CAD Tech News (#144)

18 Feb, 2021 By: Cadalyst Staff

Herrera on Hardware: NVIDIA's Ampere GPU for CAD and Beyond

The first professional Ampere GPU foreshadows advancements to come for all CAD visualization professionals.

By Alex Herrera

The first Ampere-generation GPU (graphics processing unit) focused on professional 3D visualization has arrived. In October 2020, I introduced NVIDIA’s RTX A6000 and the company’s claims of significant steps forward in traditional 3D graphics and rendering, in addition to its computing acceleration. Now that we have the product in hand, it’s possible to ascertain how those hardware-centric metrics translate to performance gains for a CAD user’s day-to-day workloads.

The RTX A6000 is most appropriate for a specialized set of CAD and visualization professionals mainly due to its $5,000 price range and because it uses two PCI Express slots and up to 300W of power. It may well fit the budgets and systems for those who specialize in the oil/gas, machine learning, and data analytics spaces, but most likely not the day-to-day CAD drafter.

While this first Ampere product is designed for high-end users, benchmarking the RTX A6000 should provide a meaningful indication of how future models will advance 3D visualization capabilities for the many. As Ampere technology trickles down the NVIDIA product line, similar gains in generation-to-generation performance should become available in more economical, mass-market GPUs that will apply to the bulk of the CAD hardware marketplace this year.

Ampere and RTX A6000 Refresh

NVIDIA’s new RTX A6000 offers around 2X the raw performance and memory as its predecessor—now measured across three hardware engines, not just one. As covered in more detail in last October's column with the introduction of Ampere’s predecessor Turing, NVIDIA reset the bar for GPU technology. Prior to Turing, GPUs had most overwhelmingly been measured by the ability of its shader architecture (supported by technology such as memory and input/output) to crank through conventional 3D graphics processing. But Turing’s introduction of both engines to specifically accelerate ray-tracing and machine learning — RT cores and Tensor cores, respectively. It’s worth emphasizing that those Tensor Cores also speed up the resolve and refinement stages in rendering, as I first covered in April 2018.

Figure 1. NVIDIA’s RTX A6000 GPU (graphics processing unit) brings new technology to the CAD and visualization world.


Think of Ampere as offering roughly double the raw processing capability of Turing. Averaging across those three engines, peak throughput gains sit right around 2X, complemented by a commensurate gain in graphics memory footprint. The RTX A6000 comes populated with more graphics memory than most workstation system memory, an impressive 48GB compared to the Quadro RTX 6000’s 24 GB.

Benchmarking the RTX A6000

That overall hardware-limited 2X speed-up was as far as I could get on any quantitative analysis until now. With an RTX A6000 in hand, I kicked off some real-world testing with the usual starting point for professional visualization applications, SPEC’s SPECViewperf, in its latest SPECViewperf2020 version. SPECViewperf2020 runs through eight viewsets, 3D graphics scenes with rapidly changing viewpoints. Of those, several pulled from applications CATIA, 3ds Max, Creo, SolidWorks, and Siemens NX reflect typical visuals seen in manufacturing, design, engineering, and architecture.

Read more »


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


Sponsored: How to Simplify Lot Grading in Civil 3D

The Feature Lines tool — which is standard in Autodesk’s civil infrastructure design software — is all you need to create remarkably detailed grading designs.

By ZenTek Consultants

Grading a subdivision lot with yard breaks and side swales can be a struggle. The concerns are numerous: Are your pads the highest point? Do you have sufficient slope to guide water away from your structures? Have you added high points around septic fields?

All these tasks can seem daunting when you’re working in Civil 3D. We’ve watched people struggle with grading objects, direct surface edits, and even third-party grading add-ins to attempt to handle lot grading. One of the most common processes in the civil/site design world can, ironically, become one of the most difficult and time-consuming.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be that way. Lot grading can be done in just a few minutes, with great accuracy, and without requiring expensive add-ins or learning new software. In this article, we’re going to take you through a full lot grading condition using one simple Civil 3D tool — which you probably already know how to use! You just need to apply a bit of imagination for it to handle all your lot grading needs.

What tool will we be using? The simple Feature Line tool. That’s right, we’re going to use nothing but Feature Lines to handle a lot grading process. So, let’s start with a basic lot layout in 2D, like the one pictured below. All the linework is done with polylines, with no elevations (well, technically “0” is an elevation, but you get what I’m saying).  Read more »



Prepare Yourself for CAD Management 3.0
According to CAD management expert Robert Green, we're now in the midst of the third major change wave in CAD management (CM 3.0). Cadalyst has published a 24-page guide that collects seven columns from Green's series on CM 3.0, addressing topics ranging from standards and workflows to the psychology of CAD users and the many languages CAD managers need to speak. Download this free guide to learn which skills and strategies you need to be prepared for the changes coming your way.

Viewpoint: Is Self-Paced eLearning a Shortcut to CAD Software Knowledge? 
 A shortcut implies a quicker way to achieve a goal. Does bypassing instructor-led training accomplish that? Or is a combination of the two training types most effective? Read more »

CAD Manager Column:
Un-Bottleneck Your CAD Ecosystem, Part 1

What components make up your CAD ecosystem — and which part should you focus on fixing? Read more »



About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!