AEC Tech News (#305)

15 Sep, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff

How to Configure a Workstation for CAD

Performance, longevity, value: Your next system can have it all if you know how to shop. We're here to help.

By Alex Herrera

Let's face it: If you were to make a list of your favorite ten — or even one thousand — ways to spend your time, shopping for a new computer isn't likely to be on it. Choosing the right system for yourself or your entire department takes time, patience, and know-how and is fraught with the risk of unwisely spending an awful lot of money. And yet, you can't keep using that old clunker forever.

We're here to help. We can't promise to answer your real question, "I've got $2,000; which workstation is best for me?" There are too many variables specific to your job and your workflow to provide a black-and-white answer for anyone, let alone a universal solution to satisfy everyone. But we can provide some insight about workstation components and how they affect system performance, plus some practical guidelines to help you determine what's more important, what's less important, and how to get the most bang for your buck. You'll still need to do a fair amount of your own research, but it will be time well spent, as upgrading to a state-of-the-art machine will reap productivity dividends that will save both time and money.

In the interest of keeping this article to a manageable length, our focus this time around will be on desktop professional workstations. We won't be discussing standard PCs or mobile workstations, although much of the information shared here is universally applicable.

Now is a great time to buy a new workstation, thanks to good, old-fashioned free-market competition. On the platform side, we're seeing tremendous advances in performance per dollar and performance per watt. And the competition between the professional graphics card developers has been heating up in recent years, raising the level of graphics performance your dollars can buy. Read more »

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Alex Herrera is senior analyst at Jon Peddie Research, covering 3D graphics and professional computing. He writes JPR's Workstation Report.


ArchiCAD Insights Tutorial: IFC Made Easy

An IFC file is the best solution for transferring BIM models — but what is it?

By Matthew Brewster

Because more firms are embracing BIM (building information modeling) as their preferred design tool, questions are arising about how to work together more efficiently. As the old standards of DWG and PDF exchange are slowly fading away, BIM offers a better exchange of information allowing the exchange of intelligent 3D data. This is obviously more valuable as the data is being used for things such as energy analysis and facilities management. So what is the best way to exchange this data with the people you work with? The new standard is evolving around IFCs.

But what the heck is an IFC? While various BIM applications have their own file formats, there is a universal format that allows these applications to talk to each other. IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) is a vendor-neutral file format that handles the information in a BIM model. With IFC, you can use your BIM of choice and have the confidence that your files will be compatible with minimal effort. There is no longer any need to worry about which software your consultants are using.

When you transfer information with an IFC file, walls remain walls, doors remain doors, etc. Material and 2D data can be transferred with this file format as well, but it is really the 3D model and underlying data that makes it the best solution for transferring BIM models. In addition, IFC further extends the data in model elements. For instance, an ArchiCAD wall contains information regarding size and shape, structure and finish. The IFC data can add information such as fire rating, manufacturer, reinforcement, etc. This data becomes part of the BIM model and is transferred through the IFC exchange. Read more »

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Matthew Brewster is the founder and president of ARCHiDEAS.

Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events


Bentley Plant User Group Conference
October 5–7, 2011
Biloxi, Mississippi
This annual user conference is in its 13th year. Attendees can learn about upcoming Bentley product releases and how other companies have utilized the software, and discuss customization and problem-solving issues by participating in a group breakout session. Read more »

Meridian Systems 2011 User Conference
October 11–13, 2011
Huntington Beach, California
This annual customer event will bring together project-based organizations from several infrastructure-intensive industries to share best practices and customer case studies for Meridian's two primary product offerings, Proliance and Prolog software. Read more »

AVEVA World Summit
October 25–27, 2011
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The AVEVA World Summit Americas program provides an opportunity for delegates from different engineering industries and disciplines to tap into the collective knowledge of management, technology professionals, and global leaders from the plant and marine industries. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


What’s New at


IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Create Product Documentation with Inventor Publisher 2012
Even though you may refuse to read the instructions sometimes, they are important — and the latest release of Publisher includes new tools to help you create them. Read more »

Thinkbox's Render Management Solution Helps CGI Studio Burn Rubber
Burrows CGI processes massive vehicle visualization files in less time with Deadline software. Read more »

Circles and Lines Tutorial: Everyday Improvements in AutoCAD 2012
They might not be showy, but these important features will save you time and reduce tedium. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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