Grabcad, cofounded by Hardi Meybaum, is best known as an online community, a popular destination for like-minded designers and engineers to share their models and collect feedback. With an emphasis on friendship and professional networking, Grabcad has so far been more social than commercial. But that’s about to change.
Grabcad’s new product Workbench (currently in Beta) is a cloud-hosted, browser-based project management and collaboration application. No installation, no download, no thin client. Once you’re logged in, you’ll find yourself in the project hub with a list of files managed in Workbench and the latest notifications.
Uploaded files retain their assembly structure, so you have access to the component tree. This gives you the ability to hide, isolate, and show different parts of your assembly, just like you would in a normal CAD package. When working in Workbench’s full-screen mode, the app looks and feels like a program running locally, not from a browser. In managing exploded views and cross-sectional views, Workbench’s slider bar proves to be intuitive and effective.
Workbench’s web-hosted environment has robust support for common 3D file formats, so even if you’re sharing a file with someone who doesn’t own or use the same 3D modeling software, you can be confident the recipient will be able to interact with it effectively. The app has pretty much all the functions you’d expect from a viewing and markup program (zoom in, zoom out, annotate, comment, cross-section, and so on), but its distinct advantage is the tight integration with the online community. From within Workbench’s search bar, you can locate and identify many user-submitted parts you can incorporate into your design.
Social collaboration is an emerging market, relatively new for traditional PLM (product lifecycle management) software vendors. The market is characterized by social media-inspired features and functions, which blur the line between professional collaboration and social networking. Some, like Autodesk and PTC, are aggressively developing products for this new usage model. Others take a more cautious approach. Already established as a social community, Grabcad is ideally positioned to dip its toe into the commercial market with a social collaboration product. Even though it targets professional users, Workbench reflects Grabcad’s origin and expertise in community building and social collaboration.
Grabcad hasn’t announced Workbench pricing yet. For Beta access, visit the product’s home page here.
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