CAD Tech News (#8)

8 Jan, 2015 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ HP Expands Workstation and Display Options for 2015

Two workstation Ultrabooks lead the lineup of offerings for professionals in AEC, manufacturing, and entertainment.

By Cadalyst Staff

HP started the year off with a bang this week, introducing mobile and virtual workstations as well as flat, curved, and virtual reality displays. The long list of new offerings starts with two workstation Ultrabooks. (A term coined by Intel, "Ultrabook" refers to a class of mobile computers that lies somewhere between laptops and tablets. They are slimmer than laptops, and typically sacrifice components such as optical drives to squeeze into that smaller, lighter chassis.)

The HP ZBook 14 and 15u are billed as the thinnest and lightest of their kind; they measure 0.83" and 0.84" thick, respectively, and have starting weights of 3.77 and 4.23 pounds. The mobile workstations are independent software vendor (ISV)-certified to support various applications from Autodesk, Dassault Systèmes, Siemens, and other developers.

Josh Peterson, director of worldwide product management for HP's Desktop and Mobile Workstation business, explained during a press briefing that these models are best suited as companions to tower workstations, or as primary workstations for less-demanding users such as executives.

The HP ZBook 14 (left) and 15u are expected to be available worldwide beginning this month; estimated U.S. pricing starts at $1,249 and $1,199, respectively.
The HP ZBook 14 (left) and 15u are expected to be available worldwide beginning this month; estimated U.S. pricing starts at $1,249 and $1,199, respectively.

Read more »

▶ New Dawn for 3D Reality Computing

More sophisticated scanning hardware, easier manipulation of captured data, and shrinking costs all contribute to a bright forecast for the technology.

By Randall S. Newton

Design technology developers have been working for years to make it easy and inexpensive to capture shape, color, and other physical characteristics as three-dimensional data. The goal is to make working in 3D as fast, accurate, and simple as it is to create 2D images today. Recent innovations in what is now called reality capture or digital reality could make 2015 the year that capture-based workflows go mainstream.

The appeal of collecting 3D data about real-world objects is wide-ranging: Product designers could easily "borrow" a natural shape. Engineers could reuse elements of an otherwise obsolete machine as the basis for a newer design. Old parts lacking digital design data could be scanned and archived. Scanning could replace measuring and modeling for reverse engineering.

The ability to capture and modify this data sounds practical and broadly useful, but its full potential has yet to be realized. The complexity of 3D data creation and use has hampered widespread adoption.

The crux of the problem is an inherent dissimilarity of data types: CAD software represents real-world objects using continuous vectors and/or coordinate solids; 3D scanners, in contrast, gather data as discrete points (voxels) represented as a spatial array (point clouds). To convert point clouds for use in 3D CAD requires multiple conversion steps, each requiring a specialized software product or tool within a larger conversion suite. For years these tools have been priced out of the reach of most product designers. In addition, each conversion step usually requires manual editing before moving on.

When the 3D point cloud data finally arrives in CAD, the shape is accurate but much crucial information is lacking. Is the object a shell or a solid? Is a curve a bend or a weld? Is the hole 3 cm or 1"? It can be a long process to create the final model. Large firms can afford dedicated staff to fix the models, but most engineering teams cannot. Read more »

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Randall S. Newton is principal analyst at Consilia Vektor.

▶ Herrera on Hardware: Same Hardware, Different User Experience

With components in common, what factors distinguish entry-level workstations from business-class PCs — and do they justify the increase in price?

By Alex Herrera

"Workstations are just glorified PCs — don't waste your money."

While they're no longer the rule, such misconceptions about the modern workstation remain common in the CAD community, especially among those working in or running small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Given the history of the workstation and the PC, that impression is understandable — but it's anything but accurate.

Today's workstation offers the same benefits in reliability and application-tuned performance that it always has, but thanks to the economies of scale of its sister platform, the PC, those benefits are now available at far more attractive prices. Those looking to buy a PC for CAD work should give an entry-level workstation a good, hard look; they may find it's a far more attractive option than they'd imagined.

Does Differentiation Extend to the Low End?

At the upper end of the market, a premium-build workstation features a spec sheet that no one will confuse with that of a conventional corporate or consumer PC. If you need the performance a higher-end workstation offers — including much more CPU and graphics processing unit (GPU) power, bigger memories, maximum storage, and more reliability options — there is no substitute. It will come at a substantially higher price, but for the highest-demand applications, no PC can deliver the hardware that a full-tower, dual-socket, maximum-wattage, branded workstation can.

However, the same argument isn't true at the lower end of the workstation market. Today's entry-class models share many of the same hardware building blocks as high-end PCs, begging the obvious question: Should you buy the PC (for example, a Dell Optiplex or HP Pavilion model) or should you pay a little more to get the workstation brand (for example, a Dell Precision or HP Z machine)? Given that entry-class models make up the vast majority of the workstation units sold into the CAD space, it's a question many will find worth asking. Read more »

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.


IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Work with AutoCAD Electrical 2015 in Autodesk Vault
Learn the ins and outs of using AutoCAD Electrical in the Autodesk Vault environment. Read more »

Detect Collisions in SolidWorks 2015 Assemblies
Quickly detect and resolve colliding surfaces within a SolidWorks assembly or design. Watch the video »

Add Patterns Around Holes in MicroStation V8i
Hatch around closed elements in Bentley MicroStation. Watch the video »

Automatically Add Tasks to the Navisworks Timeliner
Use the Auto-Add functionality within Autodesk Navisworks to streamline the process of creating a simulation. Watch the video »

Perform Virtual Takeoffs in Navisworks
Perform virtual takeoff analyses on items that are not yet fully implemented within your 3D model. Watch the video »


International LiDAR Mapping Forum 2015
February 23–25, 2015
Denver, Colorado
The International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) is a technical conference and exhibition focused on data acquisition, fusion, processing, and point clouds for airborne, terrestrial, and underwater light detection and ranging (LiDAR) used to support transport, urban modeling, coastal zone mapping, utility asset management, and more. Read more »

REAL 2015
February 25–26, 2015
San Francisco, California
REAL, billed as the first reality computing conference, is a new event that will see the convergence of the professional 3D sensing and 3D making industries. Read more »

NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference
March 17–20, 2015
San Jose, California
This graphics processing unit (GPU) conference covers a wide range of topics and industries. Attendees will learn about NVIDIA's latest technologies, as well as the newest developments from industry leaders in fields ranging from healthcare to automotive. Read more »

SPAR International 3D Measurement and Imaging Conference
March 30–April 2, 2015
Houston, Texas
This conference brings together professionals from diverse markets to discover the latest advances and technologies in 3D data capture, processing, and delivery. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

Add comment

Note: Comments are moderated and will appear live after approval by the site moderator.

AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD Video Tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!

Follow Lynn on TwitterFollow Lynn on Twitter

Do you use any augmented or virtual reality (AR or VR) technologies in your workflow?
Not yet, but we are planning to implement it.
No, but we think these technologies could hold value for us.
No; these technologies do not hold value for us.
Submit Vote

Download Cadalyst Magazine Special Edition