One of the biggest obstacles to widespread adoption of 3D printing, particularly for consumers, is the steep learning curve associated with CAD software. To work with SOLIDWORKS, the most prolific of the CAD programs, usually requires at least a college degree in mechanical engineering. However, the existing computer design paradigm is on the precipice of a major change.
Just as low-cost desktop 3D printers are beginning to democratize manufacturing, new CAD tools are emerging to make 3D design less of an esoteric skill. One of the most prominent examples is that of Shapr3D, a tablet-based software for 3D modeling. Whereas, up until now, the app made it possible to quickly and intuitively draw complex geometries, the company behind it has now introduced new features that set those models up for actual manufacturing.
Founded by CEO István Csanády in Budapest in 2015, Shapr3D has created a remarkably advanced, yet easy-to-use CAD modeler for iPads that relies on the Apple Pencil to draw out geometries using the same Siemens Parasolid engine as SOLIDWORKS and Siemens NX. This is no small feat, as advanced CAD requires advanced computing power, making mobile modeling a typically slow and painful task. The software is notably fast when it comes to modeling on the iPad, but the speed with which Shapr3D is developing the software is also surprising. Having achieved an Apple Design award, the company has also signed up 24,000 paying customers in just a few years.
The app works by allowing users to draw a shape with the Apple Pencil and then extrude it to create a 3D model, offering a full modeling toolchain. This can all be performed on existing SOLIDWORKS files, as well. With the ability to export models as STL files, this makes Shapr3D one of the most advanced tablet tools for 3D printing.
Now that it has conquered the task of quick and easy tablet modeling, Shapr3D is taking the next step, a 2D Drawings feature necessary for the actual production of designs. With this tool, users are able to generate drawings from objects, systems, and structures that provide manufacturers with the key information and requirements needed to bring the models into the physical world.
Shapr3D users have been clamoring for this feature as they have been, until now, relying on outside software to generate 2D drawings. Now, they can generate the drawings within the software, meaning that they don’t have to leave the program to create drawings for their manufacturers.
According to the Shapr3D team, some users will already be able to create technical drawings for manufacturing when they get a hold of these new features. At launch, Drawings will include standard base views, dimensions, basic notes, project border and a simple title block. By the end of March, there will be more advanced title block options, as well as section, auxiliary, and detail views, along with advanced notes, centerline and centerpoint features. This means, the number of users that will be able to send their designs to production will only increase as the end of the quarter draws near.
The closest competitors to Shapr3D are Onshape (bought by PTC), Fusion 360, and uMake, all of which have some drawbacks. Onshape and Fusion 360, for instance, seem more like programs that began as computer-based CAD that were then translated to the tablet, with Apple Pencil as more of an afterthought. This makes them significantly less intuitive.
The startup’s CEO, István Csanády, is already well aware of the potential for other mobile applications, such as augmented reality (AR). AR capabilities were released in fall 2020, with users able to see how their designs look in physical space and then capture screenshots. By adding a much-demanded Drawing feature, Shapr3D is setting itself up as the first mobile CAD app that is production-ready. We are no longer living in a desktop computer world and it’s about time that CAD tools start acting like it.
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