The idea of offering a cloud-based service for designers, engineers and stakeholders to share and collaborate on CAD files isn’t a new one. GrabCAD, which is VC-backed to the tune of $14 million, springs to mind. There’s also Sunglass, a company that made its private beta debut at TechCrunch Disrupt New York and publicly launched last October. Today, another startup is throwing its CAD file sharing wares into the ring.
MyCadbox, from Finland’s CadFaster, is probably best described as a Dropbox for CAD files, but unlike its competitors it largely shuns the Web for native desktop and mobile apps that it says affords it the ability to share and view much larger 3D models and at a higher frame rate than browser-based technologies allow. In the future, however, it has more ambitious plans to add Evernote-style search features to help unlock the huge amount of metadata potentially associated with 3D files. But first, let’s drill down into MyCadbox’s current offering.
Having been in public Beta since March — though the product grew out of an earlier offering called QuickStep — MyCadbox consists of a Windows desktop app for uploading, downloading and viewing 3D CAD files, and a nifty iPad app also for viewing, all underpinned by the cloud (hence the Dropbox comparison). The problem that it’s aiming to solve is “how to share 3D design data for feedback when stakeholders are around the world and on-the-move,” says the startup’s VP of Sales and Marketing Tuomas Holma.
However, that’s a pretty similar proposition to competitors like GrabCAD, Sunglass, and TeamPlatform. But, as noted, the key difference is MyCadbox’s decision to turn its back on the browser. “They are all based on WebGL and based on our evaluation you cannot open large models or run them with sufficient frame rate in the browser,” says Holma. “We have customers, for example Foster+Partners, sharing huge 3D models with our DirectX and OpenGL ES technologies.”
As it stands today, MyCadbox operates a freemium model with a Pro version that allows for a greater number of 3D models to be shared at a single time, priced at $9.99 per month, and a version targeting teams coming this summer.
In addition, the company sees further opportunities around the sharing of CAD-related data. “There hasn’t been a good way to share CAD data,” says Holma. Traditionally, CAD vendors have built their own ecosystems and “protected them fiercely with proprietary file formats”, he says, and now they’re attempting to do the same online by “locking users to proprietary cloud services.” But not if CadFaster has its way.
Holma says that by using a flexible database format to store and index CAD data in the cloud, MyCadbox will allow for Evernote-style search capabilities to be built in the near future and to develop the service to benefit larger teams via document management features. “Organisations can start benefitting from re-use of information and from speeding up the design process”, he says. “Our future goal is to enable better collaboration.”