If you need an example for how CAD has revolutionized industrial production, look under your hood, says Zaia Abraham, president of PROCAD.
“The level of quality in a car engine designed in the 90s compared to now is phenomenal,” he says. “Not only is the product superior, but it is also made less expensively thanks in part to the CAD data distribution to parts manufacturers.”
CAD will continue to offer more accurate designs and quick prototyping, and has resulted in a higher level of efficient manufacturing production.
Zaia recently checked in with us to talk about the solutions PROCAD offers and shares advice on buying a great CAD workstation. Read on:
Tell us about PROCAD … what software do you offer? Who should be using it?
For over two decades, PROCAD has offered a wide range of plant design software solutions for a customer base that includes multinational resource companies, owner-operators, engineering consultants and pipe fabricators.
PROCAD applications include piping and electrical design with a focus on the chemical and O&G industries. The piping applications include 3D, 2D, P&IDs and isometrics. PROCAD provides its software as an add-on to AutoCAD or as complete solutions with included CAD platforms (AutoCAD OEM).
PROCAD also serves the pipe fabrication industry with SpoolCAD. This application simplifies the creation of spool drawings ready for manufacture. It comes with reporting capabilities such as BOM generation, weld lists and fabrication cost codes for estimation and billing.
What sets you apart from other CAD solutions?
PROCAD applications are cost-effective and easy to deploy. From the time a customer chooses PROCAD software, our staff will help with installation, setup and training; which allows the user to be fully operational within a few days. With intuitive interfaces, robust modules, excellent technical support and timely upgrades, customers are provided with the necessary tools to get their projects done on-time and on-budget.
What do you think are the most important considerations to make or questions to ask when shopping for CAD software, no matter what your industry?
To make sure it answers their pain-point issues. The software selection process should be given full consideration to ensure the right solution is chosen. The most important factor in software choice is when you know you can live with it for a long time. Purchase of software is the easy part.
What advice can you offer on shopping for CAD workstations? What should every CAD workstation include?
Getting ample RAM and a reasonable graphic card if doing a lot of 3D.
What sorts of considerations should we make when shopping for a professional monitor for CAD?
Fast refresh rate, high resolution, good quality color, screen brightness, and visibility when viewed from different angles
How should these workstations be arranged to best suit the user?
Networked workstations are the most efficient way to setup a design office. By organizing data on sharable servers, the drawings created by the different designers use the same standards and specs for the project they’re involved in.
What are some of the most exciting innovations you’ve come across in CAD Hardware?
The fact that an average machine can run reasonably complex CAD drawings without the need for very expensive graphics cards.
What sort of regular maintenance should we be doing to ensure our CAD hardware and software is running optimally?
Get extended warranties for the hardware, and keep software on maintenance. It’s important to have the latest releases of software to ensure compatibility with the latest CAD platforms and Operation Systems.
While it might not be the most exciting development in the CAD world, Scott Sweeney says Reuse is the most important.
“Did you know that people still spend 20 to 30 percent of their time fixing CAD models? What a waste,” the vice president of marketing for Kubotek USA says.
And it’s not because people are bad at CAD modeling, Scott says. It’s often because the most popular CAD modelers make reuse of CAD models so difficult.
“The dirty little secret is that many CAD operators will find it easier and faster to start from scratch than to reuse their own or someone else’s CAD model,” he adds.
To help solve the problem, Kubotek offers KeyCreator Direct CAD, which allows users to edit any CAD model, no matter what system it was created in, no matter how it was created. It’s the perfect solution for most applications, especially for job shops and contract manufacturers.
We recently checked in with Scott to learn more about Kubotek and get his take on what’s new and interesting in the CAD world. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about Kubotek 3D … what products and services do you offer?
We develop and sell the best CAD software and CAD Querying tools for Job Shops and Contract Manufacturers.
We have three specific product lines:
- 3D Direct CAD – KeyCreator Direct CAD, CAD Validation
- Comparison software Kubotek Validation Tool and ECO Manager
- CAD viewing software – Kubotek Spectrum Viewer and KeyMarkUp CAD viewer and mark up
What sets Kubotek 3D apart from other CAD software?
I am going to speak about KeyCreator Direct CAD – our flagship software:
- Simpicity – KeyCreator is a direct modeler. This is the simplest and fastest way to generate or edit a CAD model. There is no history tree to rebuild, give you errors or crash. Changes can be made to the model regardless of how the model was constructed, or the order of construction, or what software it was authored in. Most CAD software simply cannot do this.
- Cost – our software costs one-third to one-half the price of competitive CAD software, and this is also true of our maintenance agreement costs.
- Querying tools – KeyCreator has unparrelled querying tools, including the capability to view features’ dimensions on the fly, superior visualization tools and unique comparison technology that graphically shows — with colors — the differences between two versions of a CAD model, including its product manufacturing information or geometric dimensions and tolerance information.
What CAD innovations are your customers most excited about today?
Three things. First, we just integrated into our base package our full comparison technology. This technology allows for easy and quick graphical comparison of two CAD models. This was available at an extra charge in the past, but we felt that it was so powerful that we wanted all of our customers to have this option available in the base package. So it is now included in KeyCreator 2015, which has been shipping since October.
Our customers are loving our integrated analysis system, KeyCreator analysis. It’s a full multi-physics simulation system fully integrated into our Direct CAD system. You never leave the software, so there’s no exporting files. Update the CAD and the simulation can easily be rerun over and over to get to your optimal design.
They also like our fully integrated two and three axis CAM system. This is a very inexpensive solution for what machine shops do most – milling. We just recently added two axis wire EDM.
What are customers’ biggest complaints or frustrations?
One of the biggest complaint is that managers oftentimes dictate the wrong CAD software for their people to use. Without a clear understanding of which CAD is best for the work they are doing, managers can unknowingly reduce productivity and effectiveness of their organization. “One size fits all” is not true for CAD software. CAD software that is good for design of certain products or for OEMs may be a very poor choice for manufacturers. Managers should listen to and understand the requirements of their people when choosing CAD tools.
We meet CAD users at trade shows, they come to our website and they speak with us on the phone. We are hearing a growing sense of frustration with some large CAD companies that are forcing them to work with their intellectual property in ways that they are not comfortable. Autodesk recently announced that they will no longer be upgrading customers from one version to another. They must either become subscription customers or pay in full for a new license if they let their subscription expire. Other companies are moving their customers’ data into their cloud, which in essence locks them into their world and becomes a larger barrier to interoperability with other people’s CAD data.
What’s your favorite CAD hardware? What do you like about it?
Any modern Windows-based system with plenty of memory runs our software just fine. Be sure to have a professional graphics card too.
What types of monitors do you think are the most useful for CAD designers?
Whatever monitor or monitors you like. Most are usually a dual monitor set-up to be able to see and work on different parts of the model simultaneously.
What do you think are some must-have CAD accessories for designers?
We love the 3D Connexion 3D mouse. It allows you to drive the model with two hands and easily model in 3D space.
How often do you think CAD workstations should be updated?
If they start to bog the use down, they should be replaced. If they keep working at a good speed, no problem. We see all age workstations in our customer’s shops. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Hard drives, and SA-SCSI drives especially, face growing competition from a new breed of storage device: the solid-state drive (SSD).
An SSD stores data in solid-state memory — that is, SRAM chips — rather than on conventional hard disk platters. Today’s SSDs are large enough to be useful, and although not exactly economical, have come down enough in price that they can enter the conversation when it comes to outfitting a new workstation.
The advantage of SSDs? There are several, including less noise and better reliability in the face of environmental issues like vibration. Unlike the HDD, the SSD has no moving parts. But the real motivation to choose SSD is performance. More specifically, it’s about much lower latency, the time that lapses between asking the drive for data and receiving it. The SSD doesn’t necessarily offer a big benefit over hard drives in bandwidth — how quickly the data comes once it starts coming — but it eliminates the seek time for the hard drive’s head, delivering an indisputable advantage in access time. The downside is a glaring one: price.
Given the pluses and minuses, CAD users who have a slightly higher but not unlimited budget can entertain the option of SSDs in one of two ways. A combination of HDDs and SSDs in multiple drive bays — in particular, a smaller SSD with your OS installed paired with a large conventional disk drive for data — is very practical. Or choose a hybrid drive that combines the best of both worlds. This emerging technology is effectively a two-tiered memory device that implements its bulk storage on the cost-effective hard disk while implementing a much smaller, but much lower-latency cache on SSD. For frequently accessing reasonably sized chunks of data, you get the speed benefit of SSD without breaking the bank. Whereas an SSD currently commands ten times the price (or more) per gigabyte of a conventional 7,200-RPM HDD, the hybrid drive is a relative bargain at approximately twice the price (although the premium and the performance boost will vary by model).
The bottom line on selecting storage: Buy a lot more than you think you need, especially if you’ve chosen a system that limits you to one or two drive bays.
I recently read an article by an Intel product manager on the need for “ECC” (error correction code) memory in CAD workstations. From the article: “Corrupted data can impact every aspect of your business, and worse yet you may not even realize your data has become corrupted. Error-correcting code (ECC) memory detects and corrects the more common kinds of internal data corruption.”
For some reason this triggered my memory of the sudden-acceleration Toyota Prius incident from 2010. The popular press latched on to the idea that cosmic rays were screwing with the electronics in the Prius. While theoretically possible, the probabilities of this were astronomically low. It did however, make for a great story and the FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) caused Prius prices to temporarily plummet and sales come to a crawl.
Back to ECC memory and CAD systems. Is there really a need for ECC memory in CAD or is it just FUD marketing to upsell hardware and make products sound more valuable than they really are? I decided to do a little research.
Who needs ECC memory and what is its role in professional & CAD workstation computing?
Naturally occurring cosmic rays can and do cause problems for computers down here on planet Earth. Certain types of subatomic particles (primarily neutrons) can pierce through buildings and computer components and physically alter the electrical state of electronic components. When one of these particles interacts with a block of system memory, GPU memory or other binary electronics inside your computer, it can cause a single bit to spontaneously flip to the opposite state. This can lead to an instantaneous error and the potential for incorrect application output and sometimes, even a total system crash. However, the theoretical chances of a single bit error caused by a cosmic ray strike on your PC or workstation’s memory is fairly rare — only about once every 9 years per 8GB of RAM, according to recent data.
ECC technology — used as both system RAM, and in devices such as high-end GPUs — can reliably detect and correct these errors, reducing the odds of memory corruption due to “single bit errors” down to about once every 45 years for 8GB of RAM. Of course, just like everything else in life there are always tradeoffs. ECC memory is typically up to 10% slower and significantly more expensive than standard non-ECC memory.
Because the odds of a cosmic ray strike increase in direct proportion to the physical amount of memory (and related components) inside a computer, this is a real concern for large scale, clustered supercomputing and other environments where computing tasks often include high-precision calculation sets that can take days or even weeks to complete. In the case of supercomputer clusters, which often contain hundreds or even thousands of connected computer nodes and terabytes of memory, the odds of cosmic ray strikes on the system are much more likely — and much more costly. Restarting a week-long calculation on a supercomputer can cost a facility many tens of thousands of dollars in lost time, electricity and manpower —not to mention lost productivity.
But for even very beefy PC CAD workstation configurations with loads of RAM on board, you are probably not at imminent risk from problems caused by cosmic ray strikes and the resulting single bit errors. Over the course of your work, you are much more likely to endure system crashes or application hangs dues to failing components, power fluctuations and software bugs than due to cosmic ray strikes. Additionally, many applications in the desktop design and engineering space can actually endure a single bit error without negatively impacting the computing process or product. For example, if the color or brightness of a single pixel on a display monitor is changed due to this type of memory corruption on the system’s GPU, nobody will ever see or notice it. There are many such examples of this type of error not really impacting ones everyday work.
This said, many leading technology manufacturers are enabling their high-end products with ECC memory for compute-heavy (especially clustered supercomputing) applications where the benefits of using error correcting memory outweigh any comparative speed/cost drawbacks. AMD for example, has engineered their new AMD FirePro W9000 and FirePro S9000 ultra-high-end GPU cards to include ECC memory which can selectively be enabled by the end user and used for many advanced computing purposes where rock-solid stability and protection from space rays is crucial.
Author: Tony DeYoung
The longtime, tried-and-true hard drive remains the backbone of a workstation’s storage subsystem, but a new breed of solid-state technology is pushing its limits. Although they share the same basic technology as their ancestors, today’s drives are much bigger, faster, and cheaper. Traditional workstation hard-disk drives (HDDs) primarily come in a 3.5″ form factor, supporting SATA or SA-SCSI standards.
Essentially the same models that ship in corporate and consumer branded PCs, SATA drives are less expensive, sometimes dramatically so. (A terabyte for $50, anyone?) Pricing increases with drive capacity and RPM, an indication of how quickly the mechanical platter can spin within the drive and therefore how fast the drive can read and write data. The least-expensive SATA drives support 7,200-RPM speeds, while the highest-performance options jump to 10,000 RPM.
The second HDD option, the SA-SCSI drive, requires a motherboard interface that is also compatible with SATA drives (whereas a SATA interface will not support an SA-SCSI drive). With SA-SCSI, you’ll get the option to move up to 15,000 RPM, but you’ll sacrifice capacity and cash.
The Choice Between Speed and Capacity
Whether you choose a SATA or SA-SCSI drive, you will generally face a trade-off between paying for more RPMs or paying for more capacity, because buying both can be costly. Most CAD professionals would opt for capacity and costeffectiveness, because running out of space or money is usually a more glaring roadblock than facing modest shortages of access speed and disk bandwidth. Many of us are paranoid about running out of disk space — and we all should be to some degree, because data piles up faster than we think it will. If this describes you, consider purchasing extra drive bays that bring more room to add drive capacity later — although you can always fall back on external drives to shore up capacity down the road.
Here at CADspeed, we get a lot of questions about buying new hardware for CAD applications. While the answer to, “What CAD hardware should I buy?” varies widely based on the person asking the question, it always starts in the same place: with the requirements of the CAD software you plan to use.
Yet a list of minimum requirements can be, well, only minimally helpful in the quest for the right CAD workstation. Most CAD users need hardware that will not just meet the minimum specifications, but enable them to maximize their productivity.
CAD software developers know this, and they have a vested interest in making sure you get the bang for your software buck. So this series will explore recommended hardware for a variety of common CAD applications from the makers of the applications themselves.
We start this series with Autodesk, creator of 3D design, engineering and entertainment software that includes some of the most commonly used applications in the industry. Autodesk has developed a web site to help users find certified or recommended software for Autodesk applications.
The truth is, however, many CAD users don’t use just one CAD software application. It’s very common to use both AutoCAD and Revit on the same system, for example. The intriguing part of the Autodesk hardware site is you can select multiple products and find the common driver and hardware configurations that will work best for your system.
Certified vs. Recommended
On the Autodesk website, you’ll see two terms that you need to understand: certified and recommended. “Certified” hardware meets Autodesk’s minimum hardware requirements for the applicable Autodesk software product. At least one configuration (e.g., GPU + driver, or CPU + GPU + RAM + HD + BIOS) has passed tests designed to verify that the hardware supports the product’s features.
“Recommended” hardware meets Autodesk’s recommended system requirements for the applicable Autodesk product. At least one configuration has passed tests designed to verify that the hardware supports the product’s features.
A “Recommended” or “Certified” rating is based on the test results for a graphics card and driver or a complete system. Clicking the link for a card or system will reveal the results of each individual component tests.
|Recommended – Meets Autodesk’s recommended system requirements and has passed all Autodesk certification tests.|
|Certified – Meets Autodesk’s minimum system requirements and has passed all Autodesk certification tests.|
|Icon||Component Test Results*|
|Passed – When tested with this configuration, the hardware passed testing.|
|Passed with issues – When tested with this configuration, the hardware has some minor problems or features that are not supported.|
|Failed – When tested with this configuration, the hardware does not adequately support the product’s features.|
|No Results – This configuration has not been tested by the associated product.|
* Test results are valid only for the tested combination of hardware and driver. Certified or Recommended status does not guarantee that the graphics hardware will operate acceptably with other drivers or configurations. Driver-specific test results are available for some hardware and can be found by clicking on a product name in the Hardware List.
Other Terms to Understand
Before using the Autodesk Certified Hardware site, you should understand a few other common terms to make sure you are getting the right results.
- Workstation—Graphics hardware designated by the manufacturer as workstation-grade, typically meaning it is designed to work with 3D CAD applications
- Consumer—Graphics hardware designated by the manufacturer for desktop or gaming level use, typically meaning it is not designed or recommended for use with 3D CAD applications
- Mobile—Integrated hardware normally found in laptops.
- Workstation Desktop—Desktop system designated by the manufacturer as workstation-grade, typically meaning it is designed to work with 3D CAD applications
- Workstation Laptop—Laptop designated by the manufacturer as workstation-grade, typically meaning it is designed to work with 3D CAD applications
- Consumer Desktop—Desktop system designated by the manufacturer for desktop or gaming level use, typically meaning it is not designed or recommended for use with 3D CAD applications
- Consumer Laptop—Laptop designated by the manufacturer for desktop or gaming level use, typically meaning it is not designed or recommended for use with 3D CAD applications.
- Tablet—Touch-screen device with integrated components.
The Hardware List page contains only the hardware products that Autodesk has tested for use with certain Autodesk applications. Autodesk tests a variety of hardware, but focuses primarily on hardware the manufacturer has indicated is workstation-grade and designed to work with 3D CAD applications.
Unless otherwise noted, Autodesk hardware certification tests are run on systems containing a single video card with a single monitor attached. Autodesk does not currently run certification tests on systems with multiple graphics cards installed or multiple monitors.
Author: CADspeed Editors