branch-and-merge-design feature, and its real-time “follow mode” that lets users view one anothers’ screens while working together in a document all position it as a powerful tool for engineering workgroup leads, product architects and discipline leads working and collaborating in conceptual and preliminary design. And unlike the direct-modeling-only technology whose value we first documented for these usage scenarios, Onshape’s combination of direct modeling and parametric CAD provides the benefit of a single geometry modeling system throughout the entire engineering process, from conceptual through detail design and production documentation.