CAD Tech News (#67)5 Jul, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff
The demands of CAD-heavy workflows in manufacturing, design, architecture, and construction are growing. Some companies are looking beyond their local machines, and implementing virtual computing options to augment or replace traditional deskside and laptop workstations.
By Alex Herrera
Workstations, virtualization, and the cloud — this trio of technology tools is joining forces, ready to transform the way design teams deploy and use workstation-caliber systems to tackle the increasingly challenging issues facing cutting-edge CAD workflows.
The first component of that trio is the tried-and-true foundation that CAD users and IT administrators have long relied on to power visually intensive workflows quickly and reliably. The second is a more recent computing tool that enables users to run their familiar client desktops on shared datacenter resources. And the third represents today's hottest markets and technologies, upon which IT vendors and users alike are looking to resolve the future's thorniest computing problems. Today, the confluence of the three is creating a valuable new weapon for the CAD IT arsenal: Cloud-hosted virtual workstations are here.
We've seen this potential and evolution of cloud-hosted virtual workstations coming for a while; I discussed some of the evolving supporting products and technologies over the past couple of years in "New Computing Solutions for CAD Take Fuller Advantage of the Cloud" and "Is Cloud-Based CAD Ready for Prime Time?" This month, I kick off a series on what this cloud-based technology is all about: Why it's appealing, whether you should consider its adoption, and key considerations to take in deployment. This first installment explains what virtual workstations are and how they work, and also explores whether your business and workflow might benefit from adopting them in place of traditional, physical workstations.
Why a Virtual Workstation?
Traditional deskside and laptop workstations power the vast majority of CAD environments today. They have done so for years, reliably and effectively. But some businesses — particularly those running CAD-heavy workflows in manufacturing, design, architecture, and construction — are finding it increasingly difficult to satisfy the demands imposed by a host of growing challenges. Skyrocketing dataset sizes, dynamic workflows, a globally distributed workforce that needs immediate access to complex visual data, heightened concerns of security, and the constant incursion of personal digital devices into the workplace: all are conspiring to push traditional, distributed client environments to the brink.
Huge files no longer take seconds to transfer from client to client, or site to site — instead it might be minutes or even hours. Security risks spread, while the burden of protecting priceless IP has never been heavier. And complex projects are more often requiring teams assembled not just from employees, but also contractors and consultants who might be in the field or in an office halfway around the world. Yet, all need access to the same datasets, on demand, from wherever they are at the moment — and that data must be up to date.
In urgent need of solutions to these growing problems, businesses that rely on high-performance visual computing for CAD are beginning to look elsewhere, and one solution shining particularly brightly is the virtual workstation. Read more »
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Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.
Scheduled for launch in Netfabb 2018, Autodesk Generative Design seeks to help product designers by boosting the "computer-aided" part of CAD.
By Cyrena Respini-Irwin
Autodesk has been talking about generative design software for some time. At Autodesk University 2014, Chief Technology Officer Jeff Kowalski explained that although the idea wasn't new, it had been largely theoretical — until cloud computing made the compute-intensive process fast enough to be feasible.
Generative design is an umbrella term that covers several methods of creating designs that meet constraints established by the designer. These constraints might include the amount or type of materials used to create the product, its cost, or its weight. Reducing weight while maintaining strength and rigidity is a common goal, because cars and planes built with lighter components use less fuel.
What differentiates generative design from traditional design processes is that the design solutions are created autonomously, thanks to artificial intelligence–based algorithms. This results in solutions that a human designer might never think of — and far more of them. As Autodesk states, "In the time you can create one idea, a computer can generate thousands, along with the data to prove which designs perform best."
In June, Autodesk took the next step in its exploration of this technology, and announced its first commercially available generative design product. After years of development as Project Dreamcatcher, the descriptively named Autodesk Generative Design tool will make its commercial debut in Netfabb 2018. Read more »
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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's editor in chief.
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