Cloud CAD is getting a Kickstart with a little Steam flavoring

Kickstarting Cloud CAD

There are two steadily falling barriers in the Computer Aided Design (CAD) universe: the barrier of entry to develop a new CAD platform and the barrier of accessibility to actually learn and use such software. This revolution stands to grant virtually anyone the access to the power of CAD software, be they a hobbyist, tinkerer, chartered accountant, or reasonably intelligent canine. It is a democratization of the industry, where complex tools relevant only to specialists are supplemented, but not necessarily wholly displaced, with simpler paradigms relevant to everyone. The entire industry stands to benefit, as more and more people become proficient in 3D design, free to manipulate and even additively manufacture what they can imagine. Among the entrants in this simpler, more accessible paradigm is SolidFace, which up to now has been a rather affordable yet capable desktop CAD package. But now SolidFace is moving onward up into to the cloud via their new effort, Solid Share. And they’re now looking to Kickstarter and all of you for help.

SolidFace is a bootstrapped effort from the talents behind predecessor UniCAD, no doubt made possible by this new era of low cost software development. Built on the same underlying Parasolid kernel as some of the most popular CAD platforms around, SolidFace notably was the first CAD package to cross over into the PC gaming community of all places. They are featured for sale on Valve’s software Steam platform, after having qualified through Steam’s Greenlight indie software program. With success through the Steam platform as well as more conventional reseller channels, SolidFace now plans to grow into an online community and marketplace called Solid Share, no doubt taking inspiration from the runaway success of Steam itself.

A Steam-like take on the CAD maker community

Solid Share aims to build an online community where users can buy, sell, or share design content and provide independent 3D printing and scanning services. In essence, democratizing the entire process from ideation, to detailed design to printed product-in-hand. At the core of the community will be a cloud-based, in-browser variant of SolidFace, provided to community participants for the low, low price of free. No longer does participation in a diverse design community need to be limited to those who already have access to CAD software, opening possibilities to new markets of students, hobbyists, and tinkerers.

But hold on just a minute. The CAD universe is already well populated with a multitude of very vibrant CAD design and 3D printing communities that support the entire gamut of available CAD platforms, why should anyone bother with Solid Share? From SyncFab to GrabCAD, Thingiverse to Shapeways, there’s tremendous capability already out there. That’s where the Solid Share concept really starts to get interesting.

Instead of competing with already popular communities, Solid Share will offer an open API interface to bridge their CAD platform’s accessibility with the robustness of existing communities. Participating communities can connect to Solid Share through the API, essentially extending the reach of both. Solid Share benefits from capitalizing on the user base and existing model libraries already out there to feed into their CAD platform. In exchange, the other communities automatically gain support for another CAD platform, and a free one to boot, paving the way for a whole new influx of users. Established users who already have access to existing communities gain access to another CAD package, and new channels for their content. It’s win-win-win. Trifecta.

As with all new startups, there’s still quite a bit of work on the road ahead. Having already raised a sizable portion of the $2.45M required to transform SolidFace CAD into the Solid Share community and marketplace, the founders now turn to a Kickstarter campaign for the balance needed to bring active development to fruition. In addition to the money, the interest demonstrated on Kickstarter will serve as validation for their vision. The rest is up to you, go check their campaign out, and drop in a coin or two. In the meantime, we’ll wish ‘em the best of luck.