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Should You Be Using Cloud-Based Digital CAD Platforms?

For years, desktop-based, on-site CAD tools have been the standard for designers and engineers working in various industries. These tools are essential in product and building design, but they don't change that often, meaning the latest version isn't always taking advantage of the best available technology.

New trends are changing this. The growing availability of cloud-based CAD platforms, which take advantage of remote computer resources to run CAD tools, has encouraged some designers to upgrade. The exact use of the cloud varies based on the platform.

Examples include Software-as-a-Service CAD technology hosted entirely on the cloud and Platform-as-a-Service tools that combine on-site tech with off-site resources. However, any cloud-based digital CAD platform can offer notable benefits for designers. 

The tech also has some relatively significant drawbacks designers will want to be aware of before adopting a cloud CAD tool. Below, we will cover the advantages and disadvantages of this new technology, as well as how businesses are using cloud-based CAD right now.

Advantages of Cloud-Based CAD Platforms

The most remarkable advantages, the ones that will be immediately noticeable, are remote access to files and tools and greater availability and scalability of resources. For fully cloud-based CAD tech, you'll be able to access your files and tools, then work no matter where you are, if you have an internet connection. If you need to quickly show a design to a client or colleague, you can also use the cloud to provide them with that design, even if you have no local copy.

You'll also have access to cloud-based computer resources, meaning that you can take advantage of tech - like design simulation and stress analysis - that may be harder to run on an on-site machine with a fixed amount of processing power. 

Drawbacks of Online CAD

However, online tools can create some new challenges for designers. If your office internet goes out - or if you're traveling and don't have an internet connection - you may lose access to specific files, resources or even your entire CAD platform. 

The cloud can also lead to some unique security issues. Any information stored on the cloud - including confidential design documents - can be vulnerable to theft in a network breach. In some cases, regulatory compliance with standards like HIPAA or ITAR may be more challenging with cloud-based design technology and file storage.

It's not clear right now, for example, if it's possible to host 3D CAD files for a DoD project on a cloud server outside the U.S., or if working on a virtual machine on a server outside the country is ITAR-compliant. 

In the future, guidance from regulators may help answer some of these questions and put designers at ease. For the moment, however, CAD in the cloud may be risky.

How Companies Are Using Cloud-Based CAD Tools

For most companies, improved remote access and advanced tools are the major draws of cloud-based CAD technology. For example, there's Leko Labs, a Luxembourg-based home manufacturing startup that uses CAD tools from the cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE platform for design work. The company uses 3D simulation to drive design workflows, testing and optimizing throughout the design process before implementing any physical materials.  

Cloud-based tech, in general, is helping companies save money and improve network uptime. For example, Yancey Bros. Co., one of the oldest Caterpillar equipment dealers in the U.S., managed to save $150,000 per year with new remote office technology. The technology can be especially valuable for companies that need to coordinate sales remotely, or for construction and design firms that have moved a significant amount of their office workers home. 

Knowing If Cloud CAD Is Right for You

Cloud-based CAD platforms can offer a variety of benefits for designers, but not every firm may want to adopt the tech. If you or your team members regularly struggle with remote work, or often run into difficulties with local file storage and sharing, an online CAD platform can be extremely beneficial. 

However, regulatory compliance and security are likely to remain major issues. If you are working with government projects or medical devices that require storage and management of protected health information, cloud-based CAD - like any cloud tech - may create problems.

Fortunately, if you want to adopt this tech, but are worried about some of the potential drawbacks, the growing popularity of cloud-based CAD platforms may help you. As more designers adopt these tools, it may push regulators to issue guidance or adjust standards to assist designers who want to take advantage of these platforms.


About the Author

Kayla Matthews 

Kayla Matthews is a tech-loving blogger who writes and edits Follow her on Twitter @productibytes to read all of her latest posts! 
Published Thursday, August 27, 2020 7:32 AM by David Marshall
Brad Dickinson | Should You Be Using Cloud-Based Digital CAD Platforms? - (Author's Link) - August 30, 2020 12:37 AM
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