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 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 346 - CAD Mobility

CAD Mobility:

This podcast covers the challenge of getting access to our CAD & engineering tools when we are on the go. Web-based apps can do a lot more than people give credit and I found a way to live on the web and still access all my tools all in the browser! Topics covered:

- Importance of mobile access

- Mobile apps vs Web apps (pros/cons)

- Findings using the Chromebook for a month

- Using SparkGateway to access my thick-client engineering tools

- Remote Desktop access with clients vs client-less

With my Chromebook experiment in full swing (just over a month now), I have been looking for ways to access the tools and services that I only have access on my workstation.  With the popularity of mobile computing and access from anywhere, I wanted to find a way to get to my workstation tools without the need for device specific clients and solutions to achieve this goal.

When it comes to mobile apps, they all achieve one goal and that is to deliver the best experience for that service or tool on the device you are on.  The unfortunate drawback is the experience is different for each device (desktop, tablet, netbook or phone).  This is why I am much more a fan of web apps and how they can be taylored by device but be streamlined by every experience.

Finding RemoteSpark, a Canadian-based company which specializes in the best remote access tools, has delivered a full HTML5 tool that doesn't run any code on the client or the RDP host.  Their SparkGateway, a lightweight JAVA-based app, runs and can allow full desktop access all through the browser.  This gives all of my devices, desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, phone, and Chromebook,  the same access to those tools that are not yet on the cloud. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 312 - State-less CAD

State-less CAD:

This podcast covers the pros and cons of "state-less" systems and cloud-based applications like the ones shown at SolidWorks World 2010.  With SolidWorks World 2011 just around the corner, these are my thoughts, wishes and predictions for the coming conference.  Topics covered:

SWW10 Refresher:

- SolidWorks Connect (formerly known as SolidWorks PDS)

- "SolidWorks V6" - Pros/Cons and questions

SWW11 Predictions:

- Reveal of SolidWorks Connect final product

- More in-depth demos on SolidWorks V6 (beta dates, cost, etc)

Cloud Application Thoughts:

- Power of state-less application (parallels to ChromeOS)

- Endless CPU, RAM, Storage options/configuraiton

- Automation backup and restore

- Live collaboration and versioning capabilities

- Rent Technology

- Local vs hosted cloud apps

Crazy Wishes:

- eDrawings online (maybe inside Connect with live Markup and Measure tools)

- Connect opens for Beta at SWW11

- SolidWorks V6 goes into Beta when SolidWorks 2012 does

- SolidWorks announces mobile clients for iPhone, iPad and Android (like eDrawings or Connect)

With SolidWorks World 2011 now just around the corner, the elephant in the room is SolidWorks in the Cloud.  It was announced at SWW10 and had only 3 or 4 followups from SolidWorks on their blog.  Everyone wants to know details and all have a laundry list of questions to how the desktop version will co-exist with the Internet delivered version.

Every year the first and third days of SolidWorks World reveal the next version of SolidWorks to come and now many of us want to get our hands on these new hosted services to see what they might provide and test their reliability with our data.  I know not everyone is as excited to get their hands on it as I am but curiosity still is brewing among most I have talked to.

After switching to Google Apps for over a year ago and living the cloud-based life for nearly everything non-SolidWorks I can see how a cloud-based CAD might be attractive to some.  I think, if anything, it offers some collaborative and light editing capabilities that could be tapped into from anywhere.  We will have many more answers in just a couple of weeks!

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 273 - Mobile Engineering Tools

Mobile Engineering Tools:

This podcast covers technology to keep engineers in sync with their data while on the go. With mobile computing becoming ubiquitous with smart phones, netbooks and even tablets like the iPad, engineers are using these tools as part of the design process.  Topics covered:

- Smart phones / NetBooks / Tablets

- File Sync Services (Mesh and DropBox)

- Online file storage ( and Google Docs

- Note / File sync (Evernote)

- Remote Desktop (RDP + VPN and GoToMyPc)

Whether it be Android, iPhone, Blackberry for smart phones or netbooks, tablets or the iPad, mobile computing is becoming a staple in our society, especially among tech savvy individuals like engineers.  We are all geeks (to some level) and want access to our engineering data and tools when on the go.  With many of these mobile devices carrying onboard broadband access, powerful web browsers and 1000's of applications for every task imaginable, engineering on the go is going to happen.

I recently bought an iPad, not just for the huge touchscreen or the killer movies I could watch on it, but the business impacts of being connected to my data via a thin, lightweight snappy device.  I have the ability to access all my email/calendar/docs via Google and my work desktop and servers via Remote Desktop.  I have even connected and launched SolidWorks to print a 3D part on the uPrint while sitting on my couch at home.  

I will followup up shortly with a post about my first impressions on the iPad but hope to shine some light on how mobility and engineering are the future. ~Lou

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