Software is not something you simply learn once and move on.
Those that are the most serious about their careers and industries have always been lifelong learners, but this has become vital in today’s quickly evolving business climate.
To fill this need, the software training company SolidProfessor was formed to give CAD engineers all the training and certification in every major CAD platform they could ever need to stay at the head of their field and at the peak of their powers.
SolidProfessor’s Tony Glockler took a moment to tell us about SolidProfessor and some of the newest developments in the field of CAD software and workstations.
What is SolidProfessor? How did your company get started?
SolidProfessor is a team of dedicated engineers and designers creating the best learning experience for CAD and technical engineering software.
SolidProfessor was founded ten years ago by technical engineers and SolidWorks instructors who realized that the traditional classroom learning experience wasn’t effective for learning technical CAD software. Students would leave intensive five-day courses on SolidWorks overwhelmed and retain only a fraction of what was taught in class.
To compound that problem, new annual advances in software development provided additional capabilities; but there was no ongoing training process to support users who wanted to get up to speed with the new capabilities. SolidProfessor was created to provide an effective method for people to learn technical CAD software, and to also maintain proficiency as the software evolved.
Who are your main clientele?
Companies, educational institutions and individuals — anyone who uses CAD software and wants to develop their skills.
You provide businesses, individuals, and institutions with training plans for all the major software. In this industry, how important is it to keep up with progress? How often should people think about re-training or re-certifying themselves?
It’s critical to keep up with progress. Software is changing quickly and dramatically, allowing designers to innovate and accelerate time to market. Ongoing learning is essential to staying current with the latest technology and software capabilities.
The word “re-training” does not apply very well to software learning. It’s better to think of software learning as a Six Sigma or a continuous learning type of endeavor; people’s software skills should continually be improving.
Every time someone runs into a design challenge, there is an opportunity to learn and improve their skills. The concept of a “training event” like attending a class applies to learning a subject once. However, software is rapidly changing and improving, so this requires a different solution to learning other than a one-time training event. Creating a culture of continuous learning is a much more effective approach for technical industries.
Re-certification, which is a good way to verify that someone is maintaining software proficiency, should happen with every new software release as new capabilities are introduced and the software evolves. A user can be re-certified on basic skills through an assessment test, and can be certified on new capabilities by completing a mini-course on the new software functionality, as well as an associated certification test following the course.
What are some of the areas that you keep people updated on?
SolidProfessor keeps our members updated on new software capabilities as well as new best design practices.
How important is organization and workflow for productivity? How much time does a business or an individual stand to save by optimizing their setup?
Great question. It can be difficult to quantify, but organization and workflow are critical for a company to be productive and, more importantly, to compete in the market today.
As the size of a design team grows, so does the complexity of working together. Processes are essential for a team to operate effectively. Your team members can either be your greatest expense or your most valuable asset.
SolidProfessor helps you take control of your team’s productivity by rapidly onboarding new users and increasing productivity of your top performers. The administrative tools measure progress and knowledge retention with integrated tracking.
So far in this series, I’ve discussed how to determine if your hardware can handle the AutoCAD 2013 upgrade, how to outline your current and future needs and how to find new hardware if you decide it’s time for a new system. If you are looking for new hardware for AutoCAD 2013, here’s some specific components to look at closely.
The Processor and Video Card
A video card is easy enough to change out, but they can be very expensive. If you are working with 3D models and create a lot of renderings, make sure to get a good video card. “Regular” 2D CAD work will also require a good video card. Go through Autodesk’s list. Don’t fall into the trap of getting a gaming card. CAD requirements of video cards are very different from game requirements. CAD is a precision tool. Games are not. Games need speed. CAD needs accuracy.
RAM is another component that is easy to update later. Make sure you get ECC RAM (Error-Correcting Code Memory). One of the requirements of being a “workstation” is having ECC memory. This type of computer memory can detect and automatically fix common types of data corruption. That means fewer crashes while working in your CAD software!
Each motherboard will carry a certain amount of slots for the RAM chips. Get that number of chips. Each slot has a channel in which it can pump data through. If a slot is empty, then that channel isn’t being used.
What are you going to do for internal storage? I’m talking about the hard drive. Workstations typically have support for RAID, or Redundant Array of Independent Disks. Essentially this type of storage system has multiple hard drives, each mirroring the other. If one fails the workstation still works because the second drive is still running. It’s automatic and can keep your CAD users working. Of course this will increase cost, but it could prolong the life of your workstation.
How much storage space is enough? If you are storing data files, images, videos, etc. on your network instead of your workstation, then you shouldn’t need much storage. 500 GB should be enough for most systems, probably even 350 GB. Make a list of all of the software programs a user needs, include the operating system, and add up the space needed. Leave room for growth and there you go.
The price of hard drives is always dropping, and the amount of storage space on each drive is always increasing. Getting a little less storage capacity could help reduce cost.
As I mentioned before, you will be better served if you treat the recommended specifications as the minimum requirements. So let’s say you have determined that you need new hardware to run AutoCAD 2013. How do you pick the proper hardware?
Autodesk, like many software vendors, has lists of certified hardware. These certifications are there to ensure users that AutoCAD 2013 will work properly when using that hardware. Autodesk has provided a list of video cards and other equipment that they promise will work. Does it mean that it will be fast? No. But they do promise it will work properly.
Independent Software Vendor Certification
Autodesk and other vendors have established cooperation with several hardware vendors to certify that the workstations you purchase will run their software. These are called ISV Certifications. ISV stands for Independent Software Vendors. If you were to purchase a workstation from Dell, HP or Lenovo (for example), they will have systems that have ISV Certifications. That means the hardware manufacturer (HP, Dell, Lenovo) has sent a workstation to Autodesk for testing. Autodesk runs the workstation through the paces and says, yes, this will properly run AutoCAD. This is important because not all computer components are created equally, nor are all components created to run CAD software.
ISV Certification is typically only done with workstations. Workstations are not your typical PCs. Workstations are made for durability, long-term use in harsh environments, and for high precision work. They are industrial strength machines. They will cost more, but users will find that they have less downtime, less “lag” and overall better performance. Workstations guarantee that the machine you purchase has a minimum set of requirements for video cards, processing power and storage requirements. If you are running CAD software every day, you really should be running a workstation.
Find the Right Workstation for You
How do you pick the workstation you need?
- Make sure it is certified by Autodesk for AutoCAD 2013.
- Determine your budget.
- Then take a look at what each vendor has to offer.
We started this series by looking at our current hardware and if it’s up for the job. Next, let’s examine if your hardware will still work with your future needs, which may include going from 2D to 3D or adding cloud computing and mobile devices to the mix.
2D vs. 3D
If you truly want to make sure you are getting proper hardware, make sure to consider the type of work you do. If all you do is 2D work, then your hardware needs will be less than if you are creating 3D models or creating photorealistic renderings. Many firms are considering a jump to 3D. If so, often new hardware will be an important part of the upgrade.
Do you reference data across your network? Networking needs can go beyond workstation issues. It’s possible your workstations are slow because they are using data on a slow server or network. Check it out.
Work in the Cloud
AutoCAD 2013 has a lot of native cloud-based integration. Will you or could you perform work in the cloud? Autodesk’s cloud-based rendering service is currently free, but this won’t last for long. They are currently offering it for free until they fully work out the costs and pricing. However, you could save on hardware costs for your rendering by using this cloud rendering service as a short term answer instead of investing in new hardware.
Will you incorporate mobile devices? Autodesk has AutoCAD WS, a mobile CAD program that can view and edit AutoCAD DWG files. This mobile connection is also built into AutoCAD 2013. This may mean that you will also need to consider mobile hardware in the form of smartphones or tablets.
Autodesk Design Suite
If you are purchasing or have upgraded to an Autodesk Design Suite then you will also have greater hardware needs.
Answer these questions before you even start looking at new hardware. Determine what you are currently doing, what you plan on doing, and what you currently have hardware wise.
The Best Hardware Configuration for AutoCAD 2013, Part 1: Can Your Current Workstation Handle The Upgrade?
Autodesk releases a new version of its flagship design software AutoCAD every year, as it has since AutoCAD 2004 came out in 2003. This yearly cycle poses a dilemma for CAD and IT managers because new software may require new hardware. Before you install AutoCAD 2013, you need to know if your current hardware can handle it. Budgets are tight (when aren’t they?), and production cannot stop.
Here are some steps that you can take to make sure your hardware is up to snuff to run AutoCAD 2013.
Assess Your Needs
First off, if you are currently running AutoCAD 2010, 2011, or 2012 and are completely happy with the performance of your hardware, then 2013 will probably run fine for you. If it has been three or more years since your last hardware update, it is time to look at your hardware needs. Three years doesn’t mean you will have to update your hardware, but it is a good time to assess your needs.
Start off by spec’ing out your current hardware. What operating system are you running? Are you using a Mac or a PC? Are you using the current version of your OS?
At this time, AutoCAD 2013 does not support the latest version of Mac OS — OS X Mountain Lion. An update for this should come out soon enough though. Also, Windows 8 (due in late October 2012) is not currently supported either. This doesn’t mean it won’t work, it just means that Autodesk does not guarantee that it will work or work properly. Keep the OS in mind.
If you are using a 32-bit version of Windows, consider updating your OS to a 64-bit version. AutoCAD 2013 comes in both versions, but the 64 bit version will perform better.
Minimum vs. Recommended System Requirements
Autodesk has system requirements for AutoCAD 2013. There are two categories; minimum and recommended. Each category contains lists for 32- and 64-bit systems as well as for 3D requirements. Take the minimum requirements literally. These are the minimum specs you need to turn on AutoCAD. Running with these specs in production will be painful at best.
You will be better served if you treat the recommended specifications as the minimum requirements. If your current hardware meets the recommended specifications, or exceeds them, then it is likely you will be ok. But do you want to work on a level of production that is “ok”?
When people think of cloud computing, benefits such as convenience and portability often come to mind. After all, the cloud may or may not deliver a faster experience for users of CAD solutions when compared to desktop processing. With this in mind, why then is cloud computing garnering so much attention these days?
It’s simple. The real benefit lies in the significant speed gains that emerge in your workflows. So if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs and monitoring your desktop CPU as it churns away at processing complicated client presentations, a cloud-based workflow could drive some needed improvements.
For example, under normal circumstances, if you want to generate a set of construction documents in PDF form, containing 10, 20 or even hundreds of sheets, sections and details on your local machine, this process can tie up your desktop for a considerable amount of time and lock you out from working. This forced downtime will vary, depending on the complexity of the viewport update and render.
Utilize the cloud, however, and the steps are basically the same, but you gain the benefit of being able to use your desktop during the process. This is because the calculations needed to generate sections, elevations, renderings and Building Information Modeling (BIM) data shift from the desktop to the cloud.
Cloud Services From Vectorworks
To synchronize and compute presentation and construction documents in the cloud, simply drag your Vectorworks file to the Cloud Services Desktop App’s project folder on your CPU, and wait for a connection. The file may reside temporarily in a queue based on load. Next, the remote server processes your file just as your desktop would, and results are automatically downloaded to your desktop or mobile device.
Cloud servers are very capable from a hardware standpoint, and can manage multiple file instances at once, meaning uploads won’t interrupt your workflows. Additionally, the Vectorworks Cloud Services sync can be automated to occur based on a user-defined schedule —sort of like a “set it and forget it” option.
Vectorworks Cloud Services users have up to 5 GB of storage capacity, and files are transferred over a secure HTTPS connection to and from the cloud, encrypted with AES-256, a U.S. government adopted security standard. Stored files are similarly encrypted. We also use Amazon Web Services for our cloud infrastructure, which enhances reliability and availability by providing redundancy and multiple data centers worldwide. (Read more about cloud security at http://aws.amazon.com/security/).
Leveraging Mobile Devices
Another benefit of the cloud is that it lets people use iOS hardware they already have to be more productive. For example, our cloud product features the Vectorworks Nomad app, which lets users browse through and share their designs from any computer or web-enabled device, such as an iPhone or iPad. So whether you’re at your desk, in a meeting, on the job site, or on vacation, you can view, mark up, share, and synchronize Vectorworks files across your devices and with your colleagues. The app runs on any iPhone or iPad that has iOS v5.0 or later, and an Android version will debut later this year. (The Vectorworks Cloud Services desktop app requires OSX 10.6.8 or newer and Windows XP SP 3, Windows Vista SP 2, or Windows 7.)
Today’s iOS hardware relies on Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G data networks, which makes them a perfect conduit for communicating files processed in the cloud. So just imagine the possibilities as these mobile devices become more powerful and as the services to match these capabilities also grow.
In the meantime, CAD software users can take advantage of their iOS hardware to access files in a practical way. And from a project management perspective, it’s all about increasing the efficiency of employees to do more. Embrace cloud services and you’ll make your workflows and your teams more efficient.
Author’s Note: Vectorworks Cloud Services is currently available for free to members of Vectorworks Service Select, a subscription program that provides customers with the latest product releases and updates, as well as priority technical support, and VIP access to downloads and a growing library of on-demand learning tutorials. Visit www.vectorworks.net/cloudservices to learn more.
Author: Jeremy Powell, Director of Product Marketing, Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc.
The release of IMSI TurboCAD Pro v19 this spring marked the first version of this CAD platform available in a 64-bit version. Previous versions of TurboCAD were only available as 32-bit, which limited the use of onboard memory for opening and manipulating large CAD files and for performing memory-intensive functions such as photorealistic rendering. No longer! Now TurboCAD users can experience the full capacity of the 64-bit versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
The Advantages of a 64-Bit Application
The advantage of a 64-bit application working on a 64-bit OS means the program can address up to 48 times more available RAM (memory) than with a 32-bit application.
TurboCAD user Ken Friend has been using desktop CAD to create model kit designs. Initially, Ken used TurboCAD for 2D plans but then quickly evolved in using it for 3D design, taking advantage of the solid modeling capability introduced back in TurboCAD v6.
At that time, he designed a radio-controlled glider, which used an electric motor to take the plane to altitude. Once at altitude the motor would be switched off and the plane would glide back to earth. Ken said that one of the advantages to using TurboCAD at that time was the great way you could design rounded corners (3D fillets) for the fuselage and wings.
Rendering with 64-bit TurboCAD
More recently, Ken has been involved in modeling an ocean liner, the Normandie, with TurboCAD. Ken is making the model as the ship was originally built in the early 1930s. The rendering below of Ken Friend’s cruise ship file (250 MB) was never even able to be opened with previous versions of TurboCAD, let alone rendered!
Ken has been working on this modeling project for the past 2 1/2 years. Back in 2009, Ken actually received a third place in one of the first TurboCAD Challenges put on by Don Cheke for an early version of this 1/350 scale model. Ken’s goal is to create a kit that can be sold to modeling hobbyists. Ken’s been able to reduce the size of the model from 250 MB in size to a more manageable 65 MB by converting much of the solid modeling detail to surfaces.
He’s also now taking advantage of advances in 3D printer technology, including the more affordable prices, in order to manufacture the ship’s hull in sections. He hopes in the future to also print out smaller, more detailed components of the ship as well.
With a 64-bit OS and TurboCAD v19, users no longer have to struggle to open large files or see that annoying message in the middle of your rendering that says the system is low on memory and may not be able to complete the operation. Instead, if your system has additional memory, the 64-bit version of TurboCAD Pro will fully utilize it and large drawings will open smoothly and can be edited or rendered without a significant fall-off in performance.
Author: Bob Mayer, Chief Operating Officer, IMSI/Design
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