SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 471 - GrabCAD Workbench for SolidWorks

GrabCAD Workbench for SolidWorks:

This podcast covers the updates and new add-in for SolidWorks for the evolving GrabCAD engineering platform.  Every year when I come back to revisit what GrabCAD is up to I am amazing to their expanding offerings to the engineering community.  Topics covered:

An overview of GrabCAD Workbench

- The GCWB web UI

- Overview of the SolidWorks Add-In

- Use cases and workflow from within SolidWorks

- SolidWorks format support and integration with GrabCAD web service

- Overview of pricing plans and capabilities

- Overall thoughts.

The first time I mentioned GrabCAD on this show it was July 3rd, 2011 when they broke onto the scene with an engineering community and 3D CAD sharing site.  Since then we have kept an eye on their evolution over the years and last year they introduced their Workbench product which was a shift in their previous offerings.

Workbench was focused to tackle sharing and collaborating on private 3D data and provide browser-based viewing (WebGL), markup, measure and comment threads around design teams and their data.  A year ago I covered the newly launched Workbench and at that time it was primarily a web service, requiring upload of data via the web and somewhat disconnecting the CAD authoring tool from the collaboration service.

As Workbench began to get traction, they launched GrabCAD Toolbox which is a listing of partners they work with through add-ins, and other cloud service connections like with Lagoa.  With the launch of their SolidWorks add-in, GrabCAD has narrowed the barrier between desktop and cloud, allowing Workbench to become an in-process tool as well.  Versioning, file locking and auto sync with upload/download support give light PDM to any SolidWorks user.  I'm excited to see what else the folks at GradCAD will do next!  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 461 - My.SolidWorks Refresh


My.SolidWorks Refresh: 

This podcast covers the recent updates to the new My.SolidWorks, the content aggregator that debuted at SolidWorks World 2013.   Topics covered:

- At a glance, what has changed

- Added features for those who sign in

- Navigation and sharing updates

- Mobile experience

- Impressions and suggestions

Back in February I covered My.SolidWorks in its early days and there were a number of issues including missing content and lack of support for mobile.  Today a few of these things have been addressed and it appears to be adding some useful content segments.  

One major addition is mobile support.  This seems to work well and is the way I typically check the site.  Whether you are on a phone, tablet or even a smaller screen laptop, the new site scales well with it's Windows 8-like tiles, making it easy to hit touch targets with my big fingers.

Despite the new additions and increased device support, something still feels missing to me.  As many of you know, I am not considered a "normal user" but I wish I could put in my own content links too.  It seems like the content that put SolidWorks on the map on the web would be bloggers and their content is missing here.  I wish I could at least add my own feeds to the interface and make it truly the one stop for SolidWorks content. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 439 - Sunglass Revision Management


Sunglass Revision Management:

This podcast is a first look at the new revision management feature set that was added to the popular 3D browser-based collaboration service  Revision tracking is a key feature to using today's CAD platforms however they are typically format specific or can be challenging to get outside parties (vendors/contractors) into the collaboration environment.  Topics covered:

- An overview of the updated UI of

- Understanding the SoilidWorks plugin and workflow

- Web viewer experience for collaborators

- Projects and Spaces in the Sunglass Dashboard

- Viewing / Comparing / Restoring Revisions

- User experience and workflow

- Overall impressions, a San Francisco 3D web-based collaboration start-up, has been very busy iterating over the past year and much of what was in the V1 service during the initial release has been refined.  This past week Sunglass announced a revision management layer to their 3D web viewer, co-viewing and other collaboration tools to help keep track of the various changes that occur during the design process.

PDM, product data management, tools are typically expensive, require hardware/infrastructure and implementation.  Although the end result can be very powerful however for small. remote groups this can be too expensive and overkill. Sunglass is attempting to address this common need by taking the hosting and setup out of the equation by introducing simple "push/pull" plugins for SolidWorks, Inventor, SketchUp and Rhino.  Pushing a revision up to Sunglass is easy, prompting for comments and syncing the changes up to the collaboration service with the push of a button.

This "Github for CAD" is starting to focus on some of the big challenges when it comes to 3D design.  I have been testing Sunglass since their launch and although many services support version tracking (uploading a file of the same name), their approach is more streamlined to how CAD users work.  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 438 - GrabCAD Workbench


GrabCAD Workbench:

This podcast discusses the newly launched collaboration addition to GrabCAD's already popular 3D Model Community.  GrabCAD has now entered the browser-based collaboration arena to join players like TeamPlatform and  Topics covered:

- What is Workbench?

- Collaboration portfolio 

- The workflow of uploading, sharing and collaborating with others

- Toolsets for collaboration

- My wish list (for let's say V2)

- Initial thoughts

This past week GrabCAD, a 3D model community, introduced a new collaboration are to their service called Workbench.  Workbench is an attempt to give it's community more depth to this popular sharing platform by enabling it's users design collaboration tools. Prior to Workbench's launch, GrabCAD offered sharing but more inline with an open source mentality where the community could see, comment and download models from you.  

Workbench is a collaboration area of your GrabCAD account where projects are uploaded, collaborators are invited and 3D collaboration and communication happens on your terms.  Although in the V1 launch is asynchronous, I hope more real-time features make the coming builds and knowing GrabCAD and how quickly they iterate, it is probably not too far out.  

It is far from the perfect collaboration tool as it sits today but it is addressing a grown need for remote teams and smaller groups to easily get their project content hosted and give them tools to make informed 3D decisions without a lot of prerequisites and software.  This is yet another example of how the web is connecting us to be more efficient in design, communication and yes collaboration. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 436 - Kenesto Community


Kenesto Community:

This podcast covers the free Kenesto Community, a cloud service that brings business process workflow and social interactivity into one hosted community.  Kenesto came on the radar a couple years ago at SWW 2012 but was still under beta at the time.  Topics covered:

- What does Kenesto Community do?

- What are the costs of the business plans and what do they offer?

- The feature list and how it blends workflow with social.

- Use cases and highlights

- Overall impressions

I had heard about Kenesto in the early months before SolidWorks World 2012 in San Diego, CA and that Mike Payne, long time CAD pioneer, was taking the PLM and business process automation (BPA) to the cloud.  The early promises were to take the infrastructure load off of customers and centralize this automation in the cloud. 

I first saw the product at their booth in the SolidWorks World Partner Pavillion where I got a demo and a more concise description of their goals and product roadmap.  Since then the product fell off my radar since the launch was not quick and it appeared that the beta was going to take some time.  However, earlier this year there was a shift when Kenesto brought on Steve Bodnar from Autodesk to head up products and marketing.

This year (2013) they are now expanding upon their hosted workflow and integrating a social layer and "Freemium" model to get users familiar with the service.  Kenesto offers collaboration and discussion around tasks, documents, workflows, links, forms and a number of other aspects important to project/process management.

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 435 - Engineering Via The Web


Engineering Via The Web:

This podcast covers various tools that I have used or am paying attention to as the next frontier to engineering product management.  Online storage, web-based collaboration tools, project management, notes and tasks are just a few categories of tools I use daily.  Topics covered:

Online 3D Collaboration:
- Teamplatform
- Sunglass 

Notes and Tasks:
- Evernote / SimpleNote / OneNote
- Trello (lists, simple project management)
- Google Tasks (iOS, Android, Web)
   - gTasks (My pic on iOS)
   - Tasks (My pic on Android)
- Google Keep (new, simple)

Productivity Suites:
- Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Presentations...more)
- Microsoft Office 365

Project Management:
- Podio (By Citrix, the GoToMeeting folks)
- Basecamp (By 37 signals)
- Teamplatform (new Gantt chart functions)
- Gantter (for Google Drive)

Storage and Sharing:
- Dropbox
- Google Drive
- Microsoft SkyDrive

About once a quarter I like to do a web tools discovery show to shed some light on updates and new players on the market of 3D online collaboration and project management.  Since web-based tools are hosted and live, the tend to evolve on a much shorter update schedule and constantly rolling out new features and functionality.  Ship and iterate it the motto so if you don't pay attention, you'll miss the updates! 

As an avid Google Chromebook user for the past 4 years, I am moving much of my tool sets to the web for centralization and backup of my must-have apps.  Web-based has become my number 1 criteria for almost anything since I use so many devices and am never in the same place so the confinement to a single, desktop installed app is restrictive.

The goal of this show is to rattle out a number of online solutions, some of which I use daily, and bring some awareness of this collaborative movement with tools that are deployed in the browser.  As someone who does video, audio and code development in addition to run all the SolidWorks suite of tools, a traditional PC and OS are probably going to be in my workflow for some time to come but the rest I do on the Web!  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 431 - My.SolidWorks



This podcast covers the new content aggregator that was announced at SolidWorks World 2013 that gives users a one-stop view of the top content sources offered by SolidWorks.  Topics covered:

- My.SolidWorks landing page (not logged in)

- What CustomerPortal users will see logged i

- How to navigate and filte

- Bookmarking and sharin

- Supported browsers and devices (workarounds)

- Features coming soon for search

- Overall Impression

Last year Dassault had announced that it had acquired NetVibes, a news aggregator, dashboarding site that allows you to organize and read content around the web.  Since that aquisition, DS has added a few "premium" features and is charging for this service.  I personally am an avid Google Reader user and enjoy the simplicity and power over the dashboard approach.

DS also acquired Exalead, a search company and together these two technologies appear to be engines behind the My.SolidWorks service.  SolidWorks' goal seems to make a content hub for it's users to consume content from a variety of services like their Forum blog, SolidWorks Blog, SolidWorks Teacher Blog, Twitter stream, and YouTube channel

I believe this is only the first step to SolidWorks pulling more content and possibly delivering it inside of it's products.  It might be why they started to bring in more content from the AE network of blogs in order to populate this interface with more useful tips and tricks for users.  It will be interesting to see it this sticks around or if it will be another online service users ignore. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 395 - Transition to Cloud

Transition to Cloud:

This podcast discusses the possible scenarios that SolidWorks could take with their introduction of SolidWorks V6.  Make not mistake, this is not an all or nothing choice but the move has more questions than answers at this point. Topics covered:

- What we know about SolidWorks V6

- What we still have to learn

- What the "Cloud" can offer

- Possible options for the transition to the V6 platform for SW users

- Miscellaneous questions and how to be ready

To say that SolidWorks has been quiet about the next generation of SolidWorks would be an understatement, especially since we are approaching 3 years since we saw a first take at SW World 2010.  Not only was SolidWorks shown as a cloud-based app running on a number of devices, it was demod in front of it's biggest fans and the CAD press.  Looking back, many would say they let the cat out of the bag way too early, but caused an uprising of doubt of the future of SolidWorks itself.

Like many technology previews, SolidWorks V6 has been the topic of conversation on many blogs and commenters around the web.  The web is something we all use in and out of work for a variety of applications, however when discussions about moving our precious CAD tools to the web start, the open-mindedness goes right out the window.  I believe this is because many of the necessary technologies are brand new or are not fully adopted yet, therefore the desktop works so why "fix it"?

If this move request the "all in" approach, I believe the transition will not happen for a vast majority of users.  A platform shift of this magnitude required a long list of benefits as well as a gradual transition period.  Taking a lesson from the mobile platforms like iOS and Android would tech us that "Apps" are designed for local performance while harnessing the cloud for collaboration, sync and other powerful cloud services. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 381 - Sunglass


This podcast covers a browser-based 3D collaboration tool that give you live, 3D interaction, markup and other design review tools. Topics covered:

- Sunglass signup and overview

- Uploading content

- View navigation and object manipulation

- Live collaboration tools

- Markup and save options

- First impressions

I am always looking for the next web-based 3D tool for helping engineers and designers collaborate on ideas.  I heard about this tool a while back from SolidSmack and have been playing with it quite a bit.  This MIT startup based out of the bay area just received $1.7M in funding and is quite impressive in its early stages.

I am unsure, at this point, if Sungless is more beneficial to its users than using screen-sharing tools along with their CAD platforms, however it shows is the promise of browser-based tools that can be run from anywhere for hassle-free collaboration.  Hopefully as it develops they will add more native file formats (currently OBJ, 3DS and STL) and possibly launch simple upload tools directly from the CAD platform in order to remove the export step for collaboration.

The tool does require flash, which rules out many mobile platforms, however performance-wise the service ran pretty well and the collaboration experience was quite good.  Chat, markup, view saving and live 3D collaboration environment make this browser-based tool a service I will keep my eye on for months to come. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 372 - Engineering Via Web Apps

Engineering Via Web Apps:

This podcast covers an array of web apps that I use regularly or have tried to help organize the information that I need to get my job done. Centralization, collaboration and mobile access have become the criterion I use to find the next app to get things done.  Topics covered:


- Google Tasks

- Remember the Milk (RTM)

- Backpack (tasks/project mgt)

- Trello (Multi-layer task management)

Notes and research capture:

- Evernote

- Springpad (notes and tasks)

- SimpleNote

- Google Docs (I use ScratchPad on my Chromebook)

Mind Mapping/Flow Charts:


- Many others listed here (have not tried)

Document sharing and storage:

- Google Docs

- Office Web Apps

- Dropbox,, and other back tools that have simple access like Carbonite, Mozy and BackBlaze.

IM, Voice/Video conference:

- Google Talk

- Yahoo/MSN (I avoid but very popular)


- Skype 

- Campfire (group chat rooms)

- All via Plus.IM

With SolidWorks World starting next weekend and me crossing my fingers of some web announcements... I can only hope, I wanted to share the long list of web applications I use to organize my professional life.  If you have listened to this show for any length of time you know about my belief in the web.  Although mobile apps are very popular and have their benefits, however whether they are tied to a web service that is accessible from any device from anywhere has become my new metric for adoption.

Since we (Engineers) don't just sit at our desks doing CAD all day, I wanted to talk about a list of services that can help organize tasks, notes, research, storage as well as ways to connect with others instantly. Collaboration and real-time interaction is becoming a way of life for many of us on and off the clock.  Tools that leverage the web can also allow remote users be productive and make the distance between collaborators vanish.

I asked for feedback before recording this show but would like the feedback to continue here.  If you have other web-based services you use to get your job done and they were not mentioned here, please share your experiences and why they are crucial to your workflow. ~Lou

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