The reality of the world today is that people are almost never completely unplugged. Thanks to an onslaught of free or low-cost mobile apps and the growing prevalence of smartphones and tablets, people can do literally anything from anywhere. That trend is naturally migrating to the work world as well. Nearly all the major CAD vendors have ported products to mobile platforms over the last year. So what does that mean for users? What does that mean for their employers?
Make no mistake; mobile CAD is not to be mistaken for full-blown, traditional CAD. There are many reasons why traditional workstations are never going to be replaced by these pint-sized platforms. The screens are too small, data input too slow, and a lack of OS support mean that real CAD work will continue to be done in the office, not on the road. Nonetheless, the vendors are all on board in offering mobile solutions and with today’s increasing distributed design teams; CAD mobility’s time has come.
What is mobile CAD?
For sake of this discussion, mobile CAD apps are those run on either a portable device (phone or tablet) or a web-based platform that operate using either iOS, Android, or OS-neutral browsers. They are either very low-cost or free and are based on cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity. They are not full-blown CAD and typically offer only a small subset of functionality, such as viewing and markup capabilities.
CAD moving to the mobile platform brings a slew of opportunities as well as challenges, IT security perhaps the most paramount of the latter. For organizations in industries that often have employees in the field or on the road, there can be several advantages to letting these employees take their work with them, or at least some of it. Organizations with the need to equip employees with inexpensive basic CAD viewing capabilities, might also find mobile CAD apps to be a good alternative.
Mobile CAD apps enable remote users to open, zoom, pan, rotate, explode, browse, and explore CAD models or drawings from anywhere on their tablets or phones. Creo View Mobile also enables users to “shake-and-break” to quickly explore views of assemblies, select a part to display its name, and page through pre-defined views of the model. Designers who use Creo Parametric simply publish designs in the Creo View format, and they can then share 3D models via email, drop-box, or iTunes.
Being able to open and view CAD information in transit or at a remote location can speed design reviews and facilitate collaboration with off-site design participants. Since the entire CAD file isn’t being used—just a web-based copy of the CAD file or drawing—IP security is maintained. The original CAD file never exits the organization’s network security structures. Changes or edits made to the mobile CAD file are then synchronized and reviewed by in-house CAD users.
Certainly organizations that embrace mobile CAD will need to rethink and reestablish protocols for tracking and releasing CAD files to traveling personnel and managing the markups and changes made to these files. While the process of manually synchronizing these mobile markups with the on-site CAD files might seem archaic in the modern age of CAD associativity and data management, the repercussions of not doing so could be disastrous.
The bottom line is that while they will most likely never replace traditional CAD programs, mobile CAD apps will find a market among organizations that must place engineers in the field by providing them with an inexpensive way to remotely view CAD files to speed up the process of obtaining design approvals and facilitate remote design collaboration.