CAD Tech News (#100)

16 Jan, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ What Roles Do Graphics Play in Design and Engineering Software?

Graphics work in different ways to support 2D and 3D design applications, computer-aided engineering, metrology, and more.

By Gavin Bridgeman

Design and engineering software has long catered to two primary markets, serving up a range of offerings to manufacturing and AEC professionals. These software applications help users with everything from design and analysis to creation and validation — and beyond.

But if you think graphics work the same way for all the different applications used at each of these stages, think again: Graphics take on different roles — and provide different benefits — across the engineering software spectrum. Let's take a closer look by starting at the beginning, with design.

How Do Graphics Support 2D and 3D Design Applications?

Because we naturally perceive the world in three dimensions, 3D software provides an intuitive environment for design. However, for creation and manufacturing, 2D is the primary way we communicate dimensions and other essential information.

Over the past decade, model-based definition (MBD) and Industry 4.0 have been promoted as ways to address this discrepancy, by bringing 2D information into a 3D world. MBD refers to a 3D model that includes associative product and manufacturing information (PMI); this defines the product in a manner that can be used effectively for manufacturing without a 2D drawing graphic sheet. Industry 4.0 is a trend of manufacturing automation that leverages a digital copy of the physical world for decision-making; a master and up-to-date 3D model is critical to this initiative.

These two business strategies have had major impacts on productivity, because getting 2D and 3D to work together is always challenging, and particularly so when it comes to graphics. For example, users may require annotation text to behave like regular text part of the time, so it maintains screen alignment and specific size, regardless of zoom level; in other cases, they may want it to act like regular 3D geometry.

Improvements have been made in all aspects of the product lifecycle, including quoting, design, machine programming, planning, and quality control. The primary benefit is better decisions that result in less rework due to incorrect interpretation of design intent. (Good decision-making requires good data, and the ability to visualize it!) This in turn yields a reduction in the waste that comes from rework, and increased availability of engineering expertise for innovation (as opposed to personnel being occupied with resolving problems or sorting out confusion around design intent embodied with 2D information).

A variety of end-user devices, including those with limited processing power, can be used with cloud-hosted virtual workstations.
A 3D model with PMI indicating manufacturing tolerances. Image courtesy of Tech Soft 3D.

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Gavin Bridgeman is chief technical officer at Tech Soft 3D.



▶ Herrera on Hardware: Intel's Optane Comes to CAD Workstations — for a Price

It's not cheap yet, but Optane technology improves performance on several fronts, especially for high-demand storage solutions.

By Alex Herrera

There's a new option emerging to challenge ubiquitous NAND flash technology, which is currently the only practical choice for high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs). Intel's long-in-the-works 3D XPoint technology, packaged in Optane brand products, was primarily motivated to serve datacenter applications, with the ultimate business goal of capturing homes in the rapidly expanding cloud infrastructure.

But what Optane strives to achieve in datacenter applications can translate elsewhere, and workstation applications are in its crosshairs as well. An extremely disruptive departure from conventional storage technologies, 3D XPoint/Optane has justifiably taken time to bootstrap itself into a practical choice — specifically an economically practical choice — but it's making progress in datacenter markets. And now, it's becoming an option for CAD users, with availability in workstations from vendors like HP.

Optane is still a relatively expensive proposition, but it's a proven technology with compelling advantages, and given that Intel has its full weight behind Optane, it's likely to become steadily more practical over time. Add that all up, and it's a good time for CAD professionals to take a look at what Optane can offer.

The Recent, Rapid Rise of SSDs

In the past several years, SSDs have successfully permeated high-performance client computers, especially workstations used for demanding visual applications handling big datasets (think CAD, of course). And for good reason: The performance of the drive itself, combined with dramatic reductions in cost and improvements in supporting technologies such as PCI Express (PCIe) and NVM Express (NVMe), have turned it from a luxury upgrade to default configuration in short order.

The SSD market is, for all intents and purposes, a NAND flash market. The most common form of non-volatile random-access memory (NVRAM) technology, NAND flash offers a compelling blend of density and performance, with acceptable endurance. (In the world of memory, endurance refers to the ability to faithfully write and re-write the same locations many, many times — enough to last the life of your usage.)

No doubt, NAND flash technology can deservedly take credit for stoking markets that now ship in the billions of units and tens of billions of dollars. For more background on SSDs, the typical NAND technology, and the role of PCIe and NVMe in unlocking their benefits, see my column on "The Interface of Choice for SSDs."Read more »

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




AutoCAD Video Tips: Easy Metric Conversions with the Quick Calculator
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About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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