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CAD Workstation

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Registered: 14-04-2007

CAD Workstation

Our Technical Manager has asked me to acquire a CAD Workstation.
I am currently drawing up a spec...any suggestions?
We are talking 64 bit.

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7 REPLIES
Denzil
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Posts: 1,733
Registered: 31-07-2007

Re: CAD Workstation

Do you use 2D or 3D? 2D draughting will work fine on any reasonably up to date PC. £D solid modelling is a different kettle of fish. I am a designer myself, and have recently been given a new PC. 3D CAD generally benefits from lots of RAM, depending how complex the model is, so you would benefit from a 64-bit OS to be able to address it all. Good CAD software will be able to make the most of multicore processors. Hard drives depend whether you are storing files locally or on a network drive. You may benefit from a relatively small fast HD to run the software, say a SSD or a SAS drive, and have a standard drive for storage.
3D CAD does benefit from a good graphics card. It is best to get a card that is designed for CAD and DCC rather than gaming. The ATI FireGL  and NVIDIA Quadro ranges are normally recommended.
For reference, here are the specs of my PC, running Solidworks 2009, amongst other things.
AMD Phenom II X4 810
8GB RAM
64GB SSD (storage is all on a network fileserver so I don't need a big local drive)
ATI FireGL V7200
Vista 64
You can either go to a certified CAD workstation supplier like Dell, HP or Lenovo, and you'll pay twice as much, but will get some guarantee that everything will work smoothly. Mine came from a gaming PC supplier with (initially) an NVIDIA Quadro FX380 graphics card bought separately. I had all sorts of problems with the card crashing randomly with Solidworks, which the SW reseller was unable to solve. I made the guess that there was some low level conflict somewhere, and that an ATI card might work better with the AMD chipset. Changed to the V7200 and it works great now.
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Re: CAD Workstation

Thanks Denzil.
Very interesting about the graphics card as I was considering an NVIDIA Quadro FX 1700 and the CAD software is Solidworks but using a Xeon Processor.
I'm actually looking at something like this as we have to take cost into consideration. Sad

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VileReynard
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Registered: 01-09-2007

Re: CAD Workstation

Aren't you going to need dual screen support?
One ordinary sized (for command input) and one giant high resolution one (to see what you've got)?
Plus a super-large "printer" or graph plotter type device?

Community Veteran
Posts: 3,789
Registered: 08-06-2007

Re: CAD Workstation

Look at the i7 processors!
We're using them in our render farm, specced out with 16gb memory and they are blazingly quick.
Something like:
i7-920
16gb triple-channel memory
2 x 32GB SSD (striped) as OS//working disk, plus more for storage.
Any of the Quadro cards should be fine on an Intel system - the 1700 is pretty nice (my colleage has been playing with the latest Quadro given to us as a loaner from nVidia - I forget the model but it's very very fast!)
B.
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Re: CAD Workstation

If it was up to me (and our design engineer in question) the sky would be the limit.
However the bean counters at head office have other ideas and I'm 3 months into my IT budget with 5 months spent Sad
Thanks for your reply Barry Smiley
@Axis We have a plotter but most of the output is A3 and the office copier makes an excellent job of that.
He'll probably end up with two monitors later but for now it's a 24" wide screen.

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Denzil
Grafter
Posts: 1,733
Registered: 31-07-2007

Re: CAD Workstation

All the current Quadro and FireGL cards will support two monitors should you wish to do that, just check the available outputs match your monitors. Some of them have DisplayPort connectors for instance, which are not common on monitors. I run SW2009 on two monitors at work. It works OK but SW could be better on multiple monitors. I would like to have all the menus on one monitor whilst keeping the other at more or less full screen for the model. Some of the menus can be floated and some can't, and the menu behaviour is a bit inconsistent. A single widescreen might be easier. Having said that, I do DTP and photo processing as well, and applications like the GIMP are great on two monitors.
Printing depends on the size and complexity of the parts you design. Most of our drawings are on A4, but we have a nice A3 colour laser as well. The more complex parts get sent to the machinists as 3D models anyway and they work direct from them, rather than drawings. The drawings don't therefore need to show every dimension, and are often there just to specify materials, finishes and so on.
Looking at the system you linked to, you might want something with more RAM, but it depends on how complex the assemblies are. It will start to struggle when you get to a few hundred parts. I'm sure you realise, but bear in mind that 32bit Windows can only address a practical maximum of about 3.2GB, and that includes graphics card memory.
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Re: CAD Workstation

Yep we usually send dxf files to laser cutters.

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