MCAD Tech News (#253)

5 Nov, 2008

Technical Creativity in a Single Packagep>

Lenovo ThinkPad W700 workstation will appeal to technical — as well as creative — users.

By Jeffrey Rowe

Jeffrey Rowe photo

I don't often get a chance to review mobile workstations, but when Lenovo offered up the ThinkPad W700, I jumped at the opportunity — primarily for some of the novel features it has, but more about those later. I'm an MCAD guy, as well as an amateur photographer still learning Photoshop, and on paper the W700 seemed it would be suitable for both tasks, regardless of which hat I was wearing. Because of time constraints, I was able to test only one MCAD application, Inventor LT 2008, and Microsoft Photo Gallery for photographs. However, these applications provided me with a glimpse of what the experience might be for their respective bigger counterparts, Inventor Professional and Photoshop. I also ran a series of simple benchmarks from the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC), which I'll briefly discuss.

Opening the Box and Getting Started
Upon the ThinkPad W700's arrival, I unboxed it and was immediately taken with the size and heft of the unit. Weighing in at more than eight pounds (not including the AC power adapter), and having a closed size measuring 16.1" x 12.2" x 1.6", the W700 is classified as a mobile workstation, but with those physical attributes, it's more workstation than mobile.

The evaluation unit came loaded with Windows Vista Ultimate 64 (although other operating system options are available), an Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9300 @ 2.53 GHz CPU, and 4 GB RAM (up to 8 GB are available). Enhanced graphics capabilities were provided by an NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M, a recently introduced GPU developed specifically for high-end mobile workstations. With 1 GB memory, it provided excellent image quality and optimized visual computing application performance, complementing the overall W700 package.

The keyboard is a very generous size with a separate dedicated numeric keypad and plenty of room to rest your wrists. Because the keyboard does have such a large span, it is a little flexible in the upper right-hand corner, but not bad. Overall, the build quality is excellent. Admittedly, one of the key selling points for the W700 will be its 17", high-end display with 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) resolution. For those of us who must peer at a computer screen all day, the W700 display's resolution and brightness offers welcome relief. Read more »

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Cadalyst contributing editor Jeffrey Rowe is the principal of Cairowest Group, an independent industrial design, mechanical engineering, and technical communication consulting firm with offices in Colorado and Michigan. You can reach him by e-mail at or by phone at 719.221.1867.


Solid Thinking SolidWorks Tutorial:
CircuitWorks — Electro Meets Mechanical, Part 2

By Richard Doyle

In part 1 of this article on CircuitWorks for SolidWorks, we took a look at the various aspects of the program, including the interface and creating assembly models in SolidWorks. In part II, we'll concentrate on the CircuitWorks Component Library.

The CircuitWorks Component Library
CircuitWorks for SolidWorks uses the Component Library to store information about the SolidWorks models it uses to represent electrical computer-aided design (ECAD) components when it builds a SolidWorks assembly. Each time an ECAD file is loaded into CircuitWorks, the library is checked to see if the SolidWorks model already exists. If it does exist, CircuitWorks will insert the component into the assembly. If the component does not exist, CircuitWorks will create a new component using the footprint and height information contained in the ECAD data.

When CircuitWorks is first installed, the component library is empty, so a SolidWorks model will be built for every ECAD component. The components are stored in the database, and over time, CircuitWorks will become faster because it will spend less time creating components. When you open an ECAD file in CircuitWorks, you can tell by looking at the CircuitWorks Tree if a SolidWorks model already exists. Any components that need to be created will be marked with an ( * ) asterisk.

CircuitWorks uses certain criteria to determine if a component already exists. The user can set these options. Naming conventions for components is based on this setting. CircuitWorks extracts the component name information from the ECAD file and strips out any invalid characters before storing the SolidWorks model. All the while, CircuitWorks is using a simple SQL Lite database to cross reference the ECAD component name with the full file name and path of the SolidWorks model. Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events

Lean Product Development Conference
November 18-20, 2008
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
This three-day, high-level conference will look at lean product development and profit mapping for manufacturing across multiple industries and will provide a forum to share tools and best practices for incorporating lean principles in the product development process. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on