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.
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?
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 »
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