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Is “Social CAD” the Next Big Thing?

solidworks nx it creo catia autocad Social media may be the single hottest buzzword in the entire English speaking world today. It’s made some individuals billionaires and certainly commands the full attention of most people under 25. Yet for CAD professionals, the impact has been relatively small. Not in terms of traditional social media, but in the context of truly social CAD.

Beyond Traditional Social Media

The big “ah ha” moment in Social CAD is not merely adding some social media commentary features into CAD products, but fundamentally changing how things are designed. For example, AutoCAD’s Design Feed capability that lets you make a post that is linked to a specific design point or feature is kind of “Facebook added to CAD”. My thoughts are that we need to make possible social collaboration on the actual design itself. Think about opening up your design to a group of “friends” or “contacts” that are then going to work on this capability in real time. You would be getting input and design expertise from any number of sources, albeit ones you trust.

Collaboration on Steroids

One of the key points in this discussion is that Social CAD is more than just the collaboration features built into the current industrial strength CAD products. Social CAD allows for a broader base of contributors, moving collaboration past highly structured and managed groups of CAD professionals, and providing a platform that is far less costly for this activity.

Clearly there are a number of terrifying aspects to opening up designs for broader input and modification. There’s the specter of sabotage of course. Or with less malice, individuals making erroneous or poor quality additions that negatively impact the design. And of course, there is the problem of theft of intellectual property. However, much as a certain stasis has been achieved in more traditional social media, I believe we can get these issues in line, eventually. Perhaps Social CAD will only be useful on shared or non-profit designs for its first incarnation.

Social CAD May be an “Add-on”, not a Separate App

Finally, I don’t think we’ll see Social CAD apps becoming a replacement for AutoCAD. Replacing that skill set and knowledge base is not likely. Instead, I think that Social CAD will become an add-on or a place in the cloud where designs can be placed and individuals can add their work or ideas to the underlying design. This would make it easier to implement version control (social vs. non-social versions of the design), and allow the owner of the design to choose modifications.

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