We’ve been discussing Civil 3D and other CAD applications up to this point. But the average CAD workstation has to do so much more than CAD. Well if you are running a 64-bit operating system you are going to see benefits in these non-CAD tasks also.
Thanks to the aforementioned improvements in memory and computational management, even the most boring tasks will be improved. For instance Microsoft Office Excel will be able to open massive workbook faster and easier since it no longer has to break the data into “manageable” 2GB chunks. Microsoft Project will handle huge projects with greater ease and fewer stalls/crashes when multiple sub-projects are involved. Adobe Photoshop will render and perform file open/save functions much faster. And that is just to name a few of the great things that 64-bit operating systems can do.
But if CAD is really all you are concerned with then here is the best news of all. Many modern CAD applications are available in native 64-bit versions. These newly improved releases sport better reliability, data management, and memory utilization. What does that all mean? It means you will be rocking you CAD drawings at maximum velocity!
Next, we’ll sell it to your boss.
Author: Curt Moreno
Like the idea, but need a bit more information? Good. No one likes a sheep unless you need a sweater or are making kabobs. Let’s look at some reasons why Win7 64-bit is the way to go if you are doing some serious Civil 3D work.
We can separate the big boys from the posers with one question: Do you want to get as much value as possible from your workstation investment? If the answer is yes, then you have to take a serious look at Win7 64-bit. Civil 3D workstations are capable of some amazing things with new releases of software becoming more and more powerful. But if you want those point clouds and massive topo surfaces to render as quickly as possible, you need to give your workstation room to work. That means bringing as much RAM to the table as possible.
Old-fashioned 32-bit systems (even Win7 32-bit) have a measly 4GB maximum of possible RAM and only a little of 3GB of that will be available to Civil 3D! This creates a processing bottleneck that will slow down your system and make you wonder why you even upgraded your Civil 3D. Modern 64-bit systems operate with a MINIMUM 4GB requirement and go upwards of 128GB and more, depending on your OS choice! The processing difference between 4GB on 32-bit and, say, 16GB on 64-bit is like night and day. This will give you more value from the same hardware investment.
Each new release of Civil 3D and most CAD applications bring new and improved capabilities. From grater surface detail to larger and larger point clouds, all of these features are welcome with open arms by users. But these great new features also bring more processing overhead to CAD workstations that may already struggling. Older systems running 32-bit operating systems will show their age as these new features require greater amounts of memory, faster processing and longer rendering times.
By contrast, CAD workstations sporting modern 64-bit operating systems are ready for these challenges. As mentioned before, a 64-bit operating systems is nearly limitless in the amount of RAM it can apply to complicated tasks. But in addition to raw RAM, a 64-bit operating system using RAM more efficiently in its memory allocation and computational processing. This means that meg for meg, a 64-bit workstation manages its processor and RAM more efficiently than its older 32-bit counterpart!
Wait, there’s more. Upgrading to a 64-bit operating system affects your non-CAD tasks as well. We’ll talk about that topic next time!
Author: Curt Moreno
Many AutoCAD Civil 3D users are aware that upgrading to a 64-bit operating system, preferably Windows 7 and Windows Vista (in that order), will give the biggest return on investment when looking at improving performance. Other opportunities to improve performance also exist.
One is multiple or multi-core processors. For the most part, AutoCAD Civil 3D runs as a single process, which means it will not utilize more than one processor, even if they are available. The exception to this is rendering, where multiple or multi-core processors can result in as much as a 250% decrease in render time. Though Civil 3D does not take advantage of multi-core processing, having multiple processors can still be beneficial since it enables you to run processes, such as anti-virus and firewall software, as well as other applications—such as Outlook—on separate processors and provide a more dedicated processor for AutoCAD Civil 3D. If you are a user who multitasks throughout the day and runs several applications at the same time, you may see added benefits in multiple or multi-core processors.
When contemplating hard drives, you should consider the data transfer rate. Faster data transfer rates will help decrease the time it takes to open Civil 3D, as well as load and save drawings that are stored locally. In addition, a faster transfer rate can increase performance when utilizing the hard drive for virtual memory, especially with 32-bit operating systems.
Beyond hardware and operating system changes, there are tactics you can implement to improve the performance of your day-to-day work in Civil 3D. These include
- Using code set styles with no fill or a solid fill. Stay away from hatch patterns.
- Avoid using the option to grid clip profile views until producing construction documents. When working with pipe networks, turn off hatching, pipe cleanup and masking until producing construction documents. Using the option ‘Display as boundary’ is also optimal.
- Use single-label components versus multiples.
- When working with surfaces use 1) external point files versus COGO points, 2) surface snapshots when possible, and 3) Level of Detail (LOD) display
- When working with corridors, turn off rebuild automatically and don’t display regions you aren’t working with. Additionally, create cross sections in a separate drawing.
This combination of operating system, hardware, and workflow adjustments can help to optimize your experience working with AutoCAD Civil 3D.
Authors: Karen Weiss, Transportation and Land Infrastructure Industry Marketing Manager, Autodesk; Jason Hickey, Senior Support Specialist, Autodesk
With any design program, no matter how novice or experienced you may be, you’re probably prone to making the occasional error. Start off the right way by checking the basic system recommendations before installing Vectorworks CAD software. System requirements can be found on the Nemetschek Vectorworks website. Also spend some time learning how you can optimize your desktop or workstation and get the most out of your Vectorworks experience.
With Vectorworks software, users at all levels have very likely made some common mistakes. All of them are related to settings and shortcuts that are intended to make design work faster and more enjoyable, but for the uninformed user these shortcuts can also cause some frustration. But fear not—they are all very easy to remedy.
Problems with Plug-Ins
Vectorworks is rich in plug-in objects, such as doors and windows, which help users efficiently place intelligent objects in their designs. However, if you’re not familiar with these plug-ins, you might find difficulty inserting doors and windows into your walls. This is because these objects have ‘modes’ which provide several additional controls when using the tools. If a door or window isn’t inserting, it may be because “Wall Insertion Mode” has been accidentally turned off, thus preventing you from inserting doors/windows into walls. It’s simple to fix. Just enable the Wall Insertion Mode by clicking on the icon in the mode bar.
Skittish Selection Tool
Have you ever run into a problem where you suddenly can’t use your selection tool to resize something? If you’re like most users, you probably have. Just like our first common mistake, this behavior is caused by accidentally enabling a mode in the mode bar. In this case, you have enabled the mode “Disable Interactive Scaling,” which means you’re no longer able to interactively re-size an object with the selection tool. Again, this has a simple fix. With the selection tool selected, simply click on the Disable Interactive Scaling button in the mode bar to turn it off.
Cursor Cue Concerns
Keyboard shortcuts can be a very wonderful thing. Once you learn them, they save you time and dramatically improve your drafting/modeling efficiency. But, as helpful as they can be, these shortcuts can sometimes lead to errors. For example, you may have experienced suddenly losing all your SmartCursor Cues (visual screen hints that appear when hovering over specific points of objects, such as endpoint, center, midpoint, etc.). The cause of this sudden loss of cues is quite simple. You’ve likely accidentally hit the “Y” key, which has disabled your cursor cues. The quick fix for this? Hit the “Y” key again.
I hope these tips will help you avoid some of the common mistakes users make and allow you to maximize your efficiency when working with Vectorworks. For more Tech Tips, please visit the Vectorworks YouTube Channel.
Author: Juan Almansa, Product Support Manager, Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc.
The first post in this series discussed upgrade procedures under various organizational structures. Now, we dive into prioritizing upgrades. One thing is certain: as long as CAD software increases in power there will always be a need for upgrading and replacing CAD workstations.
While some companies have a policy of replacing all of the CAD workstations simultaneously, others provide workstations based on workload. “Typically I have prioritized computer upgrades in offices in a method similar to a nurse’s triage at a hospital,” Chris Currie wrote in the Cadalyst LinkedIn group.
Currie’s practice is certainly not unusual in the CAD world. With any one office participating in several disciplines or practices, it is very common for users in the same office or department to have differing needs. That is to say that the entry level CAD professional may not be doing the more complex, intense work of a senior employee.
Reusing Hardware Based on Functionality
Often companies seek cost savings in the area of hardware by moving workstations down. Drafters performing complex work may receive new workstations while more junior drafters receive the workstation being replaced. In effect, everyone gets a “newer,” more powerful workstation while providing a cost savings to the company.
Standardizing the Process
CAD software becoming increasingly powerful each year and the need for upgraded hardware does not look to end any time soon. It would help any CAD manager to standardize the process for upgrades to make the process less difficult. Take the lessons learned from this year’s hardware upgrade and document them to help you during future upgrades.
Whether your hardware upgrade procedure is well defined or a haphazard per event trial, leave us a comment below and tell us about it. CADspeed would love to hear from you whatever your process for requesting and providing new hardware may be.
Author: Curt Moreno
Previously on CADspeed, we’ve talked about upgrading CAD hardware from the IT perspective. Now let’s talk about the same subject, but from the perspective of the CAD manager’s desk.
It is that time of the year again when summer is in full effect and the fiscal year is well under way. The new releases of your favorite software programs are starting to roll in and you cannot wait to get them all installed. But, are you sure that your hardware is up to the task of all that new software? Will your current workstation have enough RAM? Will that old video card be enough to create the shiny 3D images on the developer’s website? As the CAD manager, these are all things that need consideration. So, exactly how do you go about the process of deciding what hardware needs to be replaced, who gets new workstations and what do you do with the old hardware?
The Responsibilities of IT Personnel vs. CAD Managers
We discussed hardware upgrades with several CAD professionals in the LinkedIn Cadalyst group to learn about their upgrade procedures. Some participants said their company has a dedicated IT professional who steps in to assist the CAD manager in hardware decisions. In some cases, the IT department had set schedule for hardware upgrades and cycling out workstations.
In other cases, IT would fulfill upgrade requests on an “as needed” basis. While this can be a real time saver for the CAD manager, it can easily turn into a difficult time sink. Difficulties can arise when IT does not fully understand the needs of the CAD department or its software.
Convincing the Decision Makers
One CAD manager said that his IT department did not fully understand the needs of modern CAD software. “I have a constant uphill struggle to convince the [IT] policy makers that CAD and GIS stations exist in much more demanding environment.” This type of situation results in hours and hours of research for CAD managers. Time is spent visiting developer and hardware maker websites and collecting data to convince the policy makers. All of which is needed because the IT department may have a standard, preapproved, specification for office computers. However, as most CAD professionals already know, the hardware needed to run Microsoft Word is very different from that needed to run GIS software. All too often, this situation resolves into an adversarial relationship between the CAD and IT departments.
On the other end of the spectrum is the CAD manager with little or no IT support. Whether or not there is a designated IT department in the company, these CAD managers are the main support for the CAD department. This creates a situation where the CAD manager has increased input on the need and specification for CAD hardware making for a Wild West tech situation. Of course, it is always nice to have more input on the hardware used every day, but this too can equate to a great deal of time and effort. In addition to researching and being aware of changing hardware needs, the CAD manager is now responsible for the success of that hardware and the reallocation of old hardware. That can be a good deal of unwanted pressure for any CAD manager.
Finally, somewhere between the above situations, is the mix of IT support and CAD manager input. This is probably the most common situation found in engineering and architecture offices everywhere. CAD managers and IT work together to create a specification that will suit the particular workflow. While IT may be key to acquiring, assembling and deploying hardware, it often falls to the CAD manager to recommend which users get the newest hardware.
Author: Curt Moreno
Since high performance, high scalability workstations can cost a bit more than traditional desktops or laptops, people should do some comparison shopping first. An entry-level desktop workstation can be both price competitive and still offer many features of traditionally higher priced workstations. So what should you look for when you are comparing hardware features?
Dual Core vs. Quad Core
One thing to consider is that CAD is still mostly a single-threaded application (yeah, there are some places it is not like rendering and FEA and it is slowly creeping into other aspects of CAD), but if you mainly do CAD modeling, max clock speed is the goal. On a desktop workstation, the quad core offers highest frequency (3.2 GHz) vs. the dual core (2.53 GHz). While six cores are not necessary for Solid Edge, you should consider what other applications you will be running, perhaps simultaneously, to determine the total number of cores you will need.
On a mobile workstation, however, both the quad core and dual core processors offer the same frequencies (max turbo), the quad core does so at a much higher price point. The base frequency on the quad core is lower (2.50 GHz).
Higher power graphics and more memory are both are important for CAD when loading complex models and assemblies and of course manipulating them fluidly. It is the workstation where the delineation between these components (memory, OpenGL graphics and CPU speed) and a normal desktop is most noticeable.
A couple folks on the Solid Edge forum pointed out they have gotten some good deals at the Dell Outlet store. These are not brand new systems and the inventory can fluctuate, but if you are on a tight budget this option may be for you. I’d hate to manage a CAD team where every designer has a different model, but for an individual or small shop, it might be worth considering.
Below are some sample configurations to help you in your research. These configurations were provided by Dell so Solid Edge users could have some comparisons during the Solid Edge ST4 Global Launch Event, held June 15-16, 2011, in Huntsville, Alabama.
Author: Mark Burhop – Programs Director, Velocity Technology Ecosystem – Siemens PLM.
Find Mark Burhop on Twitter http://twitter.com/burhop
In my last post, I theorized how advances in mobility technology will affect the CAD workplace. Now, what are these wandering CAD minstrels going to work on? Oh, that is the beauty of it all.
In this vision of the future that I have, mobile CAD applications and platforms will pop up everywhere. Today your CAD workstation weighs about, what … 15 pounds? What if it weighed one pound? What if it weighed less than pound? With current tablet technology, that is precisely what a mobile CAD station weighs! Imagine a future where technology brings us interfaces that are just a screen and no thicker or perhaps screens that fold or roll up for storage.
Think back to your childhood when we all watched the Warner Brothers cartoon that depicted the “House of the Future.” Remember all of those outlandish and whimsical imaginations of the robotic maid and the rehydrated seven-course meal? Use that mindset and imagine a world where your CAD interface isn’t on your tablet or phone. Imagine that is so archaic that it is laughable.
No, the future of mobile CAD is a world with holographic interfaces. It is a world where augmented related toolsets combined with GPS tracking and accelerometers allow us to see the unseen. Architects and planners will be able to visit a bare site and through the window of their “tablet” see the future construction in real space! They will walk around and see if the sink is too far from the kitchen island. If it is, they will use a tactile interface to revise the design and update the server files.
Right Here, Right Now
Would you like to know what the absolutely best thing about my insane vision of the future is? It is here, now. We are walking around in a world of people who are never unplugged. Information is flying at us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the little screens in our pockets and bags are lighting up and buzzing. Now that developers have seen the future begun to create software for this mobile tech, we are off and flying!
Maybe the screens aren’t folded and put into back pockets and the interfaces aren’t tactile, holographic systems. Nevertheless, the power to leave your desk behind and get at least some of your work done on the go is here. Now! So upload or email your drawing to your cloud or mobile device. Take your dog to the park and enjoy the breeze while he plays and you review those General Notes. If something needs to be changed, do it there on the bench. Do it today because who can say where technology will let us work on our CAD files in the future.
Author: Curt Moreno
Whether you are an individual user upgrading to AutoCAD 2012 design and documentation software or a CAD manager/IT professional upgrading the entire company, selecting the right system configuration is essential. The wrong decisions can cause years of frustration for the user. To build a system with greater longevity and better performance, use the recommended system requirements over the minimum requirements. In addition, when buying new hardware, consider certified hardware from Autodesk hardware partners. This is the hardware used in the development of the product.
As AutoCAD functionality continues to expand, multicore functions have been incorporated into the product, most notably in background publishing and mental ray rendering. Every available core is used and rendering is cut to a fraction of the time required on a single-core system. When it comes to rendering, the more cores the better.
In AutoCAD, graphics cards are most important if you are working with 3D models, particularly when applying visualization effects such as materials, shadows and lighting. That said, system stability can be greatly increased if you use AutoCAD Certified graphics and drivers. You will also notice better orbiting, panning and zooming performance with at least 256 MB of RAM.
During operation AutoCAD writes multiple files to the hard drive. For example, when AutoCAD performs AUTOSAVES, it writes a temporary file to disk. We have seen performance degradation in the current generation of solid state drives. We recommend standard SATA drives (7,200 or 10,000 RPMs) because of their higher reliability and faster write times.
Operating System and RAM
Operating system and RAM go hand in hand. With Windows 7, Microsoft has made great strides in stability, memory use and general quality. All modern systems should excel on Windows 7 (64-bit), when using at least 4+ GB of RAM instead of the 2 GB that 32-bit operating systems are limited to. When working on larger data sets, you will see better stability as well as reduced load and interaction times. If you are looking for a little extra performance, we also suggest going with as much RAM as possible to enable your system to crunch those big jobs in a flash.
Author: Randall Young, Autodesk Lead Engineer, Hardware Certification
This blog was developed by Longitude Media, publisher of Cadalyst.
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