CAD

Product reviews, features, tutorials, and tips for computer-aided design (CAD) software.
CAD

Cadalyst Publishes Guide to Top CAD Technology Trends of 2018

24 Jan, 2018 By: Cadalyst Staff

The new white paper provides an industry insider's perspective on which technologies matter the most at the moment — and in the months to come.



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Management

Resolve to Prepare with a New Year’s CAD Strategy Session

9 Jan, 2018 By: Robert Green

In order to make the best decisions about which CAD changes to respond to — and how — catch your breath after the holidays and plan for the year ahead.



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Workstations

Which CAD Workstation Buyers Can Benefit from Threadripper?

30 Dec, 2017 By: Alex Herrera

Herrera on Hardware: An analysis of AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper illustrates why a workstation CPU is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.


Ever since AMD disclosed the first hints about its Zen processor architecture, I’ve been left wondering — and writing — about when AMD might exploit it to make a serious push into the market for workstation CPUs again. In a recent column, I made the case that AMD’s window of opportunity is now wide open, supported by not just one but several Zen-derived products that are now well positioned to launch that offensive. Ryzen 7, Ryzen Threadripper, Ryzen Pro, and Epyc are all viable candidates for workstation applications, from entry-level single-socket (1S) models all the way up to max-configured dual-socket (2S) monsters.

Threadripper: More Cores than the Workstation Norm

The last time that AMD mounted a serious challenge to Intel in workstations was in the previous decade, in the form of the Opteron-branded Hammer, a processor that truly disrupted high-performance computing markets for servers and workstations. Launched in 2003, Hammer introduced two key innovations — 64-bit instruction set extensions and direct-attach memory — which allowed Opteron to leapfrog Intel, especially in the dual-socket configurations common in workstations and servers. On the back of Hammer, AMD began taking meaningful share from Intel, peaking in 2006–2008 before fading from a combination of poor execution by AMD and a righting of the ship by Intel.

This time, AMD may follow a similar playbook for its Zen campaign, by focusing on technology and products that OEMs have not emphasized with Intel’s Core and Xeon CPUs. Where Hammer innovated in memory architecture and 64-bit extensions, Zen may leverage its aptitude in high-density, multi-core processors.

Cue Threadripper, the first Zen CPU making noise in high-performance client-computing markets, including not just gaming rigs but workstation platforms. Comprising two eight-core Ryzen 7–type dies in a single multichip package (with intra-package interconnect à la its Epyc siblings), Threadripper populates as many as 16 cores — well beyond the typical quad-core CPUs powering the vast majority of workstations CAD professionals buy and use today. In the past few months, several vendors have launched Threadripper workstations, including Boxx, Velocity Micro, Puget Systems, and Maingear. (Boxx has also hinted at a 1S workstation based on Epyc.)

Threadripper Workstation vs. Max-GHz Intel Core i7 Machine

I was able to get my hands on a Threadripper workstation, thanks to the folks at Boxx in Austin, Texas. The timing of Boxx’s Threadripper-based Apexx 4 6301 release proved serendipitous, since the company had also recently launched the similarly configured Apexx S3, built around Intel’s new six-core Core i7-8700K, overclocked to a staggering 4.8 GHz. As a result, I had the chance to assess both machines in the context of workstation computing, for CAD usage in particular but also for other high-performance, visually intensive segments of the market.

In addition, contrasting the two machines made for an ideal opportunity to explore an often misleading — or at least confusing — debate about which is a better workstation CPU: the fastest single-thread processor, or the one that can process the most threads in parallel? The two processors driving my Boxx workstation test units represent opposite ends of the CPU spectrum. On one hand, I’ve got a latest-generation (Coffee Lake) Intel Core i7 with a mainstream number of cores (six, although four is even more typical) running at a bleeding-edge frequency, and on the other I have a Threadripper running at mainstream frequency but populating a bleeding-edge number of cores.

To compare the two CPUs, I configured both machines with the same memory (footprint and speed), the same storage (a solid-state drive [SSD] on PCI Express), and the same graphics processing unit (an Nvidia Quadro 4000 GPU). Memory subsystem differences (e.g., cache sizes and memory channels) remained, but since those are a function of the CPU more than the system, I had virtually identical system specs.

I benchmarked both systems on the SPECwpc 2.1 benchmark, which does an excellent job of stressing all of a workstation’s components in a real-world environment. SPECwpc aggregates results from a slew of individual tests into groups that represent typical workloads for a range of workstation applications; the Product Development group is the most appropriate for CAD folks. 

SPECwpc reports a composite score for each application group, but instead of focusing on the summary composites, I instead cataloged individual tests according to thread count, then compared the scores — and scores per dollar — of the Threadripper-powered Apexx 4 6301 normalized to that of the Core i7-based Apexx S3. Charting performance by thread count lets the relative strengths of the two CPUs stand out, as well as how much bang for the buck each delivers as a function of thread count. And just as you might expect, the 4.8-GHz six-core Core i7 consistently provided better performance per dollar on single-thread tests, while the 3.4-GHz 16-core Threadripper left the Core i7 in the dust on 32-thread workloads. The middle ground of eight-thread workloads turned out to be a mixed bag, though the under-core’d Core i7 lagged more than it led. No doubt, AMD Threadripper proved itself a strong contender for workstation duty — and the more threads made available, the bigger its advantage.

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About the Author: Alex Herrera

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Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Bricsys: We’re Not Holding Back on DWG, Part 3

27 Dec, 2017 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

And the company is not holding back on BIM, either, as evidenced by updates to its dedicated module for building information modeling and the Bricsys 24/7 cloud-based collaboration tool.



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CAD

Bricsys: We’re Not Holding Back on DWG, Part 2

27 Dec, 2017 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Going head-to-head with AutoCAD, company upgrades general 2D/3D functionality of BricsCAD V18, as well as mechanical and sheet metal offerings.



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Design Visualization

ONU’s Conversion Platform Speeds Models from CAD to Virtual Reality

22 Dec, 2017 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

The newly launched ONU 3DLite converts CAD models to lightweight polygonal meshes for use in virtual and augmented reality experiences, as well as online and mobile applications.


The burgeoning popularity of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) is shining a new light on a problem familiar to many manufacturers. “They have all this good CAD data,” said Sam Sesti, CEO of ONU, “but they’re struggling with how to make it available beyond [the department that created it].” Whether they’re looking to create an AR training program for service personnel, a VR experience for customers in a showroom, or simply some glossy graphics for a brochure, companies frequently run into snags when attempting to reuse CAD data throughout the organization.

“If you give a CAD file to a marketer, there’s little chance they’ll know what to do with it,” Sesti observed. Common problems are that the file won’t convert to a format the marketing department can use, or that it will be too dense — too information-rich — for their purposes.

With a goal of overcoming this “huge bottleneck in content creation,” as Sesti calls it, ONU made its new product commercially available this month. Billed as “the first and only cloud-based 3D visual platform designed to seamlessly convert and optimize CAD files,” ONU 3DLite is intended for use by design professionals and all kinds of digital content creators — including those with little experience carrying out such operations. “3DLite will be a kind of bridge between design and engineering and further up the enterprise,” Sesti explained.

The Rules of Speed

Currently, many of these digital content creators are using CAD files as a kind of template: tracing them in applications such as Autodesk 3ds Max or Maya, then recreating the model with less information than the original. Creators perform this retopologizing process to make a 3D mesh lightweight enough for interactive, real-time rendering and other purposes — but it requires many hands-on hours. “This is taking companies days,” Sesti complained.

ONU’s technology offers an alternative to this manual approach: 3DLite can “automatically take the model density down by 10 to 100 times, without losing the quality,” said Sesti. Proprietary algorithms tessellate the CAD files during conversion, the company says. The resulting low-polygon FBX files can be used in applications and engines such as Blender, Maya, 3ds Max, Modo, ZBrush, KeyShot, Unity, and Unreal.

Reverie, a maker of reconfigurable beds, reports that the software has reduced its average content creation period by hours, and sometimes even days. The company’s goal is to more easily develop assets, such as customer-facing graphics, from CAD models. For Reverie’s purposes, ONU 3DLite reduces the number of polygons in its CAD files — which can be one million or more — to “a couple of hundred thousand,” said Sesti, in what the company describes as a “drag-and-drop” process.


These screen shots illustrate selected stages of a Creo file conversion process in ONU 3DLite. Above, a Reverie STEP file with approximately 817,000 faces has been uploaded to 3DLite; after automated optimization, it comprises nearly 180,000 polygons.



The internals detection function helps users identify which parts are inside the model (indicated in green), and therefore can be excluded from view with the Hide Parts tool.
 

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CAD

With 2018 Release, Corel Still Striving to Serve Mac and Mobile CAD Customers

15 Dec, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff

While Windows-based CAD on desktop machines is still the norm, Corel seeks to offer its customers a range of choices — in platforms, devices, and more.



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CAD

Autodesk University 2017 Highlights New Tech

29 Nov, 2017 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Software and hardware launches and updates, plus new partnerships, are shared by Autodesk and other exhibitors at the annual user conference.



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Cloud-Based CAD

Cadalyst White Paper Takes a Different Look at CAD on the Cloud

19 Nov, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff

Curious about what the cloud means for CAD users today — and tomorrow? Get insights from industry expert Randall Newton.



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File Sharing/Publishing

Cadalyst White Paper Explores Future of CAD File Formats

19 Nov, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff

Are you wondering about the changing role of DWG and other familiar formats? This guide provides insights into the changing landscape of CAD data management.



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