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A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 2: Getting Started in AutoCAD 2015

February 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

A CAD Dinosaur's Journey into Modern TimesMy new CAD workstation arrived! I threw my T-Rex arms up in delight! The trouble is that they’re so tiny that no one noticed…. I really need some arm extensions. Maybe with time they’ll grow.

Due to my office remodel, I delayed setting the new workstation up for a week or two. Plus, after an anxious wait, Autodesk agreed to supply a new AutoCAD license in exchange for my writing a blog about my journey out of the dark ages of hardware and AutoCAD software. Now, I had to decide if I wanted a license to 2014 or wait for the soon-to-be-released 2015?

I decided to download the free 30-day trial version of AutoCAD 2014 to get familiar with it, and then move to the full version of AutoCAD 2015. (As you might recall from Part 1 of this series, I was using AutoCAD R14, so I had a LOT of catching up to do.) Reviewing the product selection on the Autodesk web site, I choose to go all in and sample the Autodesk Product Design Suite Ultimate to get a taste of the product offerings related to my machine-design needs.

Gigabytes Are Large

I’m not sure what I was thinking. Maybe I wasn’t thinking. I’m a dinosaur, you know, so there’s not a lot of room in my brain for such things. At any rate, I didn’t immediately realize that 33 GB is somewhere around 1,000 times more than 33 MB, which doesn’t sound too bad. But I did come to that realization shortly after I started the download process at 6:45 p.m. After 10 minutes, I checked on the download progress; the system indicated that 1 day, 14 hours remained. Oh, no! I finally gave up around 11:30pm and retired for the night. The download completed overnight, and upon snooping around I noted the last file timestamp was 12:50 a.m. That put the total download time at just over six hours. Compare that to a calculated download time of 40 minutes for AutoCAD 2015 (3.9 GB), based on a rate of roughly 17 Mbps.

Getting Acquainted

Installation went smoothly — a very nice surprise. I have etched in my tiny memory the pain of installing software during the Microsoft Windows 95 era, so there is always a certain amount of trepidation when it comes to installing a hefty program.

I anxiously launched AutoCAD 2014 and was greeted with the default dark background. Long ago I had accustomed my eyes to a white background and adjusted my display and linework colors accordingly. Changing defaults was no problem — setting options is still a right-click in the command window, so I simply adjusted the settings in the Options Display dialog box to my color preferences. Whoa, you can see by the two images that AutoCAD includes a much greater number of optional settings, and the dialog box is even resizable. I started by saving the default settings to a separate profile and made a new one for changes. (Note that images shown are from 2015)

Difference in options for AutoCAD 2014 versus AutoCAD 2015

AutoCAD Release 14 Preferences (left) versus AutoCAD 2015 Options dialog box (right). Note that 2015 offers MANY more options.

The grid is turned on by default as of AutoCAD 2011, although I prefer to work with the grid turned off, so adjustments also were in order. Hmmm… I didn’t see a specific setting in the Options dialog box, so I have to dig around. Once I start banging around with my stubby appendages, I finally discover that <F4> brings up the Drafting Settings dialog box where I can turn off the grid and updates other settings.

Options in AutoCAD 2015

I think it might take me a while to get to know all of the new options and how they will improve my workflow, but I’ve got a feeling they’re going to benefit me in many ways yet to be discovered.

Next up was copying my support files, block libraries, and customizations to the new workstation along with some current project files. I anticipated that some of my customization files would need modifications to work properly, but I wasn’t under any sort of tight schedule to do so. That turned out to be a good thing, too, as there was much to get up to speed with.

The most obvious difference between R14 and 2014 was the ribbon interface along with tool palettes and other sundry display and input options. I had become somewhat familiar with the ribbon interface, having previously used DWG TrueView, Inventor Fusion 2013, and other Autodesk software. I was determined to further acquaint myself and commit to its use.

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Dinosaurs

I had hoped to get more familiar with AutoCAD 2014 and the plethora of software included in the Autodesk Product Design Suite before my trial expired. As it turned out, I was able to only dabble with several programs, including Inventor, one of my greatest interests. Surprisingly, 30 days goes by rather rapidly — in fact, it was over in what seemed like no time at all.

But soon AutoCAD 2015 would be on the scene, and I would begin my journey out of the swamp.

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Interested in giving the AutoCAD ribbon a(nother) go? Check out “Give the AutoCAD Ribbon a Second Chance,” a four-minute video from Cadalyst and Lynn Allen, Autodesk evangelist, that illustrates the advantages of moving to the ribbon and offers tips for making the transition as easy as possible.

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About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 1: Emerging from the Swamp

February 18, 2015 1 comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

 

1-acadblog-T-rex-iheartcadAs are most nights here in the swamp, it was dark and stormy. Fortunately, my Internet connection held up. Surfing my favorite CAD sites, I came across an interesting contest sponsored by Cadalyst that just might help me out of this swamp.

It seemed Cadalyst was just itching to give away a professional CAD workstation to someone who submitted the best video explaining his or her need for a more powerful computer.

From the Beginning

Let’s back up a bit. Allow me to introduce myself: Call me T, short for T-Rex, short for Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yes, I’m a dinosaur. You see, for the longest time I’ve used AutoCAD R14 — yes, the original R14 — for all my machine design work. R14 was very capable and served my purpose, but as time passed, and as the days and weeks continued their relentless passage, I felt more and more mired in the swamp of obsolescence.

Perhaps this contest would be my ticket into modern times. My walnut-sized brain spun into high gear as I crafted my video submission and lo and behold, my video was a winner. Woo hoo! Or, as we say in dinosaur parlance, “Rawrrr.”

The new, state-of-the art professional workstation was going to change history for this T-Rex — but it was only part of the solution. To emerge fully from the swamp, I would need modern CAD software as well. But how could I afford it? A new version of AutoCAD would cost a pretty penny.

So, I pitched an idea.

If Cadalyst could persuade Autodesk to supply a copy of AutoCAD 2015, the latest version of the software, I would gladly write a series of articles journaling my transition from AutoCAD R14 to 2015, sharing my experience and the benefits gained by moving out of the technological dark ages and into modern times. It could be a win–win–win for Cadalyst, Autodesk, and T.

You can imagine my big-toothed grin when the idea was met enthusiastically and I was given the thumbs-up to proceed.

Join the T Team

Being the dinosaur I am, I would be relatively content to apply my new software to my old work style. But the purpose of upgrading to new software is to learn the new tools and, more importantly, to put them to productive use.

I’ve got a good idea about the things I want to improve upon and how I might use the new tools. But this technological transition is a tall order, especially for a guy with short arms, so I invite you to participate in my journey. How can you help? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’m guessing a number of you are currently working with an older release of AutoCAD with an eye on upgrading. I’m confident most of you work in different engineering fields than I do and use AutoCAD in vastly different ways. AutoCAD 2015 holds new features that don’t interest me but would likely appeal to you. Send me your suggestions! Maybe I could actually use those tools — or at least I could experiment with them in new and exciting ways.

So, I invite you to send me your questions about things you may have heard about in modern AutoCAD. I’ll do my best to explore them, and in that way add you to the “win” equation.

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Stick around and watch original video from Patrick Hughes T:

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About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

Expert Interview with Scott Sweeney on Reusing CAD Models

January 19, 2015 Leave a comment

CAD ModelsWhile 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!

Connect with Kubotek on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Expert Interview with Jimmy Bergmark About AutoCAD

January 8, 2015 Leave a comment

AutoCADJimmy Bergmark of JTB World has decades of experience in the AutoCAD industry. That’s why he started his own business to help fellow CAD users.

He agreed to share his experience in that industry with readers in this interview.

Please describe your background and how that background benefits JTB World.
In 1983 I got a Sinclair ZX81 computer and got hooked by what computers could achieve; I started to learn BASIC and after that took every opportunity to learn more about computers and programming and later selected an education with that focus. Starting in 1989, I got to work with building engineers using AutoCAD helping out with automating their drafting work using AutoLISP.

For nine years I worked for an EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) company as an Architectural and Structural Engineer, CAD Manager, Database Manager, Development Manager and System Manager. One great thing with that work was that the factory and office were side by side so we could see what we did be put into practice and also get quick feedback from the crew on the factory. During that time, I started JTB World in 2001 as a side business where I made good use of my experience of finding ways for companies using CAD to work more effectively and cut costs by automating tedious work. Since 2006, I’ve worked with JTB World full time together with my wife, creating apps that are sold through our website and now also on Autodesk Exchange Apps as well as creating custom solutions both for one-man shops as well as large enterprise companies.

Describe the services offered by JTB World.
JTB World focuses on programming services mainly for the AutoCAD and Revit platforms but also for Microsoft Office and Windows in general. Most programming is done with AutoLISP, VBA, VB.NET, C# and sometimes in C++, often involving connections to software like Excel or databases like Access or SQL Server. JTB FlexReport is a license and application usage monitoring solution offered by JTB World to help customers to manage their software licenses and be in a better position when it’s time to make decisions on maintenance, upgrades and new purchases that often can be very expensive. With the help of JTB FlexReport, it’s easier to know historic usage and estimate future usage.

When it comes to AutoCAD, what do customers say are the most beneficial features offered by JTB World?
My many years of using and programming for AutoCAD benefit our customers greatly. If a customer has an idea or a problem, it can in most cases be realized or solved with a custom solution that saves them time and money. Sometimes what the customer wants can be done with existing AutoCAD
functionalities, and I’d rather suggest them how to use these than to create a custom solution. Other times, AutoCAD is lacking functions some customers need, and I try to create something to make AutoCAD more powerful.

JTB World has, for example, the SSMPropEditor app that is for users of AutoCAD’s Sheet Set Manager. One customer said, “This program is one of the best values for the money we spent. I have mentioned this to management several times. The program and the support is above and beyond.” Another customer said, “I’ve purchased the SSMPropEditor and it’s the best investment I have made in my life. I’m editing custom sheet set data regarding drawn-by and checked by and lots of other data for hundreds of sheets in seconds while it took me days to do it.”

What are some of the biggest issues CAD users come across, and how do you address those issues?
Often similar things need to be done on multiple drawings. It can be from updating title blocks, plotting, extracting information to Excel to updating drawings to meet certain requirements. Existing apps like SmartPurger or AutoCAD Automation Tools are great for batch processing. Sometimes small apps done, for example, in AutoLISP can go a long way while in other cases the complexity can require days of work to program but still save even more time and costs compared to doing it manually.

Please name some trends happening in the field of CAD and how JTB World addresses those trends.
There’s importance of consistency of information and data when working with CAD. BIM is a big trend that has going on for years. BIM can be implemented by companies in different levels where even AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architectural can play a part, but the problem is that there is data both in the CAD system and in other external databases, and here JTB World both has existing apps like ACAD_db and ACA_db that link data between databases and CAD as well as custom solutions to fit specific needs. Other companies take BIM even further with Integrated Project Delivery and use the data better for both construction as well as building operation, and there are a lot of opportunities for a company like JTB World to help companies to achieve these goals.

What kinds of tips and tools does JTB World offer for CAD users?
There are several AutoLISP apps and code snippets I have put up on my site that can be used for free, and on my blog I share useful tips like Length of object label with free app for AutoCAD or Slow to license and start Revit.

What benefits do individuals experience when using JTB World?
Customers can draw upon my experience of having worked in and for companies similar to their own. I have done drafting and engineering work myself and know how frustrating certain things can be and how much help a bit of programming or customization can do.

Please share anything additional you would like individuals in the CAD community to know about JTB World.
Customers can get help with questions or apps that are done within less than an hour all the way up to large, complex projects that take weeks or months and often where many programmers are involved. Feel free to contact us at JTB World, and we will do our best to accommodate you by reducing your work load, minimizing errors when things are done manually and saving your company some money. We look forward to hearing from you.

Follow JTB World for more CAD tips on Twitter.

Categories: Connectivity, Workstations Tags: ,

Are IT Managers Ready for CAD Management?

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

The problem with new innovations like CAD and BIM (Building Information Modeling) is that, to most executives, it all sounds like a normal extension of the job of the IT manager. After all, it’s all “technology,” right? So the “information technology” specialist ought to be able to handle it.

Though many IT managers are well suited to managing CAD initiatives, skills in one field do not necessarily imply skills in the other. It takes training and hard work for the IT manager to become a successful CAD manager. What does your IT manager need to do to become a skilled and efficient CAD manager?

The Right Education and Experience


Image Credits: By FTTUB via Flickr
Evaluate the skills needed for CAD implementation in your environment, then endow your IT manager with those skills.

A background heavy in science, engineering, architecture, and/or systems development is best. CAD managers need the ability to:

  • Understand which hardware is best suited to the CAD environment
  • Develop efficient workflow processes
  • Identify, implement, and manage the right software systems for the job
  • Write clear and easily understood documentation on standards of practice
  • Train users on new systems
  • Be available and willing to offer user support

CAD managers aren’t just tech gurus; they also have to be good hands-on managers. It’s crucial to offer the IT/CAD manager good management training in addition to the technical training needed to do the job. Cadalyst’s Workstation Resource Center is broad collection of workstation-related resources written specifically for CAD managers and users. This resource center is ideal for creating a checklist for your IT manager to prepare for taking on CAD management.

Necessary Skills

In addition to the basic skills in MS Office, Project, and database management, CAD managers need to be able to handle:

  • Cost accounting
  • Document revision and control
  • Project planning and leadership
  • Records keeping
  • Quality control
  • Reporting and scheduling

Not only should a CAD manager have these necessary skills, he or she also must be able to understand how each relates to the other and be able to visualize and develop better ways of getting these things done.

Helpful Skills

CAD Management
Image Credits: By Innovate360 via Flickr
The skills and tools your IT manager needs to take on CAD are different than those for other IT-related management duties.

Some additional skills that are helpful for a CAD manager to have include experience with the software applications used by the CAD team. Additional skills may be advisable, depending on the CAD environment the manager will be working within, such as EPO tools, SCRUM, GANTT charts, and CPM diagrams. Often, the IT manager taking on CAD responsibilities is the best resource for which training he or she needs to get the job done.

An executive who is willing to listen to what the IT/CAD manager tells them about training, hardware, and software needs usually results in better CAD rollout experiences than an executive who ignores the pleas of the IT department. Cadalyst Whitepaper Library offers free, downloadable whitepapers, guides, and more on all manner of CAD hardware and software topics. It is an excellent resource for preparing your IT manager for taking on CAD management responsibilities.

Responsibilities of a CAD Manager

Look at the CAD manager as an in-house consultant. When the IT manager is endowed with the proper training and resources, this position can boost productivity and efficiency, eliminate waste, improve customer satisfaction, and overall do more with available resources.

For more advice about CAD management, follow Robert Green on Cadalyst.com and subscribe to his CAD Manager’s Newsletter.

Resources:

 

Categories: Workstations Tags:

Create 3D Models with MAP-21 Requirements Using Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler

November 20, 2012 1 comment

Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler, part of the Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite, Premium and Ultimate editions, is civil infrastructure software developed to:

  • Enable planners, engineers, and designers to model existing infrastructure and import detailed models in order to create realistic 3D models of the environment;
  • Sketch early-stage designs directly into 3D models;
  • Create and manage multiple alternatives;
  • Communicate visually rich infrastructure proposals; and generate preliminary design models which can be used to create submittal documentation in civil engineering software, such as AutoCAD Civil 3D.

In the following post we’ll describe how to use existing information to create compelling 3D design visualizations with MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) requirements in mind.

If you are installing Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler for the first time, review the hardware requirements to ensure your hardware will run the software efficiently. (For more advice on the best hardware configuration for Autodesk software, review our series on AutoCAD 2013. Much of the same advice applies to other Autodesk products.)

Once installed, to create a realistic 3D model using Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler:

  1. Start Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler and click new from the start page.
    Start Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler and click new from the start page.
  2. Choose a directory and name for your project.  If you know the extents of your project you can also enter them in here.
    Choose a directory and name for your project.
  3. With the project started, data is imported and used as the basis for your 3D model. Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler allows you to combine 3D and 2D data in order to create a full 3D scene.  For this post, we will use a terrain model (DEM) as our base 3D layer, and all of the other contextual data, like imagery, roads, and buildings come in 2D formats.  Click on ‘Data Sources’ from the ribbon; on the ‘add file data sources’ dropdown, select ‘Raster’.  After import this data source shows up in the ‘Data Sources’ panel.  Double-clicking the data source allows you to modify the viewing properties of this data source.  Click the ‘Close & Refresh’ button at the bottom of the configuration window to generate a 3D visualization in Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler.
    Click the ‘Close & Refresh’ button at the bottom of the configuration window to generate a 3D visualization in Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler.
  4. Add imagery using the same procedure.
    Add imagery using the same procedure.
  5. Use the same process to add roads, but use SHP as the Source Type.  In this example, roads are stored in a 2D Shapefile.  After import, double-click on the newly imported data source to configure it.  Select ‘Roads’ as the ‘Type’ in the dropdown list.  With ‘Roads’ selected you can now configure the roads style and other properties based on the metadata that comes with the Shapefile.  For instance, you can choose a style rule to match the 3D road style (striping, sidewalks, median, number of lanes, etc.) based on existing metadata.  Click the ‘Close & Refresh’ button on again to generate the 3D visualization.
    Use the same process to add roads, but use SHP as the Source Type.
    Select ‘Roads’ as the ‘Type’ in the dropdown list.
  6. Lastly, we’ll add buildings to our scenes using the same procedure outlined in step 5.  Select ‘Buildings’ as the ‘Type’ in the dropdown list.  Since the buildings in this case are 2D footprints, we’ll select an attribute with a Z-value (elevation or height) from the ‘roof height’ dropdown.  Once again click the ‘Close & Refresh’ button.
    Since the buildings in this case are 2D footprints, we’ll select an attribute with a Z-value (elevation or height) from the ‘roof height’ dropdown.

Voila! You have just created a 3D model using Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler.  You can use this model to sketch preliminary designs of new infrastructure which includes roads, railways, city furniture, water areas, and even buildings.  You can also exchange information with Civil 3D – using the IMX file type – to maintain consistent data and context as the project is further developed.  This 3D model-based approach enables you to deliver on MAP-21 requirements for 3D modeling and visualization, on infrastructure projects of varying scales.

This 3D model-based approach enables you to deliver onMAP-21 requirements for 3D modeling and visualization, on infrastructure projects of varying scales.

Author: Justin Lokitz, Senior Product Manager, Autodesk.

The Best Hardware Configuration for AutoCAD 2013, Part 4: Processor, Video Card, RAM and Hard Drive

October 31, 2012 35 comments

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

Make sure to focus on the processor and the video card when looking for a new workstation. Especially the processor. This component is the most difficult to upgrade latter on.

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

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.

Hard Drive

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.

Author: Brian Benton

The Best Hardware Configuration for AutoCAD 2013, Part 3: Review Recommended Hardware

October 24, 2012 6 comments
AutoCAD 2013

AutoCAD 2013

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.

Autodesk has a website where you can go and look at individual components, or look at full workstations to help find the system that is right for you.

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?

  1. Make sure it is certified by Autodesk for AutoCAD 2013.
  2. Determine your budget.
  3. Then take a look at what each vendor has to offer.

Next we’ll talk about individual hardware components to focus on.

Author: Brian Benton

The Best Hardware Configuration for AutoCAD 2013, Part 2: Current and Future Needs

October 18, 2012 3 comments
AutoCAD 2013

AutoCAD 2013

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.

Networking

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.

Mobile Devices

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.

Next we are going to look at those recommended requirements for AutoCAD 2013.

Author: Brian Benton

The Best Hardware Configuration for AutoCAD 2013, Part 1: Can Your Current Workstation Handle The Upgrade?

October 10, 2012 7 comments
AutoCAD 2013

AutoCAD 2013

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”?

Next I’ll discuss planning for future needs.

Author: Brian Benton