CAD Tech News (#81)

28 Feb, 2018 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Herrera on Hardware: Navigate the Evolving Choices for CAD Workstation CPUs, Part 1

The differentiating metrics and decision criteria are shifting as market players and technologies change.

By Alex Herrera

It's a great question, and maybe the one asked most often when considering the optimal workstation specifications for CAD applications: "Which is the right CPU for me?" GPUs have become just as critical a consideration in visually intensive applications, but the CPU — the central processing unit that's the heart of the machine — matters in every professional workflow. In this two-part series, I'll describe the CPU landscape that's most applicable to CAD workstation applications, and provide some guidance on the most appropriate options to consider, based on both budget and workloads.

But before we get started, I have one important disclaimer. These types of compare-and-contrast exercises can be valuable, but they present a dilemma: Is it better to keep the discussion at a very high level and potentially miss a few details that really make a difference in the final analysis, or to dive deep into the details but risk losing the big-picture takeaways? With this exercise, I'm going to shoot for the middle ground, hoping it's of help when you're navigating the increasing number of CPU options available in 2018.

Differentiating Today's Workstation CPU Duopoly: Core i7 vs. Xeon

Intel shapes the two product lines differently, but for now (and over the past decade), Core i7 and Xeon have dominated the workstation platform, in both mobile and deskside models. Whereas Xeon has grown to capture sockets in around 80% of deskside workstations shipped, Core currently owns about the same share in mobiles. (However, it's worth noting that Intel's campaign to push Xeon in mobiles is far more recent, and in fact Xeon has grown from 0% to 21% there in just the past couple of years.)

Xeon and Core share ownership of today's CAD workstation platform. Image courtesy of Jon Peddie Research.
Xeon and Core share ownership of today's CAD workstation platform. Image courtesy of Jon Peddie Research.

But the Xeon/Core status quo on workstation CPUs has started to change — modestly for now, but perhaps more dramatically in the coming quarters and years. This change is due to two reasons: One, the market now includes a resurgent AMD, which for the first time in nearly a decade has products that can legitimately serve workstation applications and at least disrupt the default Intel monopoly. And two, another market dynamic is subtly (at least so far) shifting the playing field in favor of one brand over the other, when it comes to the best choice for CAD duty. Read more »

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

▶ SOLIDWORKS World 2018, Part 2: Focus on 3D Printing

Hardware providers had a heavy presence at the annual user conference, where they promoted 3D printing as the answer to product development needs ranging from prototyping to production parts — but the potential user base isn't entirely convinced yet.

By Cadalyst Staff

Every year, the SOLIDWORKS World user conference provides a forum for software and hardware companies to showcase their latest offerings for product designers and engineers. There was a strong showing of 3D printing technologies at this year's event, with established players and newer names competing for attention on the show floor.

Stratasys launched its F123 Series of fused deposition modeling (FDM)-based 3D printers for professional prototyping at last year's SOLIDWORKS World, and Rob Winker, senior product marketing manager at Stratasys, reported that the F123 line "has been a great product for us." Having more printers in educational and office settings is not replacing service bureaus, said Winker, but it is increasing the number of users; previously, there may have been just a few gurus, whereas now, more members of a work group will apply the technology. "Designers and engineers who used to [rely on] the RP [rapid prototyping] lab ... they're doing a lot more early concept design verification," he observed.

Despite wider adoption, there's still a big gap between the potential size of the professional 3D printing market and the current number of users, Winker acknowledged. Many professionals haven't adopted the technology because they simply don't recognize how 3D printing could affect their workflows, he believes: "Awareness is a big thing."

Another hurdle is that some potential users still aren't clear about the capabilities of the technology, assuming it's limited to novelty or hobby uses. A lot of education is still in order, Winker believes: "Additive manufacturing can provide value for so many different companies, from small to large."

To demonstrate some of that value while doing good at the same time, Stratasys is expanding its Corporate Social Responsibility program, which partners with and provides resources to worthy initiatives. During the event, Stratasys announced it would supply 3D printing technology to Unlimited Tomorrow, a startup dedicated to developing prosthetic limbs that are lighter, cheaper, and more customizable than existing options.

Unlimited Tomorrow is using Stratasys 3D printers in its efforts to develop prosthetic limbs that are more affordable than traditional options, and also customized to more closely match the wearer's size, skin tone, etc. Image courtesy of Stratasys.
Unlimited Tomorrow is using Stratasys 3D printers in its efforts to develop prosthetic limbs that are more affordable than traditional options, and also customized to more closely match the wearer's size, skin tone, etc. Image courtesy of Stratasys.

Read more »


Live with Robert Green: Demystifying GPUs for CAD Workstations
In this web presentation by Cadalyst, CAD management expert Robert Green will shed light on the often confusing and misunderstood role of professional graphics processing units (sometimes called GPUs or graphics cards) in CAD workstations. If you've ever been mystified by GPU terminology or wondered what to specify for your users, this webinar is for you. A live, 30-minute Q&A will follow the presentation; bring your questions about CAD workstations or any other CAD management concern! Register now for this live, 30-minute web presentation, which will be held March 21, 2018 at 1:30 PM EDT.

Celebrating 400 Issues of the CAD Manager's Newsletter: An Interview with Robert Green
Marking a major editorial milestone, Cadalyst editors interview the author for a behind-the-scenes look at the newsletter and how CAD management has evolved over the decades. Read more »

Importing PDFs into AutoCAD: Data Integrity and Image Files
In this final installment of my series on importing PDF files into AutoCAD as objects, you'll learn about some of the bad news — data integrity — as well as find out how you can control the location of the imported raster images (PNG files). Watch the video »

LACCD Sets BIM Standard on Largest Bond Construction Program in the U.S.
Bentley's connected data environment helps the Los Angeles Community College District save $12 million on complex sustainable building project. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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