MCAD Tech News (#297)

27 Jan, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff

First Look Review: RenderPRO12

Dedicated rendering module is a compact, cost-effective alternative for users dreaming of a render farm.

By Ron LaFon

Undoubtedly many users would like to have a render farm at their disposal for off-loading rendering jobs and freeing processor time on their primary workstations — but the sticker shock from a rack-mounted render farm and its associated IT costs usually puts that fantasy to rest quickly. A new option is both efficient and more cost-effective: the renderPRO series of personal dedicated rendering modules from BOXX Technologies.

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The BOXX renderPRO is a personal, dedicated rendering solution for 3D graphics, animation, and compositing workflows.

The lack of an up-to-date benchmark test for Autodesk 3ds Max Design, which I typically use to conduct this type of review, limits my ability to evaluate hardware performance objectively (and for that reason, I won't be specifying a letter grade for this product). For this First Look, I'll aim to provide an understanding of this new rendering hardware option and whether it could be a viable, cost-effective option for your work environment.

The BOXX renderPRO units are compact, 6.75" x 3.8" x 20" (W x H x D) devices that allow you to off-load rendering operations from your primary system. Three models are available, the PRO4, PRO8, and PRO12, each of which can be configured according to user needs, including the amount of RAM in the unit and the size of the optional solid-state hard drives. The company works directly with users to determine the model and configuration that will best suit their processing and budgetary needs.

RenderPRO units can be used singly (positioned next to or on top of your workstation) or clustered in stacks and configured individually or in nodes comprising several units. You can even pack renderPRO units easily to use in other locations as needed. Although there is a limit to how many BOXX renderPRO units can be clustered together, that limit is high; some installations have hundreds of units functioning quite well, the company reports. Read more »

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Contributing editor Ron LaFon is a writer, editor, and computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist.


Solid Thinking Tutorial: Windows Explorer vs. SolidWorks Enterprise PDM

Two project data management systems face off over project storage, managing revisions, and tracking an engineering change order.

By Michael LaFleche

The battle of project data management systems is about to take place. Two heavyweight contenders are preparing to duke it out: SolidWorks Enterprise PDM and Microsoft Windows Explorer. The match rules are simple: Manage a new project, implement design changes, and ensure a secure and auditable environment for keeping track of revisions. As a bonus, the contenders will manage an engineering change order.

First, let's introduce the competitors. In the left corner, wearing red, blue, yellow, and green trunks, from Redmond, Washington, is Microsoft Windows Explorer, which has been the staple for manufacturing and engineering companies for many years. In the right corner, wearing red, blue, and yellow trunks, from Concord, Massachusetts, is SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, which builds upon Windows Explorer and is a rising star in the community.

Round 1: How Companies Store Projects

In a typical engineering and manufacturing company, individuals store files either locally or on a mapped network drive. For this match, we are going to assume the engineer is storing files on the mapped network drive on the server. Why? Because the server is backed up every night, and other design team members can access the files.

Before creating a new project, the engineer needs to assign a new project or part number to eliminate duplicate file names. Then the engineer creates a folder structure with the appropriate content, including folders for SolidWorks models, technical illustrations, and project management documents such as Gantt charts. A poll conducted in a recent webcast showed that 90% of users are managing documents using a mapped Windows drive with folders; 30% also used a PDM or ERP system; while 30% were looking at alternative solutions.

With the stage set, let's ring the bell for Round 1 and let the contenders battle it out. Read more »

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Michael LaFleche is a regional technical manager at CAPINC.


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events


Webinar: Accelerated Engineering, Analysis, and Simulation
February 3, 2011
12–1 p.m. ET
This free webinar will discuss how hardware solutions from Dell and AMD can accelerate 3D mechanical design, visualization, and simulation. Read more »

Webinar: The Five Biggest Mistakes in Engineering
February 15–17, 2011
Various times
Webinar topics will include the most common breakdowns in CAD management, manual engineering activities that can be automated, and how to standardize engineering design, review, and release processes. Read more »

RAPID 2011 Conference & Exposition
May 24–26, 2011
Minneapolis, Minnesota
The RAPID conference and tradeshow, co-located with the 3D IMAGING event, explores how additive manufacturing and 3D printing are being used to reduce design and development time, cut timeframes, and lower production costs of products. 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


Equip Yourself for Global Competition
Industrial designers and engineers compete in a global market. In Cadalyst's free Accelerated Engineering, Analysis, and Simulation webinar, you'll learn how increasing the speed with which you work can make your work more valuable worldwide. Sign up now!

Will BIM Make CAD Irrelevant? At Larson & Darby, the Answer Is 'No'
A transition to Autodesk Revit doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Day to day, AutoCAD still gets the job done eloquently. Read more »

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Windows 7 System Restore
A simple system setting could be to blame for your mysteriously full hard drive. Read more »

CAD Management Game-Changers
BIM, video training, cloud-based software, and point clouds will all make waves this year. Read more »

On the Edge Solid Edge Tutorial: Navigate the Design Window with View Manipulation Shortcuts
Try these mouse-and-keyboard command combinations to navigate around your 3D design without interrupting your workflow. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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