CAD Tech News (#104)17 Apr, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff
▶ Herrera on Hardware: GPU Technology Conference
NVIDIA Builds Critical Mass for RTX Rendering Acceleration in CAD
By Alex Herrera
As expected, NVIDIA covered a lot of ground at this year's GPU Technology Conference (GTC) in San Jose. As expected, big ticket items highlighting CEO Jensen Huang's keynote included machine learning, autonomous driving, and high-performance computing (with an emphasis on big data analytics). While machine learning will certainly have a big say in the future of CAD computing, for example in generative design (addressed in a recent column), the most relevant of NVIDIA's current high-profile initiatives for CAD remains 3D visualization.
What NVIDIA kickstarts today will impact CAD professionals down the road. The company is aggressively and deliberately throwing down the gauntlet on a future dominated by ray-traced rendering. At his GTC keynote, CEO Jensen Huang made it clear that NVIDIA is committed to pervasive real-time ray-tracing, accelerated and enabled by RTX technology, introduced for the first time in the company's Turing generation GPU products. The impact will have as much to do with the natural and incessant evolutionary march that technology is always on, one that naturally and logically points to the same future: one in which we leave behind what's acceptable in exchange for what's superior.
When Will Ray-Tracing Be a Default 3D Processor?
Followers of NVIDIA probably know it's not the first time the company's positioned ray-tracing front and center at GTC. In fact, the company prominently discussed ray-tracing in its messaging for GTC in 2017 and 2018 as well. Given that this is NVIDIA's third consecutive year talking about real-time ray-tracing at GTC, and given that few yet use ray-traced rendering as a core tool in their visual computing toolset for CAD, a cynic might start to wonder if this initiative is falling short of expectations. Or, that ray-tracing is turning into another over-hyped visual technology that won't meet expectations, akin to virtual reality. (Okay, that was super cynical. VR has its justifiable applications in CAD as well. We'll cover VR in a subsequent column.)
Granted, I may a bit jaded these days, having weathered countless Next Big Things in visual computing over the years, the majority never amounting to much, but I'll argue that ray-tracing won't disappoint. Don't confuse its lack of overnight success with its very likely destiny. For any application in which photorealism is the visual goal, ray-tracing (or any of its similar or derived techniques) is superior to the traditional raster 3D techniques. Period. The latter can approximate the quality of the former, but since ray-tracing more closely tracks the physical properties of light, it will produce images at least as good and usually much better. The reason raster 3D has dominated our visual computing world is not because of its superior quality, but its acceptable quality delivered with far superior performance. Read more »
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Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.
▶ Best Input Devices 2019, Part 1
How to Find the Right Keyboard for CAD
By Cadalyst Staff
You can look at (and sometimes edit) drawings or models on smartphones or tablets, but few designers do their day-in/day-out work on anything less than a desktop workstation. CAD users obsess about the amount of RAM or the size of their screen(s), but few rave about their input devices. Yet the mouse (or trackball), the keyboard, and other devices such as a pressure tablet are essential to the process.
Gamers and designers are also power users, but their computer needs are not identical. The same can be said about input peripherals. The problem is, few input peripherals are designed specifically for CAD, so it is necessary to search out products from the broader market.
The best devices can improve productivity and prevent repetitive stress injuries — and both should be taken into consideration. This is an overview on what's available in 2019, with an eye to both efficiency and comfort. Any specific products mentioned here are not recommendations, but mentioned as examples that meet the need of CAD users.
Most input devices today come in both wired and wireless versions. The one you select depends on both personal preference and office standards. Some businesses don't allow wireless peripherals because of signal mix-up between computers.
This is part one of a two-part series on input devices for CAD. This article covers keyboards; the next one will cover mice and other input devices.
Butterflies, Scissors, and Domes
While there is no keyboard on the market sold as a CAD keyboard, but there are significant differences between an okay keyboard and a great keyboard. For CAD users, the fundamentals are programmable function keys, a numeric keypad, and ergonomics. The first two are objective criteria, the third is a bit more subjective.
A keyboard's tactile response is due to internal key switch mechanics. Almost every keyboard on the market uses one of three switches: silicone dome, scissor, and mechanical. Domes are the least expensive, used on millions of keyboards. They require a full-pressure response, and tend to wear out before the other two types. Few people who move from domes to scissors or mechanical keys want to go back. Read more »
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