There are several reasons why our team uses Onshape instead of another CAD system such as Inventor, Fusion 360, or SOLIDWORKS:
Like most CAD software, Onshape is free for FRC teams, but unlike other CAD systems, Onshape is cloud-based. You can think of it as the Google Docs of CAD. This means that documents are accessible on all your devices. It also means you don't need a powerful PC to run it. In fact, you can use it on almost any device with a web browser—including a Chromebook. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is essential because many students only have access to a school-issued Chromebook.
In other CAD software, collaborating with others involves manually making copies of files, keeping track of several different versions, and manually combining the files into the final design. Onshape lets multiple people work on a single document simultaneously. In addition, saving is automatic, and versioning doesn't ever require duplicating files.
Onshape has terrific community support. Onshape itself has lots of useful tutorials for getting started. Additionally, the FRC community provides well-maintained part libraries for COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) parts and FRC-specific tutorials.
To create a free Onshape education account, navigate here and click the button that says "Sign Up Now". Fill out the form following the on-screen instructions. You can use your personal email even though you're creating an education account. When it asks what you're using Onshape for, simply put "FIRST Robotics Competition".
Almost any computer can run Onshape. The most important thing is that you have a fast, stable internet connection.
Although Onshape runs in the cloud, rendering still takes place on your computer. If you have your own computer, it will probably run Onshape better than a school-issued Chromebook.
Onshape's rendering process uses a technology called WebGL. You must enable this technology for Onshape to work properly. Making sure WebGL is enabled is simple. If you are using Google Chrome, follow these directions:
Note that you might not find the settings explained below on a school-issued Chromebook. If this is the case, you should be fine because WebGL is already enabled.
- Launch Chrome settings by going to chrome://settings
- Click "System" under the "Advanced" dropdown
- Ensure "Use hardware acceleration when available" is enabled
- Relaunch Chrome so any changes take effect
- Check if WebGL is enabled here
If you are using another browser, or if WebGL remains disabled, follow the instructions here.
If you have both integrated and discrete graphics, then you should make sure Onshape uses discrete graphics. Specific instructions for this depend on your graphics card, but general instructions are available here.
You will find that Onshape is easiest to use with a mouse. A trackpad will work, but if you have access to a mouse, it will make your experience a lot nicer. Even a cheap mouse will do just fine.