Allowing Solidworks Users to Cad From Home?

We’ve been using solidworks since about 2017 and it has been great but lately several of our team members have expressed interest in being able to work on the cad at home or anywhere other than our current cad space. I been investigating using grabcad work bench and am kinda on the fence about using it.

Other teams who use solidworks or other cad suites what do you guys do for file management to allow students to work on the cad from home?

I have been looking at OnShape and do honestly like it but am not sure its the best idea to switch given our knowledge base is in solidworks and they are a sponsor of the team so we would risk loosing that sponsorship.

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General advice: don’t let your sponsors dictate (even indirectly) how you run your team. Of course, you need to make sure you are adequately funded and don’t want to upset sponsors, but the decisions for what your team produces and how you do it should be left up to your team.

More specifically: is SOLIDWORKS a sponsor because they provide you with free software? If so, Onshape will do that, too and it’ll be an even trade (in-kind CAD sponsor lost, in-kind CAD sponsor gained). If they’re also giving you cash, perhaps you can approach them with your dilemma and talk it through.

As an aside: I’ve seen GrabCAD work successfully for teams who really want to use SOLIDWORKS, but nothing is as collaborative as Onshape, the Google Docs of CAD.


I used grab cad workbench in HS and it was good for 1-3 cadders with 10 ish people viewing and giving feedback and leaving comments. For that exact use case it was actually really great. If you have 5+ cadders I would see them stepping on each-others toes a lot.


If you’re intent on sticking with Solidworks then I can highly recommend running GrabCAD. It’s a significant upgrade over conventional file sharing. That said you do should be sure to have clear communication over who is working on what, but that is true of any program without live collaboration.


My team uses a combination of SOLIDWORKS + Google Drive + A file naming and version system. The tricky part is not having 2 persons opening the same part or assembly at the same time. For this communication and clear task responsability is key.

We’ve used SolidWorks for a while now and use GrabCAD for collaboration and cloud management of revision control. It is functional with a few users as stated above but we have supplemented it with a Google Sheets document to keep track of part number usage to keep us from pulling the same part number and wreaking havoc with file conflicts (it also allows us to track production).

It’s not as robust as true PDM where you can check out certain subassemblies and prevent others from making mods until you check your work in but it is fairly decent with reminding you that newer versions exist and allowing you to select which revision you want to pull from the cloud when you start working. It is easier just to communicate, say on Slack and tell your fellow designers which subassembly you’re working on today and agree to stick to those boundaries.

I’ve also heard great things about OnShape, I’ve never personally used it enough to make the switch but from what I’ve heard it is far more cohesive and forgiving for collaborative work. It also has the benefit of being wholly cloud based so while you need a decent internet connection you could likely deploy cheaper laptops/Chromebooks with good results.

I will say Solidworks does have a cloud solution as well but the last time I looked into it it was a bit of a buggy mess. They have some catching up to do to get up to speed with Onshape as far as cloud is concerned.


We switched to OnShape from Solidworks and GrabCAD a couple of year ago. The 2 biggest reasons were the ability to cad anywhere with an internet connection and the cost of the hardware. We still keep a seat of Solidworks with HSM plugin for CAM.

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My FSAE team uses grabcad and SW and it works out pretty well. Granted what we do is each subsystem has their own assembly with the chassis file so in the final assembly we just mate all the chassis together to create the final car. You could do a similar thing where each part of the robot gets it’s own assembly with the drivebase and then the final assembly you just mate all the drive bases together and hide the extra ones.


We use grabcad

GrabCAD is 100% the way to go for SolidWorks file management on an FRC team. We’ve found that separating the robot into discrete subassemblies allows our CAD team (of around 6 people) to work simultaneously with almost no interference issues.

The biggest issue we run into is people downloading a new part and not adding it to our COTS library lol


It’s just hard to scale this approach.

I look at the problem as very similar to software development - no one in that space seriously uses this approach because it doesn’t scale, errors are easy to make and hard to fix (if you you don’t catch them quickly, they can hide for long time), and it just leads to version hell (with discipline it takes longer to get there but you pretty much always arrive at your destination).

The ability to deal with cloud-based design files is such a huge advantage of OnShape that it’s hard to go with other more manual processes.

For one of my prior teams, it was a game changer - it ran well on the modest student laptops (many of our students did not have a home machine) and it solved the “What system has that file?” dilemma even when they limited themselves to the machines in the shop.

Plus the ability for “instant” collaboration is super valuable - people can work on the same design, at the same time, and see others changes in almost real time.

I am a little surprised that solidworks does not have a cloud management solution. Or is grabcad it? I know that you are not interested in changing platforms. But maybe for others. Autodesk Inventor has Vault. Vault does require a server and a steep learning curve. Fusion lets you store on Autodesks servers and that part of it works great. You can also use webview for presentations without installing Fusion.

For work we use a SOLIDWORKS PDM vault which I’ve liked using alot as opposed to network folders. It’s let alot of the engineers at our company work remotely. All we have to do is connect to the company VPN when working outside the office.

The vault uses a check in/out system so if one user has a part/assembly/anything checked out then they’re the only ones who can make edits. When they check it back in the changes are saved for other users to see and the version number is updated. If you don’t have a file checked out you can still access the file and make changes but they won’t be saved. Old versions are also stored as well so if you need to rollback to an earlier version you can. There are alot of other nice file management/security features as well.

Unfortunately it takes a decent amount of work to set up and I believe you need to host a server to for the vault and you obviously have to pay more for it which given SW prices may or may not be affordable for the average frc team. Grabcad is probably the easiest route.

As much as I don’t like Fusion since it allows for bad CAD practices to form, it’s online servers are nice to be able to view and look at CAD files from others. And you can arrange things into projects, etc.

Solidworks would not care if you take on another sponsor, unless possibly you’re one of the tiny handful of teams that receive direct monetary support from Dassault Systèmes.
Sponsor replacement in this style is incredibly rare in FRC, it’s not like F1 where you can have only one motor oil sponsor per team due to whatever contracts.

+1 to PDM being neat and a bit of a pain but also way too much pain for nearly every FRC team.


We Vultr to host our Inventor vault server. Annual domain registration. Microsoft server and SQL licenses (donated in our case) are the initial cost. The vault license is part of the educational Inventor Professional. Vultr is about $20. a month base. More if you have a lot of network traffic. We have never exceeded the base. Fusion is a lot simpler in that respect. We have no professional CAD mentor.

A down side for us using a cloud server is the school in there infinite wisdom, blocks access.

Has anyone tried 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS? That looks to be their new cloud solution for file management and everything. Assuming the version available for FRC sponsorship isn’t the “maker” edition, it should support the HSMWorks plugin which my team uses for CAM.

They advertise good features for simultaneous/remote word with PDM without requiring self hosting.

I’ve heard good things about inventor vaults. Seeing that price makes me curious to see if SOLIDWORKS offers a PDM license for free/ extremely discounted to frc teams as well.

Unfortunately we also had to deal with some blocked access this year including onshape, vex, and McMaster. All sites we’ve used before for multiple years

I tried using this a little under a year ago for a college club I’m in. We never got it working and went back to Google drive

Personally, I still prefer Onshape over SOLIDWORKS to this day (I’ve been using SOLIDWORKS for college course work.) Fusion is pretty good too. But I’d highly recommend Onshape (not considering the sponsor aspect)

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