MCAD Tech News (#362)

7 May, 2014 By: Cadalyst Staff

User Profile: DIY Guy

Want to play with the cool toys? Zach Burhop demonstrates how you can build them yourself.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Zach Burhop is one industrial designer who never complains about taking work home. In fact, he's converted two-thirds of his house into a "secret lab" equipped with the software and hardware tools needed to take a design project from idea to prototype. His projects are many and varied, ranging from a 3D-printed windmill to power a porch light to an Arduino-controlled, color-changing LED Christmas tree. But not everything that happens in that secret Las Vegas lab stays secret; Burhop shares many of his projects, techniques, and tips with the design community through his website, videos, and Twitter posts.

Zach Burhop.
Zach Burhop

Cadalyst: How did you become interested in design?

Burhop: I've always built things. There's a lot of cool technology out there that's either too expensive for most people to access or just not developed enough for production. So I started designing and building out of necessity — it's the only way I could play with the cool toys. For example, I always wanted to play with robots, so in high school I took on the project of designing and building one. The stuff that can be built on a small budget and used by everyone is always the coolest.

I also put great importance on how designs look; there's nothing better than building something no one's seen before. So industrial design was a natural fit, since it's about making technologies look cool and also making them simple enough so that everyone can use them. Specifically, it allows designs to become mass-produced products.

Tell us about your day job.

I currently work in the space industry, but due to the nature of the industry I cannot disclose anything more than that. In past positions I have worked on teams dealing with rocket-powered pickup trucks, water-powered jetpacks, full-sized radio-controlled battle cars, high-tech pizza-delivery bicycles, and a bunch of other weird projects. I spent my college years climbing around rocket engines and doing propulsion testing at the rocket testing company Orion Propulsion.

Which software do you use?

I am a big [Siemens PLM Software] Solid Edge user. I find that I work more quickly with Solid Edge, but I also use [Dassault Systèmes] SolidWorks on occasion. Solid Edge has Synchronous Technology, which allows me to quickly make design changes to parts without having to go through a history tree, as in SolidWorks. I find that creating technical drawings in Solid Edge is much better. I have more control, especially with its Draw in View feature. I like SolidWorks though — I think it deals with extremely large assemblies a lot better.

I also use Repetier-Host to control my Solidoodle printer and Slic3r to carve up all my STL files. I am a fan of Luxion KeyShot for rendering. Read more »

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's editor in chief.


Herrera on Hardware: How Much GPU Memory Do You Need for CAD?

To answer this question, start by learning how the technology affects your workflow.

By Alex Herrera

Editor's Note: We're delighted to introduce this new column to the Cadalyst lineup. In "Herrera on Hardware," consultant and Cadalyst Contributing Editor Alex Herrera will explain everything that CAD managers and users need to know about hardware for CAD, from memory to hard drives to processors — and beyond. Look for "Herrera on Hardware" every month on the Cadalyst website, as well as in future issues of Cadalyst magazine.

We constantly marvel at what the progression in silicon technology has delivered over the years, with each successive generation bringing much greater capability for far fewer dollars. Nowhere is that progress more apparent than in the geometric growth of random access memory (RAM) — and not just in system memory, but in the dedicated memory tied to graphics processing units (GPUs).

Growth in GPU memory has been staggering: If you were to take the size of a typical desktop computer's system memory from the early 1990s and multiply by a thousand, you'd be in the ballpark of what a typical workstation-caliber GPU can boast as its own private graphics memory today. Professional GPU card memories start around 0.5 gigabytes (GB or Gbytes) in size and head up from there, all the way up to Nvidia's top-of-the-line 12-GB Quadro K6000 and AMD's recently introduced 16 GB FirePro W9100.

With such a huge variety of GPU memory sizes available, at prices ranging from $100 to $5,000, the obvious question facing CAD professionals is, "How much do I need?" There's no one-size-fits-all answer; it depends on what type of work, and what type of content, your typical day involves. But first, let's look at how the technology is applied.

A Brief History of GPU Memory Uses

What use does a GPU's private memory serve? Not long ago, it had but one primary purpose: serving as a local buffer for raster-based graphics engines to assemble each frame in memory prior to display. For that reason, graphics or video memory has been historically and equivalently referred to as framebuffer. But that's no longer an appropriate designation, as the composition of GPU memory has changed dramatically in the past twenty years. Read more »

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Cadalyst Contributing Editor Alex Herrera is a consultant and writer focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events

Manufacturing the Future with 3D Printing 2.0
Through August 29, 2014
Various cities
These seminars, hosted by 3D Systems resellers in the U.S. and around the globe, will demonstrate how the company's 3DPRINTING 2.0 initiative can help accelerate design-to-manufacturing workflows. Read more »

Ansys Convergence 2014 Regional Conferences
May 9–June 5, 2014
Various cities
This series of events will feature engineering experts and other thought leaders who will offer best practices in applying simulation technologies to create breakthrough products. Read more »

Solid Edge University 2014
May 12–14, 2014
Atlanta, Georgia
This year's conference will feature a keynote presentation from Razor USA's product designer, more than 45 new presentations and workshops, and the launch of the Solid Edge Certification Program. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


What’s New at

Save Your Drawings to the Cloud with Autodesk 360
Lynn Allen demonstrates how to automatically save an extra copy of your drawing files to Autodesk 360 for easy access, no matter where you are. Watch the video »

Use Master Modeling Techniques in Autodesk Inventor's Sheet Metal Environment
Learn about using Master Modeling techniques in Autodesk Inventor's sheet metal environment to control parametric updates and to speed up model creation and editing time. Watch the video »

Create Custom Toolboxes in MicroStation
In this video, Peter Mann shows how to create customized toolboxes within the MicroStation interface so you can more easily access the utilities and functionality you use the most. Watch the video »

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