Am I compatible with Onshape?

The short answer is, yes you are. One of the fundamental purposes of Onshape is to allow CAD operators to use a professional CAD software without the need of expensive computer hardware and the worry of storage shortage. Although Onshape has technically achieved both of these, its worth knowing what you as a user can do to make your Onshape experience more efficient in ways that can increase your productivity output.

So, what made the birth of Cloud CAD and Onshape possible?

In computer and mobile devices the GPU (Graphics Processor Unit) seats at the core of the 3D graphics performance. Now, to reduce the load on GPUs we have seen major internet browser companies (e.g. Google) putting enormous resources into making JavaScript (a dynamic high-level web programming language) execute 3D graphics applications within browsers in, thus relying less on the actual device’s GPU. On the basis of this we see the appearance of WebGL (Web Graphics Library), a JavaScript application programming interface (API) that allowed users to render 3D Graphics within any compatible web browser. That innovation opened the door for software programmes that relied heavily on graphics to start making their way to the Cloud, Photo editing and CAE (Computer Aided Engineering) in were amongst the first that took benefit of this new approach.

What’s under the hood?

Onshape’s full cloud architecture capability has also managed to diminish most of the work needed from the computer’s RAM ( a place in the computers brain where decisions are made ad hoc), therefore any RAM upgrade would provide only marginal gains in performance so a standard 4GB will be sufficient enough to support all your design needs. However, when it comes to the computer’s graphics hardware the GPU plays an important roll in the software’s performance based on two main elements:

      • Type of Graphics Cards
      • WebGL support

Graphics Cards

Graphics cards can be divided into three main types, Discrete, Integrated or Dual with each type offering different perks. Discrete graphics card refers to a standalone graphics card plugged into a motherboard slot or a separate GPU chip on the motherboard. Most high-end workstations have this type of graphics card and with the right amount of video memory (e.g. 1GB VRAM) they can deliver excellent performance on complex designs, part modelling and assemblies. Integrated graphics card refers to the card that is part of the computer’s motherboard. This type of configuration is found on laptops and mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) and overall deliver a good performance when working on simple parts and assemblies but working on complex designs and assemblies can become a challenge. Finally, if you are using a computer with both of the above options (discrete, integrated) you need to be aware of the factory configuration settings. Thus, in this case to achieve the great Onshape performance you will need to specify which card element the browser uses this card or configure the automatic graphics switching for the WebGL to use the discrete card element. For more information on the process check help documentation.

WebGL

WebGL support is probably the most important criteria to Onshape’s graphics performance, so a graphics card and a browser supporting it, is paramount. The Black Lists & White Lists link provides a list with graphics cards that support or do not support WebGL.

The Browser Conundrum

Browser is another element that is critical to Onshape’s performance. Onshape is supported on the most recent stable release of some of the most popular browsers out there. Of course, there are also browsers the system is not supported by (see table below).

Chrome is typically the fastest browser on new machines with up-to-date drivers and a dedicated graphics card. It is good if you are often switching between many tabs consisting of small-to-mid- sized models. Firefox tends to allow more memory usage when compared to Chrome and may be preferred when dealing with large models across fewer tabs.

Unsupported browsers lack full support of WebGL and JavaScript, which as mentioned in the opening paragraph are the two critical components for rendering Onshape’s graphics and user interface. As far as the mobile usage goes, Onshape provides its users with its own native mobile application for iOS and Android devices, that works great anywhere with online access.

Performance

In terms of performance Onshape provides you with a test link to check and establish the type of performance you should expect from Onshape with your browser type, WebGL support and extensions you have. It also runs an overall performance check and displays the results in Measured Triangles Per Second (photo below, section highlighted in red).

This metric method is based on the idea that images are made of triangles, or polygons and so it describes how quickly the GPU can calculate the whole polygon or the vertices that define it, in other words it is a simple method to show how quickly the card builds a wire frame image. Onshape also provides you with a performance bar to visualise how good the overall performance of your system is based on all the elements covered in this post.

Further Reading


At 4DeltaEducation we truly believe that core to all is education. We have created an online training platform for people who want to master the latest vocational technological advances within the world of Engineering. To date, we have created courses in Computer Aided Design and 3D Printing, and we are working on more.