GrabCAD recently announced a new platform for collaborating on CAD projects called GrabCAD Workbench. Workbench is a completely separate set of tools from traditional GrabCAD projects.
Workbench offers a variety of tools to manipulate the CAD file using the in-browser viewer. I was able to add pins to any location on the model I choose which allows you to add a comment with an accompanying sketch that you can create directly within Workbench.
Creating the sketch was easy with the set of tools provided.
The model viewer allows you to explode the assembly to better view the internals with the simple movement of a slider.
You also have a section view tool available with the same easy slider control.
A measure tool is provided but I found it a little clunky to use. It picks up a measurement by double clicking two points on the model. I found it to be hit or miss as to what it measures. I’m not sure I would trust this as an accurate reference for critical design work quite yet. Hopefully the GrabCAD team will be working on improving the measuring tools in the future.
Comments can be applied to any file within Workbench using the side-bar adjacent the viewer.
I found the upload time for a 303KB Inventor file to be acceptable at less than 10 seconds with a 2.5mbps DSL internet connection. The model took another 10 seconds to appear in the viewer window once I clicked on it.
Next I picked a simple Inventor hinge assembly and uploaded it. At first I only uploaded the .iam assembly file and not the parts that make up the assembly. The file uploaded but nothing was displayed in the Workbench viewer window. If I go back and re-upload the assemble with the parts at the same time, everything is displayed correctly. But what if you don’t know what files belong to the assembly? Do you really have time to pack-n-go or some other operation to separate out the files required to build your assembly? These tools are supposed to make your life easier, not harder first and before the easy.
What Workbench needs is an solution to be able to upload directly from your CAD software to Workbench. This would allow for any dependent files to be uploaded along with the assembly file without having to think about which child files are required. This would also open the door for Vault like check-in and out that you would expect from any basic PDM data management solution like Workbench is trying to mimic. I also noted that when clicking the download function within the assembly, only the assembly file was downloaded and not any of the required child parts.
In conclusion, I do feel Workbench has the potential to be a decent collaborative solution for small teams or for use with project team and client. It does require some maturing before I would consider it a serious competitor to products like Autodesk 360 or something similar. Especially since Autodesk 360 is basically free for collaboration and it looks like Grabcad has plans for paid tiers of Workbench. If you have nothing in-house now for sharing, Workbench may be a decent solution for you.
We shall see how Workbench develops. Thanks to Hardi and the crew for allowing me to try out the limited beta.