It’s the little things that count, like 2D drawings, cross platform support including M1 Macs and Windows machines, and cross-sections. Shapr has been regularly adding on new features and now it’s stepped up the price accordingly.
Shapr3D, an ambitious company based in Budapest, Hungary, was founded in 2015 by István Csanády. The company and its 3D modeling tool have grown rapidly, relentlessly adding on features to enable their product to compete head-to-head with the established leaders. What has been amazing about Shapr3D is that product was born on the iPad and designed to be used with a pencil. It is one of a handful of modern design tools built from the ground up for professional design with hobbyist pricing. At introduction, the product gained adherents because it offered an easy-to-use starting point for designers who relished the ability to get to work without having to fire up the workstation and all that entailed. The ability to export models in standard formats meant that, if necessary, designers could fill out their inspiration with a legacy CAD program like Solidworks, Inventor, or Rhino but that was never the intention of the small but growing team of Shapr3D developers. They intended to build a full-featured design tool like any good software developer. The Shapr3D team wants to keep their users at home and satisfied.
The addition of sketching is huge for Shapr3D, which began life as direct modeling tool. The team has always had an awareness of the value of constraints-based design and it has been on their internal wishlist because the ability to offer parametric design tools puts the company in the big leagues and adds an important feature that otherwise requires people to export to a trad CAD tool but to add parametric capabilities adds a level of complexity for users and for the company’s designers. The new sketching tools get users halfway there. They are only available to users on the new Pro plan (a discussion of the new pricing is coming up later in this article) and it allows users to output to a 2D sketch for production and documentation, add constraints and necessary information for production. The company says they’re committed to expanding the usefulness of sketching in Shapr3D. On the sketch creation side, the Shapr developers have added design hints via a predictive menu that auto-suggests next steps, dimensions can then be adjusted with Shapr’s control tools.
Here at the dawn of 2022, Shapr3D is ever the contender. In 2021, the company held a conference where it introduced new pricing, introduced an early version Windows product to complement its iPad-native original product and version for the new M1-based Macs. The company has also announced support for dark mode, 3DConnexion Space Mouse, and support for professional drawings including section view, an important feature for a tool that’s gaining adherents in industrial design as well as manufacturing and hobbyist markets. For 2021, the company is stressing its value as a professional tool.
The company is branching out into the Windows market, which Csanády has emphasized as an important goal from the start for the company but also turned out to be more of a challenge than the company’s developers expected. They hit a challenge in performance related to the productivity and took advantage of the BuildCache compiler accelerator available on GitHub.
With support for Windows coming in 2022, Shapr3D will have strong cross platform support that will help it grow as a design tool. It has quite a few users as a front end for additive manufacture and prototyping. With support for Windows and better interoperability with Windows tools including Solidworks, Siemens NX, and Autodesk’s Fusion 360 and Inventor, Shapr3D takes another giant step forward and significantly closes the gap with its legacy competitors.
Oh yeah, the pricing. Shapr3D outlines their new pricing here. It has been generally well-received, but of course the web abounds with plaintive questions like “Why is Shapr3D so expensive?” Really? As the company adds new features that bring its capabilities in line with something like Autodesk’s Fusion 360 or PTC’s Onshape, it makes sense they would raise prices to fund further development. Their prices are generally well under the competition but the gap between Fusion 360 has closed. The Pro version (Business) of Shapr3D is $499 or $42/month, and standard is $239 a year or $20/month. There is still a free version with limited import and export capabilities and a limit of 2 designs.
What do we think?
What’s most alluring about Shapr3D is all the things that are difficult to get into an article but can be summed up in one sentence: they have remarkable respect for their customers. With the exception of McNeel and Associates who make Rhino, I don’t know any of the legacy companies that can demonstrate the same level of openness and interest in their work their customers are doing. They’re a startup with a small base and a small-ish staff but not that small. The company is claiming 1 million users; they have said they have approximately 130 employees but that’s oldish data. The company has been exponentially adding on and developing since its founding. All of which is to say, their big-league competitors especially Solidworks built their market through a customer-intimate attitude they maintained for at least a decade. It’s hard to keep up as the base grows and diverges and the employee count also grows and becomes more hierarchical.
It’s the same challenge startups face as their delightful, easy-to-use products become more complex to meet the needs of more people. However, these guys are born upstarts. They have some safety in Eastern Europe where they can work and grow with less fear of having talent snatched or cynicism to creep in. Shapr3D is a juicy morsel for acquisition and the company well knows it. At the moment, they’re pretty thrilled to be building a company that delivers on their promise to build a CAD program that doesn’t suck. We expect 2022 to be a huge year for the company.