Welcome to the first blog post for ARbase! Earlier this week, a beta of ARbase was released and quite a few eager CAD and Augmented Reality enthusiasts have signed up to be beta users. Hopefully with the feedback from those early adopters, ARbase will be ready for a full release in a few weeks. In the meantime, I thought it would be worthwhile to share how ARbase came to be and what lies ahead for the app.
ARbase is currently a company/project of one. I, Alan Kalbfleisch, am the sole creator of the app. I work as a Software Developer at Shopify for my full-time job and I have been working on ARbase during evenings and weekends for the last three months.
Before starting a career in software development I was a mechanical engineer and dabbled in product design. I have worked with lots of CAD tools throughout my career including Solidedge, Solidworks, AutoCAD, Revit and of course Onshape. Today I am a dedicated Onshape user for all of my hobbyist projects.
ARbase is an Augmented Reality app specifically made for Onshape. It allows Onshape users to easily create and share their Part and Assemblies as Augmented Reality models. ARbase converts Onshape designs into files compatible with both Android ARCore and iOS ARKit. The files are hosted in the cloud and viewable through an in-browser viewer that allows you to share your models on any mobile device. You will not need any additional apps or hardware to view your models in Augmented Reality. You can also export your models in formats such as glTF, GLB and usdz for use in other apps and websites.
Check out this video to see how ARbase works:
Anywhere! ARbase is piggybacking off of the incredible cloud technology developed by Onshape. Thanks to the Onshape API, ARbase can be accessed anywhere you can access Onshape. Our in-browser Augmented Reality viewer can be accessed on any mobile device that has Android ARCore or iOS ARKit (that is almost all mobile devices built in the last two years).
If you are interested in becoming a beta user you can sign up right now! The date of the full release of a more feature-complete app is TBD but will most likely be at the end of April or beginning of May. Once I get more feedback from the beta users and finalize a few more features, ARbase will be released on the Onshape app store for anyone to use.
As a CAD enthusiast and software developer, Augmented Reality peaked my interest when Apple first released ARKit and Quick Look for iOS. It seemed like a great way for anyone to view 3D models in Augmented Reality without needing to purchase additional hardware or apps. Unfortunately there was no easy way to convert CAD models into the file formats needed for mobile Augmented Reality viewers. ARbase aims to making converting from CAD to Augmented Reality a seamless experience. I believe sharing a CAD model as Augmented Reality should be as easy as sharing a screenshot.
I will be posting some more blogs soon that go into the technical details of how I built ARbase. Stay tuned!
What to expect during beta
First off, I would like to thank all of the users that have signed up for the beta so far! The interest in the app has exceeded my expectations.
During the beta I will be optimizing existing processes and adding new features. I will also be sending out surveys and reaching out to beta users to learn how they are using the app and what features they want in the future to improve their CAD workflow. If you ever experience a bug please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
My first two priorities for ARbase during the beta are:
Making ARbase work with Onshape Assemblies
Currently ARbase is only working for Onshape Part Studios. The API for Onshape Assemblies is a bit different from Part Studios so I am still working out the last bit of code to make the conversion reliable. Assemblies also tend to be larger and more complex files. I wanted to make sure my system could handle the load of Part Studios before scaling up to Assemblies. I expect ARbase to be more useful for Assemblies than Part Studios once the full product is released.
Optimizing the speed of the conversion and viewing processes
No one likes long load times. Onshape has set the bar quite high for fast load times for CAD models. I am currently grabbing files directly from Onshape and saving them to a database without any optimization. There are lots of opportunities to optimize the file size. I can also integrate with a better file distribution system like Amazon S3 to allow models to load faster in the viewer.
After those priorities are complete I have a long list of features I would like to add to the app. Notably I will be introducing better material texturing for more realistic renders, the ability to add annotations, and the ability to animate assemblies using information from mates. I want to make it as easy as possible for Onshape users to share designs through Augmented Reality. The Roadmap for ARbase is quite open and flexible at this time. As a hobbyist CAD user I want to gain perspective from professional designers and engineers using Onshape to learn how Augmented Reality can impact their workflows.