Chapter 3

A Million Engineers on the March

When I got my U.S. work visa and moved to Boston in June 2011, the GrabCAD community was still a small town: population 6,405 on the first day of that month. Thirty months later, in December 2013, we were a thriving metropolis with a population that had just passed the one million mark. It’s an active and intense community: Each month members upload more than 50,000 three-dimensional computer-aided design (3D CAD) files to the site and post 30,000-plus comments.

In social media terms, okay, one million users is peanuts. But ours is not a community of random chatter; virtually all members are users of 3D CAD, which distinguishes them as members of the world’s engineering and design elite. How can we tell they use 3D CAD? Because they have taken the trouble to download one or more 3D CAD files posted by their peers, files that are useless unless you have 3D CAD and know how to use it.

This is the real measure of our community’s magnitude. Worldwide there are 3.1 million licensed users of 3D CAD; nearly one-third of them are now members of the GrabCAD community.

This is why I’m going to talk quite a bit about GrabCAD in this chapter—not to promote the company (though I’m sure you’ll understand my enthusiasm) but because the growth of our community demonstrates the central message of this book—that the process and culture of engineering is changing.

The real significance of our community is that it’s proving to be amazingly fertile ground ...

Get The Art of Product Design: Changing How Things Get Made now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.