Where CAD meets Web

CAD applications generally belong to rather conservative sphere of computer technology. Also the start of using web technologies in CAD was slower than with other types of software. We still cannot see many CAD applications using "Web 2.0" technologies or online hosted tools like Google Office but there are already many areas where CAD now makes use of web tools.

  1. Online communities
    CAD users - like other software users - are facing problems and questions of effective day-to-day usage of their applications. They can get advices, discuss and exchange experience with their with peers in many online forums, online resources of tips and tricks, CAD-oriented e-zines, newsletters, etc. For AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit and other Autodesk applications, one of such web resources is e.g. the CAD Forum web.
  2. Vendor support
    All software vendors love to have contact with their users. So they can learn about the way their applications are used, can receive feedback and bug reports, can easily distribute updates and patches, can provide subscription-type web services.
  3. Online block libraries
    A very popular resource for CAD users. Every user who makes CAD designs needs time to time a predrawn 2D symbol or 3D model to include in his/her work (north symbols, traffic signs, animals, devices, trees...). An online resource where users can exchange blocks, hatches, linetypes, materials is an ideal solution to this need. An example: CAD Block Catalog
  4. Content publishing and sharing
    CAD users work in teams, the results of their work need to be communicated to customers and investors. Web is a very practical way to quickly share and communicate CAD data. The CAD model of a product or building can be easily placed directly from a CAD application to the web (catalogs, project webs, animations/videos...) using one of the compressed web publishing formats - both in 2D and 3D (e.g. VRML, DWF, PDF). You can use such digital prototype (electronic model) to discuss, redline and markup online together with cooperating teams and customers - e.g. using Freewheel.
  5. Geospatial content
    Today, many CAD applications support direct publishing of geolocated 3D models to Google Earth or import Google Earth images and terrain models into the designed scene (building). Meshups in Google Maps can cover all types of CAD data superimposed on real-world maps.
  6. Web access to CAD and GIS data
    These technologies are widely used in GIS and CAD mapping applications. You can post CAD data to a central server (graphical database) and then access this data very quickly and easily using client terminals with just an internet browser - see e.g. Autodesk MapGuide and Topobase.
  7. Document management
    Many EDM/PDM applications used today in the enterprise sphere for CAD and technical documents are based on web technologies and you can access your data with a web browser (e.g. Vault/Productstream). There are also document management applications offered as a hosted service - ASP (e.g. iPROJECT or Buzzsaw).
  8. ASP CAD applications
    CAD applications are highly graphically demanding and so there are not so many full-featured CAD tools offered as a web hosted service. This may change in the future. There are already very interesting projects running today. There is e.g. the Autodesk CAD drafting application using AJAX, Google Gears and other Web 2.0 technologies - Project Draw.