Cad collaboration system

In the last few months we started using the GrabCad Workbench App for organizing, saving backups and version tracking of SolidWorks files. We found this system very useful but yet there were a few problems and the results were not perfect.
We did a little research and found some apps like SolidWorks PDM and GitHub but we are not sure which one will suit us best. Is there anyone with more information and experience with those systems that could recommend the best platform for Cad collaboration during an FRC season?
Thanks :slight_smile:

As a daily user of SolidWorks PDM, don’t use it. It’s hard to use with a group of experienced engineers and an experienced PDM admin. Not saying it doesn’t work, just that it is way too much for an FRC robot.

Ever heard of Onshape?


If you’re using SW, GrabCAD is definitely the way to go, since there’s not many ways to get finer control over your revision history. I would definitely not recommend using git for CAD, as git is designed to work with text-diffs (which is excellent for code and plaintext documents, and not much else), and Solidworks’ binary format will just mean that merging or inserting text-diffs won’t be useful at all, which nullifies all the benefits of git.


GrabCAD is about as good as you are going to get in all honesty. Solidworks PDM has a really long learning curve and really too much configurability for most FRC teams. Probably most companies using it too. I’ve used it at two different companies and while it does work other options are generally better for small groups.

I know windchill can be used in conjunction with SW, but I have never personally used that system.

Onshape’s version management and file sharing system is, in my opinion, far superior and more user-friendly. We don’t use the Educational Enterprise, just a simple team with shared files, but it is nearly flawless for our workflow.

If you’re hard-attached to Solidworks, GrabCAD is likely your best bet currently.


We have used use Autodesk Vault for our PDM since the 2018 season. There was definitely a learning curve at first but over the years have dialed it in to where it isn’t all that difficult for the students to use. In 2019 we implamented auto part numbering which helped a ton. The key in my experience is to have a rock solid folder system so it’s easy to follow and expect things to go wrong sometimes as everyone is getting up to speed.


I’m not sure if SolidWorks PDM is even a thing for educational groups? It’s just this whole realm you really don’t want to have to worry about.

Literally half of #mechanical at work is memes about PDM being stupid. There’s also the awesome thousand something plus page manual. Good times.

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i think its included i played with it for a bit but yeah its not what I would recommend for frc especially as it benefits from a dedicated manager

Thanks for all the comments! The most problematic issue we had with GrabCad Workbench was that we couldn’t recover an old version of one of our projects (we could only recover specific files).

Are you familiar with restoring to a previous version on the workbench website?

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May be helpful. How to restore old data from your project - GrabCAD Help Center

If you have any other specific questions about GrabCAD and how to use it CD is a good place to post - a big chunk of teams on CD use GrabCAD. I don’t love everything about GrabCAD, but without significant administrative effort it’s the best we have.

The one thing with workbench is make sure everyone downloads the actual app, so its really obvious that people either have or don’t have the latest version. Its also pretty important that people communicate about what is being worked on, just so you don’t have any conflicts, but if you do the link in the post above ^^ shows how to restore versions, which is really easy.

I’ve used PDM a few times and never had issues. But I would be surprised if you were able to get it for free. Also, you will need a mentor to set it up the way that you want it.
But it does beat GrabCAD in terms of control over parts and Solidworks integration. It’s also pretty similar to Git in usage. That said, GrabCAD is easier to set up and use (I’ve never seen anything as simple or robust) so if you already know its quirks, I’d stick with it.

What problems are you seeing with GrabCAD?

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