With GrabCAD, a bold partnership brings 3D design to the cloud — and your home

A screenshot of Autodesk’s Fusion 360 in Workbench.
A screenshot of Autodesk’s Fusion 360 in Workbench.

Boston might be the cradle of the next industrial revolution. Formlabs from MIT’s Media Lab is spearheading the 3-D printer revolution, and many start-ups are jumping on to the craze. But what good are all these printers if there isn’t an easier way to go from drawing board to production? A Boston start-up, GrabCAD, wants to streamline the process of sketching and sharing 3-D designs.

GradCAD is partnering with Autodesk, the largest CAD software company in the world, to bring two of its new apps, AutoCAD 360 and Fusion 360, to view, edit, and comment on models of anything from a small engine to a plane from the comfort of any browser — without traditional, expensive design software.

The Techstars Boston alumnus has already built up a community of more than 700,000 members who share files in the public Library or in private Workbench projects. More than new 2,000 users sign up every day to collaborate on 2-D and 3-D plans. The aim is to incorporate people without CAD software experience into the design process as it’s happening to improve communication.

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“CAD, historically, is very expensive and could take weeks or months to learn,” said Rob Stevens, vice president at GrabCAD. Now, “instead of big complicated software, users can launch the software from a browser, so it is much more accessible.”

In July, GrabCAD plans to roll out a pricing model, but there will still be a free option.