Frankenstein 103: Building a CAD Workstation

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CAD or Computer Aided Design is technically a broad term generally applied to things alone the lines of architectural design. Here in Sri Lanka, those who develop using CAD primarily use SOLIDWORKS, Lumion and AutoCAD.

The software used for CAD make use of GPU compute. Unlike 3DS Max or Maya, these are not primarily CPU intensive, but they do rely on lots of RAM. The general process is that the assembly is loaded into the memory (RAM) and then proceeds to render the file via the graphics card.

Case #1: the Barebones Build

ComponentModelPriceAvailable at
CPUAMD FX-8320 3.5GHz Eight CoreRs. 27,000/-Redline Technologies
MotherboardMSI 970A-G43Rs. 12,000/-Redline Technologies
RAM8GB 1600MHz DDR3Rs. 11,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
Hard Disk Drive 1TB 7,200 RPM Rs. 8000Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
Graphics CardAMD Firepro W4100Rs. 35,000/-Redline Technologies
Power SupplyFSP Hexa+ 400WRs. 5,500/-Redline Technologies
CasingAntec GX500Rs. 8,000/-Redline Technologies, E-Globe Solutions
Total Rs. 106,500/-

Case #2: the Recommended Spec

ComponentModelPriceAvailable at
CPUIntel Core i7 4790Rs. 43,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
MotherboardH97 Express chipset based motherboard (Asus, MSI, Gigabyte)Rs. 19,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
RAM16GB 1600MHz DDR3Rs. 22,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
Hard Disk Drive 128GB SSD (For OS and Software)Rs. 12,000/-Redline Technologies
Hard Disk Drive 1TB 7,200 RPM enterprise drive (For storage)Rs. 15,000/-Redline Technologies
Graphics CardAMD FirePro W5100Rs. 70,000/-Redline Technologies
Power SupplyFSP Aurum S 500W 80+ GoldRs. 12,000/-Redline Technologies
CasingCooler Master CM690 IIIRs. 13,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies, Barclays
Total Rs. 206,000/-

Case #3: Higher Up the Ladder

ComponentModelPriceAvailable at
CPUIntel Core i7 5820k @4.2GHzRs. 58,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
CPU CoolerCooler Master Hyper 212 EvoRs. 5000/-Redline Technologies, Unity Plaza
MotherboardMSI X99S SLI PlusRs. 42,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
RAM32GB 2400MHz DDR4Rs. 80,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
Hard Disk Drive 256GB SSD (For OS and Software)Rs. 38,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
Hard Disk Drive WD Purple 2TB (For storage)Rs. 14,500/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
Graphics CardAMD Firepro W7100Rs. 135,000/-Redline Technologies
Power SupplyFSP Aurum PT 650W 80+ PlatinumRs. 19,500/-Redline Technologies
CasingCooler Master CM690 IIIRs. 13,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies, Barclays
Total Rs. 405,000/-

Case #4: #YOLO Build

ComponentModelPriceAvailable at
CPUIntel Core i7 5960X 3.0GhzRs. 150,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
CPU CoolerCorsair H60 Hydro Liquid CoolerRs. 16,000/-Redline Technologies
MotherboardAsus X99 DeluxeRs. 68,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
RAM64GB 1600MHz DDR4Rs. 160,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
Hard Disk Drive 256GB SSD (For OS and Software)Rs. 38,000/-Unity Plaza, Redline Technologies
Hard Disk Drive 2*WD SE Enterprise 4TB 7200RPMRs. 90,000/-Redline Technologies
Graphics CardAMD FirePro W9100 16GB GDDR5Rs. 600,000/-Redline Technologies
Power SupplyFSP Aurum PT 650W 80+ PlatinumRs. 19,500/-Redline Technologies
CasingCorsair Graphite-series 760TRs. 35,000/-Redline Technologies
Total Rs. 1,176,500/-

This works for SOLIDWORKS

solidworks_large_lg

Even though the title looks like you’re yelling at someone, that’s actually how the developers of the software have stylized it.It is currently used by over 2 million engineers and designers at more than 165,000 companies worldwide.

As for the hardware needed to run this software, since it makes use of GPU Compute, an AMD FirePro graphics card for OpenCL will pretty much be all you need in the graphics department. Why AMD? Because in this department, a Firepro card will run circles around any Nvidia Quadro card in the same price range. The recommended basic card for this would be the AMD FirePro W4100

The AutoCAD Question

AutoCAD is probably the most popular software of the those used in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, it requires a bit of thinking. Since it’s a part of the Adobe lineup, there are some really good Nvidia plugins out there. Generally, an AMD FirePro graphics card will run everything, but check your plugins. If they’re optimized for CUDA, swap out the Firepros for the closest Nvidia Quadro equivalent available on the market.

Lumion

architecture2

You thought 3D Max was complicated for 3D Animation? Well think again. Lumion is complicated on a whole new level.

Instead of operating purely on a GPU compute level, it rather brings in other elements such as the use of HLSL (High Level Shading Language) meaning that the software is DirectDraw based. This also means that Quadro cards are essentially worthless as they lack the performance for directdraw. So what’s the solution? Use an AMD Radeon or GTX Gaming series graphics card. Simple right? WRONG!

The contender in the top spot here is the Nvidia GTX Titan Black – built on Nvidia’s Kepler architecture. It’s expensive: Rs 170,000 However, according to Lumion themselves, dual-card setups don’t help. You’re advised to go for the fastest single-GPU card that you can afford. Lumion favors Nvidia, so the Titan Z is best here.

But if you plan to use other CAD software as well, you’re in for a tricky time. SOLIDWORKS uses GPU compute for which AMD’s FirePro is the logical choice, but then Lumion doesn’t make use of GPU compute. Always make your software requirements clear before purchasing a workstation for Lumion.

A sample build for Lumion would be to take the components of Case #02 and replace the AMD FirePro W5100 graphics card with an Nvidia Geforce GTX 970. The rest of the components can stay the same. If you are willing to go up to the lines of Case #03 then swap out the graphics card for a Nvidia GeForce Titan Black.

As mentioned above, if your workstation’s primary use if for Lumion, then make sure to mention that before purchasing the system.

Like it? Have something to add? We would love to hear from you.

*All prices listed are accurate to the publish date of this article.

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