Lagoa working on cloud-based MCAD tool

Lagoa’s new modeler based on Siemens PLM Parasolid engine is being readied in Lagoa skunk works.

By Kathleen Maher

Lagoa, which is best known for its cloud-based rendering tools, is working on an MCAD product for the cloud. Although surprising, this isn’t huge news. The company has been showing its product around, and some attendees at Solid­Works World got a little flash dance of the product on the show floor.

The Lagoa 3D modeler for MCAD is currently being shown as a technology preview to interested people in the CAD world. (Source: Lagoa)
The Lagoa 3D modeler for MCAD is currently being shown as a technology preview to interested people in the CAD world. (Source: Lagoa)

Lagoa VP of marketing Chris Wil­liams and CEO Thiago Costa were at COFES last month with even more de­tails—though that is not to say there are a lot of details. One of the most interesting tidbits of news is that Lagoa has licensed the Parasolid modeler for its lineup of tools, adding just a little more heft to Siemens’ claim that Parasolid has the edge in the emerging cloud market for CAD tools. (See, GrabCAD chooses Parasolid for Workbench collaboration.)

We talked with Williams about La­goa’s plans for an online MCAD tool immediately after COFES. Williams believes there are quite a few people who would like to build 3D models. They may want to make 3D prints of those models, or they may want to create renders, but he thinks there are many more users than those who can afford SolidWorks, Inventor, or other main­stream CAD tools. Williams thinks these may be the first people to try out a new product, but he sees opportunity in the installed base of the incumbents as well. Costa is a rebel. He thinks the whole CAD universe should be revamped.

“There are many problems in CAD,” says Costa, who believes software development is not keeping up with the way people are working. “Product development today is very distributed,” he says, “but the tools have been designed for one person sitting behind a computer.”

“So to move CAD to the next generation, many things have to be re-thought—how people interact with data, how do we describe CAD data, how does the CAD system scale, and so on,” says Costa. Like the people at GrabCAD, the people at Lagoa are thinking in terms of “distributed CAD.”

Frankly, after playing a little with the Lagoa renderer and seeing early builds of the MCAD tool, we had thought Lagoa was planning to build a simple tool to create 3D models online and perhaps export them to more advanced tools for additional work. Sort of a SketchUp that would get users further along the design path. As it turns out, we were completely wrong.

What the company is calling the Lagoa Assembly Engine (see the video at the end of this article) is really just one piece in the puzzle. It has built-in kinematics, and it’s being designed to work interactively with the Lagoa renderer. They’ll use the software as a service (SaaS) model to incrementally build business and add features. Subscribers will get the benefit as the tools arrive. Two users can work on a model simultaneously.

Another key technical feature of La­goa’s technology is that it relies on WebGL to enable 3D in the browser. Because the iPad does not yet support WebGL, Lagoa’s tools are not available for an iPad.

Subscription options

Currently, Lagoa has several options for customers. There is a free service for creating and sharing renders, and the company also offers three levels of subscription plans:

Maker: Free. The baseline subscription includes 5 GB of storage, 2 hours per month of rendering, one background render, and content embedding.

Individual:$50 a month, includes 100 GB of cloud storage, unlimited ren­dering time, three concurrent back­ground renders, content embedding, and priority rendering. The individual membership also includes faster ren­der times.

Enterprise:$200 a month, includes unlimited cloud storage and render time, priority rendering, and 2X faster rendering than the free version, 24-hour support, and a company dash­board.

The Lagoa team does not lack for confidence. They believe the established CAD market is ripe for disruption. Lagoa is not an established play­er hindered by millions of lines of code and a cranky installed base. Lagoa plans to keep adding on and to build multi-functional tools that are easy to use and understand for design, manufacture, and rendering.

Costa says rendering is an inherent part of the design process, and that’s just the point where Lagoa has chosen to start. He says, “The clients that use our rendering today, large brands, are the same clients that will use our CAD.”

What do we think?

Ambition is what makes the world go ’round. The company is quick to put its tools out there on the web, and this could hurt the company as users struggle to make them work. Behind the scenes, Lagoa can give its large customers direct support while the customers using free tools help build improve the tools and build the ranks of Lagoa users.

Lagoa’s core engineers come primarily from the entertainment fields, and they believe the problems they’ve learned to solve are equal to or harder than the prob­lems encountered in design and manufacture. In our experience this has not been strictly true. In CAD you have to the products you design have to be built for real world. They have to be analyzable, manufacturable, repairable. Rendering is often a nice to have feature, not an intrinsic part of the design process.

But here’s the part we really like. As mentioned in the discussion of GrabCAD, these tools put individual designers in touch with their peers all over the world. They’re strengthening the individual by linking that person sitting behind a computer directly with other people who are working on the same project. It’s not new, it’s just more possible. Whether they know it or not, Lagoa is building on the work of engineers who have gone before at Citrix, SGI, Sun, HP, and many other companies that failed in their efforts to enable something like what Lagoa wants to do now. Well, timing is everything, and companies like Lagoa and GrabCAD may well succeed.

Perhaps Lagoa could benefit from a better understanding of the CAD cul­ture compared to that of the special ef­fects daredevils, but they are right to say the world is changing fast and the companies that will succeed are the companies that can adapt.

Lagoa got started with $1.6 million in seed funding from 500 Startups, Atlas Venture, Real Ventures, and RHO Ven­tures. It got a further boost in December from Cambridge-based Atlas Venture.

Lagoa – Assembly Engine from Lagoa on Vimeo.