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Archive for October, 2011

Hardware Considerations for Maximizing the Performance of Vectorworks 2012 Software

October 27, 2011 3 comments

Vectorworks 2012In September we announced the release of the 2012 version of Vectorworks® software. The release contains more than 100 performance and usability improvements to help users save time and increase their productivity. If you’re thinking about trying one of the Vectorworks design series programs, or if you’re ready for an upgrade, you may have some questions about hardware selection. Here is a brief overview to get you started.

Core Considerations

The main benefits provided by hardware to Vectorworks 2012 come from the number of CPU cores available, as well as their individual clock speed.

If you use Renderworks, the Vectorworks rendering application, you’ll want a CPU with multiple cores because when rendering in Renderworks® modes, Vectorworks 2012 software is capable of utilizing dozens of cores. These cores can all be accessed at the same time, which drastically decreases the rendering time over older single-core machines.

Thoughts on Memory

Memory (RAM) is less important to Vectorworks software, with a good base being 4GB to allow plenty of free RAM for the operating system, as well as for the Vectorworks program and a few other applications to run in the background.

Vectorworks is normally not very memory intensive, so you would not notice the difference between two machines with identical processors and video cards. For example, if one had 4GB and one had 12GB, your experience with the program would likely be similar. However, there are instances where more memory can be helpful to you. For example, if you run multiple apps on your machine, such as CINEMA 4D or Scia Engineer, extra RAM will be useful to improving overall performance.

Drive Decisions

The other aspects to consider when choosing hardware for the Vectorworks 2012 program are video cards (which are covered in detail here), and the drive the machine will use. Vectorworks would receive a mild benefit to open/close times and speed increases when saving files if you were to use an SSD (Solid State Drive) as compared to a regular 7200RPM HDD (Hard Disk Drive). However, you would not notice significant drafting speed or rendering speed increases if you used a faster drive.

To learn more about how to maximize your Vectorworks 2012 software experience, please see our list of Vectorworks system recommendations.

Author: Jim Wilson, Technical Support Specialist, Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc.

Tips on Buying Wide-Format Printers for CAD, Part 3: Setting It Up

October 24, 2011 1 comment

Connection Cables for Wide-Format Printers In this series, I discussed ways to determine your needs and the different types of wide-format printers. Now let’s talk about setting it up.

The resources department filled your request for a new printer. It can handle your workload, media requirements, and color needs. You went the extra step and purchased multiple printing devices that will take the same core size of rolled paper and the same type of toner. Good job.

Did you contact the IT department (assuming you aren’t the IT department) to let them know? Will these new high-speed printing machines work on your network? Will they work with your software? Can the operating systems your users deal with handle them? Probably but it would be wise to make sure. This is a very crucial step in picking out new printers. Will they work with your system?

Electrical Needs

Some printers have special electrical needs. Many require dedicated power connections. Talk with the manufacturer about these topics. Where will they be set up? Is there ample room? Can the service technician get all of the way around them for maintenance?

Network Issues

A key issue to consider is how the printers will communicate with your network. Make sure to coordinate with your IT department on this as it can be tricky. Do not assume the printer will work because the salesperson says it should. If printers are being added to the network and are not replacing older machines there could be a capacity issue. Will there be a need to print from outside of the office? Will users need wifi printing abilities? How will their workstations communicate with the printers?

Software Drivers

Once communication issues between workstations and printers is determined to be adequate, what software issues will there be? Printing from a word processor like Microsoft Word is completely different from printing from AutoCAD. Throw in other popular programs like Adobe Photoshop and there could be issues. Are specific drivers needed? Who is going to install them on the workstations? How will they be maintained?

Maintenance

Establish with your IT department who will maintain the printers. How will they be named? In AutoCAD, a printer name is important. If the printer’s name changes down the road, there will be issues. Page setups often rely on printer names for identification. AutoCAD isn’t smart enough to know it’s the same printer. Page Setups will have to be fixed. This is a good way to upset many users in one step.

Whatever system is put in place, keep it and keep it simple. Later on if it is found that the system just doesn’t work, then fix it. Try to impact everyone as little as possible. Maintain the printers through the network as much as possible. It could be a long day if you had to go from workstation to workstation to fix a renamed printer issue.

Author: Brian Benton

Tips on Buying Wide-Format Printers for CAD, Part 2: Choosing the Right One

October 18, 2011 4 comments

Choose the Right Large-Format Printer for CADIn part one of this series, I discussed ways to determine your needs. This is the most important step. It won’t matter what printer is purchased if it can’t do what you need it to do. This post will cover the different types of large format printers.

Inkjet or Laser?

There are many different types of printers to choose from. These days’ printers are typically either inkjet or laser. Dot matrix and pen plotters are rarely used anymore even though they can be fun to watch.

Inkjet printers are typically less costly than laser both in initial cost and in ink/toner refills. However they do not produce the same quality print as a laser nor are they as fast. One popular option for some CAD firms is to purchase a laser printer for black and white prints and an inkjet for color prints. For smaller document sized prints, a color laser printer could still fit within the constraints of a budget. Keep in mind your needs. If color, large format prints are produced on a daily or regular basis, then a large format laser printer may be required. The cost can be justified.

Printing documents is a key part of your office’s workflow. It’s important to remember your company’s needs when looking at large format printers to determine how many you need and what kind is best for you. If printing doesn’t happen very often then spend less. If printing happens often, spend what is needed to fit the workload.

When You Need More Than One

Many times more than one printer is needed. Do yourself a favor and plan ahead. Try to purchase the same kind, same manufacturer, same core size (for rolled media), the same everything as much as possible. This makes purchasing maintenance easier and less expensive. It also reduces the space needed to store items. If your two printers are different makes and models then they will require different ink or toner. You will need to purchase ink for printer one and ink for printer two and store them. However, if the two printers took identical ink cartridges then if you purchased one extra it can be used in whichever printer runs out first. Keep your maintenance costs down be making sure as many printers as possible use the same media, ink, etc.

Next I’ll discuss tips for setting up a new large-format printer.

Author: Brian Benton

Tips on Buying Wide-Format Printers for CAD, Part 1: Determine Your Needs

October 13, 2011 1 comment

Before CAD became our main design tool, we drew our creations on “the board.” Once drawings were complete, there was a physical product — the drawing itself. It was very likely a piece of vellum or mylar or perhaps just a simple sheet of bond paper. I have even worked with drawings on linen. These drawings could be presented to a client, approval board or municipality. All you needed were copies. That was easy — fire up the diazo and try not to inhale too many fumes.

Read wide-format printer reviews at cadalyst.com.

Read wide-format printer reviews at cadalyst.com.

When CAD replaced the drafting board, there was a fundamental shift in the drafting process. Engineers and architects no longer handed their master drawings to a designer, who handed it to a detailer, who perhaps eventually gave the approved drawing to a tracer or even to an inker. With CAD software there is no physical object to pass through the ranks. Everything is digital. We don’t get a physical sheet drawing until the design is over.

It’s not always easy getting your design on paper.

Each CAD program has its own methods of printing, but we all have similar hardware issues to address when we print from CAD software. When it’s time to get a new plotter (and when I say plotter, I mean wide-format printer), there are a few things to consider when buying the right one for you.

What Do You Need to Print?

Every company is going to have different printing needs. Different design industries will have different requirements as well. The first step in picking out the printer hardware is to determine what your firm prints. Create a list of what this new machine will need to accomplish. Start with the size of the drawings your company produces. List every size and frequency. Will any printing be outsourced or will multiple sheet sets be printed in house? This will help determine the tray and feed roll capacities. If multiple sets will be printed, then print speed will have to be considered.

Who Will Be Printing?

Think about the end users as well. Will multiple users be printing at the same time? This could clog up printing and frustrate staff. Depending on workload, two printers may be a wise choice.

Color or Black and White?

Perhaps a department needs the ability to produce color exhibits. Get one color printer for them and a black and white for everyone else. Or simply only use the color printer only for color prints.

Figure out what will be printed, who will print, when, and how often. Next we’ll talk about the types of printers and how to choose the right one for you.

Author: Brian Benton

Remote Graphics and the Professional CAD Workstation, Part 4: Sustainability

October 11, 2011 3 comments

Sustainability and Remote GraphicsWe’re talking about remote graphics in this series. We’ve outlined the potential benefits for CAD users, the reduced hardware costs and the security advantages. This post will wrap up this discussion with some details about sustainability as well as some final comments.

Remote Graphics = Greener and More Sustainable

Ever notice the noise and heat in an office with just 5-10 CAD workstations? Imagine a big CAD firm running 100 workstations? Using remote graphics you replace the energy-hungry, heat-producing, noise-polluting workstations with quiet, cool thin zero clients. That translates to reduced AC costs and reduced stress in the workplace. Moreover since you can now use one rack-mounted workstation/graphics card for every 4 workers, you also reduce overall power consumption and costs. That is what sustainability is all about.

What About Microsoft’s RemoteFX?

You would think that with all of the marketing hype around RemoteFX (e.g., the FirePro 7900P/9800P and Nvidia Quadro/Tesla), that this would be a great solution for the CAD user — with claims of support for up to 25 users!  But alas, this is not a CAD solution.  Because the RemoteFX 3D display adapter driver in the virtual desktop is based on DirectX, it will not support OpenGL or OpenCL, so that eliminates most professional CAD/CAE applications.  Even for the  AutoDesk DirectX-accelerated apps, the hypervisor creates a virtual graphics driver. This means there are none of the CAD-specific optimizations typical in certified FirePro or Quadro drivers.

So while a great solution for general office use, full-motion video and very basic DirectX 3D apps, RemoteFX is not a viable solution for the professional CAD 2D or 3D market.

Remote Graphics Will Not Replace Your High-End Professional Workstation — Yet

I started this blog with somewhat of a strawman idea about using remote graphics to replace professional CAD workstations.

The real question is not if you should replace all of your high end workstations, but rather to examine when and where it makes economic and performance sense.

For the true CAD power user, remote graphics is not there yet in terms of matching performance with a dedicated local workstation with a top-of-the-line FirePro or Quadro-based graphics card.

But for users working on 2D drawings or moderate complexity 3D models:

  1. If you are a large company about to install new workstations or replace end-of-life existing workstations, you should carefully look at remote graphics as a way to significantly reduce costs and improve the ambient work environment.
  2. If you have real IP security issues where you need to tightly control what CAD information leaves the office, then PCoIP hardware on the remote graphics card and the zero client translates to heightened security for all users.  For the user who works with moderately complex CAD, a 1:1 remote graphics setup will not save costs, but it will increase security.

Author: Tony DeYoung

The CAD World Thanks You, Steve Jobs

October 7, 2011 4 comments

Thank You Steve JobsCADspeed editors would like to pay tribute to Apple cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs, who passed away on Wednesday. Although PC users outnumber Mac users in our field, often it was technology conceived by Jobs and developed by Apple that influenced and even transformed the CAD world over the years.

Under Jobs, Apple released the first Macintosh 128 in 1984, according to Wikipedia. Just a year later, Diehl Graphsoft was founded and released MiniCAD, which became the best-selling CAD software on the Mac. Alongside MiniCAD, Diehl Graphsoft also released Blueprint, a 2D CAD program for the Mac targeted at architects. Now MiniCAD is known as Vectorworks and Diehl Graphsoft is Nemetschek Vectorworks, still major players in the CAD world.

In those early years, Apple made forays into several technical, architectural, and engineering markets. Over the years, the company lost ground to PCs in some industries, but Apple stood strong among its dedicated users in 2D design and video markets. Some major CAD software developers, including ArchiCAD and Vectorworks, have supported Mac users for decades.

Jobs stood fast in his belief that hardware and software created by the same company was the way to develop the best products. Apple’s rise in the past decade, with the introductions of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, is a testament to his vision.  “If the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software is their soul,” was one of the last things he said publicly, at an Apple event on June 6.

Today, Jobs’ legacy lives on in the recent re-release of AutoCAD for Mac and the growing number of CAD-related apps built on Apple’s iOS platform. Because of Jobs, somewhere right now a CAD designer is sitting on a bench in a park, eating lunch and using an iPad to view and mark up a CAD drawing. One man’s vision changed our world. From all of us, thank you, Steve Jobs.

Remote Graphics and the Professional CAD Workstation, Part 3: Security and Service

October 4, 2011 3 comments

We’re talking about remote graphics in this series. We’ve outlined the potential benefits for CAD users and the reduced hardware costs, and now we’re going talk about the benefits for the heavy-duty 3D users.

Why Would You Need Remote Graphics for Heavy Duty 3D CAD?

Security Advantages of Remote Graphics for CADIn a word: security. With remote graphics solutions that include hardware accelerated PCoIP technologies (like the RG220), all transmissions are encrypted 128-bit AES. The data resides on the server and graphics card and never is at risk for theft (inadvertent or intentional) from the local machine. If the projects your company handles are super top secret, the IT admin can enable user authentication and peripheral (USB) authorization or even opt for zero clients without USB ports.

Think about engineering companies who do projects for government or large defense manufacturers. These sites might have hundreds of user and security truly matters.  Remote graphics give high performance, but eliminates many security issues.

For highest performance, one remote graphics card is mapped to one thin client.  The levels of performance in this kind of 1:1 scenario is basically about 90% what you can do on a FirePro V7800 (the pre-Cayman architecture).  So to be realistic about expectations, this is not top of the line performance, but it is more than adequate for many 3D projects. The big gain is security.

Reduce Time Servicing and Managing Systems

Imagine you have 100 employees doing basic CAD. With remote graphics, from a central location you can push out software updates, even while employees are working on the system.

For example, there is oil and gas company in Canada using the FirePro RG220 to push out computing set ups to remote oil prospecting sites up to 100 miles away. Because the cards use full PCoIP hardware display compression/security encryption, they provide fast connections with minimal latency that can tackle moderately complex 3D designs/GIS analyses.

In our final post, we’ll discuss sustainability advantages with remote graphics.

Author: Tony DeYoung

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