Posts Tagged ‘Workstations’

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 In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation.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.


Stick around and watch original video from Patrick Hughes T:


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 Josh Mings on CAD Workstations

February 6, 2015 Leave a comment

CAD workstations

Josh Mings of SolidSmack understands the ins and outs of technology, especially when it comes to CAD. He says his site is dedicated to helping those in the industry – no matter if they’re just starting out or have been in the game for years – get the most out of their technology process.

Mings shares more of what SolidSmack offers engineers, designers, and everyone else in between in this interview.

SolidSmack offers a wealth of information about 3D CAD, technology, design and more. What does the SolidSmack team strive for to keep current with the latest in CAD technology?

We’re dedicated to covering the process, whether that’s how tech is used, ninja-like fab skills, or the blood, sweat, paper cuts and aluminum shavings it takes to bring about their idea. There’s news, of course – tech and design that affects the process for engineers and designers – so we mix that in with general interest topics, occasional arts and crafts, apps, robots or ninjas, and there you have your SolidSmack.

What elements go into creating the ideal CAD workstation?

Well, there are two routes you can go: building your own or buying from an OEM. But most will rely on their company to choose, so it’s important to woo the decision maker and bend them to your will. You have to consider what software you’re running, whether it’s CPU or GPU intensive, if it’s dedicated to only CAD software or running other programs which may require more RAM, and if you’re going to be mobile or not – which limits some factors and increases price, but you will have more options with mobile workstations here in the future.

Describe some of the courses cadjunkie offers. How do these benefit those using CAD no matter what their skill level may be?

Cadjunkie offers cad-ninja honing beginner to advanced courses, primarily for SolidWorks and modo. It’s the fastest way to get up to speed on either. Adam O’Hern provides the instruction based on real world experience with different products, and also has a voice that isn’t annoying.

How does SolidSmack help those using CAD to better their skill in 3D modeling?

Butter, lots of butter. It’s our hope that the stories and courses we publish provide more insight into technologies and using the software, while staying up to date on how the design and engineering landscape is changing.

How have CAD workstations changed over the years? How has SolidSmack addressed these changes?

I don’t think anyone would argue that they are now smaller and more powerful. I remember using “Lunchbox” computers and hauling around desktop monitors to demo SolidWorks. Now, people run 3D software on tablets with more power in mobile workstations than ever before. We’ll review these workstations occasionally to show how capabilities are improving.

What are the top three aspects of SolidSmack that make it stand out?

The content, the depth, the attitude.

How do all of the aspects of SolidSmack integrate with each other to facilitate a complete experience for CAD users?

They provide deeper insight, across a broader range of content, with any additionally necessary hyperbole, sarcasm or wit to make it just slightly more palatable than stale bread.

How big of a role does design play in the lives of everyday people?

They cannot escape it. The design affects them more than gingivitis or a bad hair day could ever hope to. Now, if you’re referring to the design process, most are only involved with that indirectly with the designers WHO WATCH THEIR EVERY MOVE.

Please share anything additional you would like readers to know about SolidSmack.

We’re always interested to hear from people about what they would like to see more of, story suggestions, if they’re interested in writing for us or have a favorite dessert recipe.

Follow SolidSmack on Facebook and Twitter.

Expert Interview with Ian Nichols on CAD

February 1, 2015 1 comment

CADAutodesk Revit is a powerful design suite specifically created to take advantage of Building Information Modeling (BIM), a new way of documenting projects with revolutionary implications in several industries.

Ian Nichols, the author of the Revit Zone, is passionate about this new software and its abilities. The Revit Zone is where he shares that passion and years of knowledge and experience. He also shares extensive knowledge of BIM at the website BIM Scape.

He took a moment to tell us about Revit, Building Information Modeling, and their potential with CAD Workstations.

Can you introduce us to Revit Zone? Where are you based? When did you get started? What differentiates you from other CAD sites out there?

I started the Revit Zone website way back in 2007. The idea was to share my enthusiasm and knowledge of Autodesk Revit with fellow professionals and students alike. At that time, there were very few websites and blogs dedicated to Revit. It just seemed a good idea to me to share my experience of learning and using the software.

Who are your main clientele, and what do they stand to learn at Revit Zone?

Many different design professionals visit Revit Zone. These include architects, tecnhologists, MEP engineers, surveyors, contractors and some clients too! Over the last few years, I’ve started to see a lot of students visiting the site as Revit becomes the standard software tool to learn within universities and colleges.

The description of Revit Zone states simply, “passionate about Autodesk Revit.” What is about that software that you are so passionate about?

When I discovered Revit way back in 2004, it totally revolutionied the way I worked as an architect. It liberated me from the process of “drawing” and allowed me to start “modelling” my designs. This meant I could spend much more of my time thinking about the scheme itself rather than worrying about how I was going to put it down on paper. For me, this way of working just ‘clicked’ and seemed very natural and intuitive. Obviously, the software has come a long way in those 10 years, but the fundamental principles of what makes it so good were there right from the start. This passion eventually led me to start my own BIM conpany, BIMscape Ltd.

In the introduction to your website, you said that it quickly became apparent for you that BIM was the way forward for CAD software. For people that don’t know, can you briefly explain what BIM is and why you feel like it’s so useful?

BIM is an acronym for “Building Information Modelling”. In essence, it’s all about building a virtual model of the design, authored by various members of the design team. The virtual model can then be analyzed, integrated and tested in a vast variety of ways (coordination, aesthetics, cost, buildability, etc) before it ever gets to site. Consequently, the entire Project Team can be a lot more confident about what is required, how it will perform, what it will look like, and how much it will cost to build, run and maintain; all before the first brick is laid. This is a quantum leap forward from the days of drawing lines on tracing paper by hand!

Do you use CAD Workstations in the office, and if so, which ones?

I personally use a Dell M3800 Mobile Workstation. It’s a fantastic mixture of power and portability.

What are the advantages for an engineer using a CAD workstation?

CAD workstations are configured for the job at hand. CAD and BIM software are evolving all the time. These packages can be very demanding on hardware, particularly when they are handling a large design proposal. It makes sense to have the right tool for the job.

A recent study by David S. Cohn Consulting showed that a software and hardware upgrade resulted in productivity nearly doubling. Why is an efficient workflow and setup so essential for maximum productivity, and what are some things that people can do, to optimize their own setup?

Software and training for CAD and BIM platforms can be very expensive. So it is short-sighted to cut corners on the hardware. Repeated crashes and data loss for an inadequately-spec’ed workstation can result in many hours lost or even deadlines missed. It is always wise to refer to the software vendor’s recommendation with regard to the specification of hardware required to practically run the platform.

If people are thinking of getting a CAD workstation for the first time, what are some specs that you recommend? How much RAM should they be looking for? What kind of processor? What are some things people should consider when looking to upgrade their setup?

For Autodesk Revit, an i7 Quad Core processor is ideal. I would suggest 16GB of RAM for the production and manipulation of average size models. A workstation-grade graphics card is also highly recommended.

You talk a lot about architectural design at Revit Zone, but CAD software can be used for a lot of different engineering situations. Have you worked in industries outside of architecture, and if so, which ones? What are some specific challenges that face engineers working in other fields? What are some ways that Autodesk Revit is good for those challenges?

Autodesk Revit is focused on building design. Its tools facilitate the production of architectural components. In addition, it can also produce components related to mechanical, electrical and plumbing disciplines. These disciplines all share the same common set of issues; i.e., coordination, cost, maintenance and (in some cases) aesthetics.

Why is it important for an engineer or a firm to be as efficient as possible in this day and age? How much time and money stand to be saved by running at maximum efficiency?

The world of work is a very competitive place now. Software tools like Autodesk Revit allow designs to be conceived, developed, analyzed and built very quickly. This in turn raises client expectations and quickly sets the standard. Anyone not adapting, evolving and utilizing these state-of-the-art tools is (in my opinion) will very likely fall by the wayside.

For more updates from the Revit Zone, follow them on Twitter.

Expert Interview with Tony Glockler of SolidProfessor on Continual Software Education

January 28, 2015 Leave a comment

Software educationSoftware 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.


For more info and updates from Solid Professor, like them on Facebook, connect with them on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, and subscribe to their YouTube channel.


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.

New Features of HSMWorks 2015

January 10, 2015 Leave a comment

The big news for HSMWorks 2015 is its support for SolidWorks 2015, which was released in September of 2014. Since the Service Packs released frequently by HSMWorks are notably beefy, adding new features and improved functionality in between annual version releases, support for SolidWorks 2015 is the most notable update. However, version 2015 also has some other features and benefits to consider if it’s time to upgrade your software.


Improvements for Multiple CPU Systems


HSMWorks 2015

Version 2015 is ideal for systems with multiple core processors.


For CAM professionals using a multiple CPU system, HSMWorks 2015 offers noticeably more support for the latest generation of Intel processors, and supports up to 36 total core processors within a single system. This eliminates the bottleneck associated with software that only utilizes a single core.

The new version also reduces the amount of cycle time needed for processing, which increases the lifespan of the CPU. HSMWorks calls this feature Enhanced Adaptive Clearing technology for high-efficiency roughing. Version 2015 is also well suited to higher-end workstations because it allows for rapid toolpath calculation and post processing and makes last-minute changes easier. With HSMWorks 2015, engineers can get programs on the shop floor faster than with previous versions.


Adaptive Roughing

HSMXpress (available as a free download from the HSMWorks website) comes with 2D Adaptive Roughing strategy, and the full HSMWorks 2015 version comes with both 2D and 3D Adaptive Roughing strategy. Not only does this popular feature reduce cycle times, but it improves tool life by utilizing better toolpath algorithms. Version 2015 offers more control with the “Stay Down Level” tab and the ability to avoid chatter and reduce tool wear.


Improved 3D Capabilities


HSMWorks 2015

3D looks more realistic and renders faster in version 2015.


Version 2015 also offers better 3D simulation capabilities, which is most useful for users in the mold and die industry, as well as users who work with larger models and sculpted surfaces. It features “Fast 3D Mode,” which is useful for more complicated endeavors, as well as the “Simulate” function that users of HSMXpress will easily recognize.


Better Simulations

Simulations of HSMWorks 2015 are more visually accurate and give a better idea of how the process will perform before implementation. This version makes it easier to hone and fine-tune everything before hitting the green button on the CNC machine. Specifically, the “Show Stock” feature has been improved, and it now takes less than two seconds to simulate a realistic or common 3D toolpath.



You can download HSMXpress for free, and it comes with a free 30-day trial of HSMWorks 2015 so that users can decide whether the new features and functionality are worth the investment. HSMXpress and HSMWorks are compatible with SolidWorks 2013 or later, and requires Windows 7 or Windows 8 General Release (32- or 64-bit, though 64-bit is recommended), and dual or quad core processors. Minimum display resolution is 1,024 x 768 with true color (1,600 x 1,050 with true color is recommended).

For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD. Get even more reviews, news, tips, and tricks on CAD workstations, software, and more at the Cadalyst website today.

Expert Interview with Mirza Coralic About BabaCAD

January 4, 2015 Leave a comment

CADHelpful software is something virtually everyone can relate to. The only problem with helpful software is that many times this comes with a hefty price tag. BabaCAD is different.

BabaCAD is free software for CAD users and developers. According to Mirza Coralic of BabaCAD, the site is beneficial for both the novice and experienced CAD user. The site offers a full suite of downloads to help meet the needs of users.

In addition, the site’s forum and blog help address common questions among CAD users, so those using the software can always find answers and helpful tips.

Here, BabaCAD’s Coralic described some of the biggest and best features of BabaCAD and shared some plans for the free software site’s future.

BabaCAD offers free software for individuals to create their own technical designs. How does this free software differ from what people can purchase?
BabaCAD as a freeware software differs in a few minor features from costly commercial software. Missing features can be compensated by using LISP scripts or programming new features using free BabaCAD API.

What do you think makes up the perfect workstation for CAD users?
BabaCAD is very economical because users don’t have to change their workstations to work with it. Minimum recommended configuration is dual core workstation with 128 Mb. But, users who can afford Intel i7 based workstation with GEForce GTX 980 and SSD disks will experience BabaCAD like driving a new La Ferrari (startup time < 0.2 seconds).

In terms of the perfect workstation for CAD users, I would recommend everyone to go for middle-powered workstation from graphics workstation market, and I guarantee a good CAD performances using most CAD software packages today.

Your website says that the software you offer is always growing to keep up with trends in the industry. How do you ensure you are keeping up with these trends and offering what individuals proficient in CAD need?
I’m active in a few CAD forums and reading CAD portals to get myself up to date with CAD trends. I read user comments and questions on the BabaCAD forum and try to analyze and prepare the next software release with requested features included. As an example, there is the story about making command ASPLIT (Area Split) in BabaCAD. I found one user asking about how to write LISP function to equally divide some irregular area or closed polyline. I read other users’ comments and realized that this problem is not trivial and only a few costly “Land Design” software can solve this problem. I wrote some math algorithms and programmed a new command in BabaCAD, named AREASPLIT or ASPLIT.

What kind of customization do you offer users?
LISP scripts and BabaCAD API are customization options in the current BabaCAD release. BabaCAD API is included in the installation package in the form of c++ header and library. LISP is available as a free extension module. There is a developer’s section on the home site where developers can read more about programming BabaCAD extension modules (.bem). Some users asked about macro scripts, which I will try to enable in the next release.

Of the features that BabaCAD offers, what are some of the most popular/used features that users recommend?
Block explorer, object snap and tracking, smart dimensions and plot to scale are features that users value most. LISP programming in BabaCAD is something that advanced users find useful, as commercial CAD programs have LISP enabled only in their premium packages.

What are some of the challenges individuals face when working with CAD? Are there any limitations that BabaCAD either has or overcomes?
I’ve realized that many “newbies in CAD” users start to use BabaCAD. They often contact me and ask trivial questions about CAD. That’s why I made some video tutorials covering beginner’s topics. BabaCAD breaks the size/capacity ratio and I will quote one user from the Belgium CAD forum talking about BabaCAD: “If you look at the size (less than 5 Mb) and opportunities, this is out of proportion!”

What does the future look like for BabaCAD? Are you able to talk about any special or upcoming features?
I’m working hard to enable 3D modeling in BabaCAD. Here are some upcoming features: spline, extrude, revolve, loft, sweep to make complex 3D objects, and one special feature is NURB surface modeling. Some of these features have already passed my internal beta testing, so with God’s help, I hope that a beta version will be available for download soon.

How user-friendly are the features? For instance, can someone who is just starting out with CAD use BabaCAD?
BabaCAD is very user-friendly, as users can choose between using menus, toolbar buttons and a command window to input commands and parameters. Right mouse button clicks bring about a popup menu with many different options, based on which command is currently active. Users can create buttons for custom LISP functions and associate a new command to it.

What are some of the other features users can work with while using BabaCAD?
Users can draw many complex objects by using the pline command, because there is an option to include arc (bulge) segments inside a polyline object. Hatch is another useful object, as there are many patterns included but not limited to. Users can download pattern files (.pat) from many CAD-related sites to get more hatch patterns. There is a great feature using multiple viewports inside paper layout. Multiple viewports allow users to display some model parts with more details using smaller plot scale factor.

Please share any additional information you would like people know about BabaCAD.
I would like to inform existing users that I’m aware of some bugs in the current release 1.3. They can check to see if there is a newer beta version with bug fixes until the next stable release. Beta version download can be found on the “Extension Modules” section on the home site. Upcoming the BabaCAD 3D release 1.4 will also include all bug fixes.

Categories: Workstations Tags: ,

Hardware Closeup: Lenovo Thinkstation P-Series

December 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Lenovo, one of the world’s top consumer PC manufacturers, is a contender in the professional workstation market as well, and making gains every year. Earlier this year, Lenovo introduced a new family of workstations — the P-Series — which offers features that CAD users need to check out.

The ThinkStation P-300 Entry-Level Workstation

The hallmarks of the P-Series are flexibility, sleek design (both in terms of looks and functionality), easy maintenance without the use of tools, and an advanced cooling system like no other. The P-300 features 2-D and 3-D capabilities, as well as a single processor (the Xenon E3-1200 or the Core i7, i5, or i3), and up to 32 GB of DDR4 memory. As base-level workstations go, the P-300 is quiet, and with superior expansion capabilities, is slated to give its owners a long life of service. You can get tools and tips for optimizing your CAD workstation at Cadalyst.

ThinkStation P-500 Mainstream Workstation

The P-500 is designed with CAD, CAM, and BIM professionals in mind. It features an Intel Xeon processor, the buyer’s choice of the E5-1600 V3 or the E5-2600 V3. It offers up to 256 GB of DDR4 memory, and up to 11 storage devices (eight internal, two external, and one M.2). The P-500 is one of the quietest workstations in its class, and offers one of the most innovative features of the P-Series: the tri-channel cooling system with air baffles. This cooling system is capable of directing cooling air to the components where it’s needed, and directing the air out of the machine without encountering any of the other components.

The ThinkStation P-700 High-End Workstation

Designed for high-end CAE, graphic design, and animation, the P-700 features the buyer’s choice of one or two CPUs, either the Intel Xeon E5-1600 V3 or the E5-2600 V3 processor. It offers up to 384 GB of DDR4 memory, and holds as many as 12 storage devices (eight internal, two external, and two M.2). Hallmarks of the P-700 include the ability to highly customize the machine according to the user’s preferences and needs. It is verified to industry standards and certified to work on key ISV applications. The P-700 also supports Thunderbolt 2.

The ThinkStation P-900 Ultrahigh-End Workstation

Lenovo’s crown jewel in the P-Series is the P-900, which is designed for CAE and design visualization professionals. It offers two Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 processors, and up to 512 GB of DDR4. The P-900 accommodates up to 14 storage devices (eight internal, two external, and four M.2), and offers speed and performance that’s hard to top. This machine is ideal for CAD, CAM, and CAE professionals who need a machine to grow with their business, as well as those who simply can’t afford the downtime associated with a standard PC.  The customizability and accessibility of the P-900 means the workstation can be configured and reconfigured at will, components changed out or replaced, and upgraded without needing specialized tools or even an extreme amount of hardware savvy.

For much more information about workstations for CAD and related applications, visit the new Workstation Resource Center on

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Product Closeup: AMD FirePro W8100 Workstation Graphics Card

December 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Once again, the innovations developed for gaming prove applicable and useful to the business sector. AMD has used its gaming technology to offer a faster, more powerful graphics card developed for professionals in industries like CAD, engineering, video production, and animation. The AMD FirePro W8100 is designed for workstations, touting at least twice the memory and higher performance than previous-generation models.

The FirePro W8100 is based on the Hawaii GPU architecture, borrowing the GCN (Graphics Core Network) architecture of high-performance gaming technology used with Mantle. GCN eliminates bottlenecks that slow gaming activities, such as API overhead and inefficient multi-threading. AMD has promised that Mantle (its version of Microsoft’s Directx) will be available in workstation graphics before long, though no exact date has been released.

The FirePro W8100 is marketed to the professional graphics sector, as well as CAD, engineering, and media professionals. AMD’s senior product manager for professional graphics, Glen Matthews, touts the FirePro W8100 as a CAD tool to boost productivity by helping professionals work faster and better meet deadlines. AMD calls the new graphics card a “high-volume specialist card.”

FirePro W8100 Features

The FirePro W8100 features 2560 GCN screen processors, AMD’s second generation technology. In testing, it zoomed away at 824 MHz, and showcased memory capabilities of 8 GB of 512-bit GDDR5. It supports as many as four high-res 4K displays with DisplayPort 1.2 output. Matthews said that the FirePro W8100 was designed to address the growing demands for OpenCL language. Several industries are adopting OpenCL to add value for end users.In single process mode, the card is capable of better than four teraflops (trillion floating point operations per second). In dual precision mode, it offers up to two teraflops. It comes standard with OpenCL version 2.0.

According to test results released by AMD, the FirePro W8100 proved to be five times faster than the Nvidia K5000 under LuxMark version 2.0 OpenCL and 38 times faster using SiSoftware Sandra. However, it’s worth pointing out that the Nvidia technology AMD tested against was released in 2012.

FirePro W8100 Pricing

The FirePro W8100 was announced at a competitive price of $2,499, but is available in online stores for less than half that price, with some vendors selling it for just a tick over $1,000.

Are you interested in more new CAD tools like the new AMD professional graphics card? Visit Cadalyst for up-to-date, relevant industry information today.

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Best Upgrades for CAD Workstations

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Everybody’s on a budget. At the same time, work deadlines are getting tighter and workloads are growing larger. So, what are the best investments that actually return higher productivity relative to their costs? When it comes time to upgrade your CAD workstation, here’s where you can get the boom for the buck.

RAM Memory: Cheap and Powerful


CAD workstations

RAM affects how every other component and application performs.


RAM rarely makes the top of the list in terms of upgrades, which is a shame because memory is one of the most affordable upgrades on the list and enhances the performance of all the other components of the machine. The larger and faster RAM your workstation has, the better the performance of every process and application. Shoot for at least 6 GB, but go for 16 or more if it’s in the budget, especially if you work with huge model files or compute-heavy applications like running analysis or rendering.

CPU Power: Good is Good but Best Isn’t Always Better

Many workstations are now coming standard with dual core processors, and even quad or hex core processors. Some software utilizes multiple cores, but some do not. Check the recommended CPU specs for the software packages you use the most and definitely invest in the best CPU you can afford. But if you’re running apps that don’t make use of multiple processors, it’s better to get the highest end single core instead of the lowest end dual or quad core. Still, CPU makes second on this list because a quality CPU means more productivity, especially for jobs like simulations and rendering, which are heavy on the processing.

GPU: Looking Good, Baby

Most workers want great-looking graphics, and in many jobs higher visual performance does relate to higher work performance.Higher end GPUs can offer greater power and speed, which is essential if you’re running 3-D graphics. A hefty GPU also makes visuals more fluid, especially during tasks like pan, zoom, rotate, and animation generation. Having a quality GPU can also take some of the load of RAM if memory is getting tight.

Solid State Disk Drives: SSD is Coming Down in Price, Yielding Higher Value


CAD workstations

SSDs are getting cheaper, and offer performance and longevity that justify the cost.


SSDs are finally coming down in price, though still significantly more expensive than comparable HDDs. SSDs don’t move, so these drives are ideal for field conditions where the machine is expected to endure a bit of punishment. SSDs also last longer, boot much faster, and generally offer more reliability. If SSD is anywhere near your budget limitations, it’s definitely worth the investment.

Monitors: The More the Merrier

Sleek 1280 X 720 HD monitors make it much easier to see detail and get an idea of what the finished product is going to look like. But the large, detailed monitors that work so spectacularly for CAD aren’t the best for viewing mundane items like email or spreadsheets. Invest in two monitors — one for the visual clarity and intense detail, and another, lower-end monitor for regular workday tasks. This also eliminates the need to switch views every time you get an email or need to add billable hours to a client’s spreadsheet.

For CAD users, Cadalyst is the brand of CAD information provider that offers the most complete and up-to-date information about CAD, including what products are worth the investment and which are best to skip. Visit the Cadalyst website for up-to-date, accurate industry information today.