Cadalyst

CAD Tech News (#67)

6 Jul, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff


▶ Herrera on Hardware: Harnessing the Cloud for CAD — The Case for Virtual Workstations

The demands of CAD-heavy workflows in manufacturing, design, architecture, and construction are growing. Some companies are looking beyond their local machines, and implementing virtual computing options to augment or replace traditional deskside and laptop workstations.

By Alex Herrera

Workstations, virtualization, and the cloud — this trio of technology tools is joining forces, ready to transform the way design teams deploy and use workstation-caliber systems to tackle the increasingly challenging issues facing cutting-edge CAD workflows.

The first component of that trio is the tried-and-true foundation that CAD users and IT administrators have long relied on to power visually intensive workflows quickly and reliably. The second is a more recent computing tool that enables users to run their familiar client desktops on shared datacenter resources. And the third represents today's hottest markets and technologies, upon which IT vendors and users alike are looking to resolve the future's thorniest computing problems. Today, the confluence of the three is creating a valuable new weapon for the CAD IT arsenal: Cloud-hosted virtual workstations are here.

We've seen this potential and evolution of cloud-hosted virtual workstations coming for a while; I discussed some of the evolving supporting products and technologies over the past couple of years in "New Computing Solutions for CAD Take Fuller Advantage of the Cloud" and "Is Cloud-Based CAD Ready for Prime Time?" This month, I kick off a series on what this cloud-based technology is all about: Why it's appealing, whether you should consider its adoption, and key considerations to take in deployment. This first installment explains what virtual workstations are and how they work, and also explores whether your business and workflow might benefit from adopting them in place of traditional, physical workstations.

Why a Virtual Workstation?

Traditional deskside and laptop workstations power the vast majority of CAD environments today. They have done so for years, reliably and effectively. But some businesses — particularly those running CAD-heavy workflows in manufacturing, design, architecture, and construction — are finding it increasingly difficult to satisfy the demands imposed by a host of growing challenges. Skyrocketing dataset sizes, dynamic workflows, a globally distributed workforce that needs immediate access to complex visual data, heightened concerns of security, and the constant incursion of personal digital devices into the workplace: all are conspiring to push traditional, distributed client environments to the brink.

Huge files no longer take seconds to transfer from client to client, or site to site — instead it might be minutes or even hours. Security risks spread, while the burden of protecting priceless IP has never been heavier. And complex projects are more often requiring teams assembled not just from employees, but also contractors and consultants who might be in the field or in an office halfway around the world. Yet, all need access to the same datasets, on demand, from wherever they are at the moment — and that data must be up to date.

In urgent need of solutions to these growing problems, businesses that rely on high-performance visual computing for CAD are beginning to look elsewhere, and one solution shining particularly brightly is the virtual workstation. Read more »

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Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.

▶ Autodesk Announces Its First Commercial Generative Design Product

Scheduled for launch in Netfabb 2018, Autodesk Generative Design seeks to help product designers by boosting the "computer-aided" part of CAD.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Autodesk has been talking about generative design software for some time. At Autodesk University 2014, Chief Technology Officer Jeff Kowalski explained that although the idea wasn't new, it had been largely theoretical — until cloud computing made the compute-intensive process fast enough to be feasible.

Generative design is an umbrella term that covers several methods of creating designs that meet constraints established by the designer. These constraints might include the amount or type of materials used to create the product, its cost, or its weight. Reducing weight while maintaining strength and rigidity is a common goal, because cars and planes built with lighter components use less fuel.

What differentiates generative design from traditional design processes is that the design solutions are created autonomously, thanks to artificial intelligence–based algorithms. This results in solutions that a human designer might never think of — and far more of them. As Autodesk states, "In the time you can create one idea, a computer can generate thousands, along with the data to prove which designs perform best."

The Elbo chair was designed using Project Dreamcatcher generative design technology. The software produced this design within the constraints it was given, including supporting 300 lbs. Project collaborators included Brittany Presten, John Hutchinson and the Fusion Render team, and Carl Bass. Image courtesy of Autodesk.
The Elbo chair was designed using Project Dreamcatcher generative design technology. The software produced this design within the constraints it was given, including supporting 300 lbs. Project collaborators included Brittany Presten, John Hutchinson and the Fusion Render team, and Carl Bass. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

In June, Autodesk took the next step in its exploration of this technology, and announced its first commercially available generative design product. After years of development as Project Dreamcatcher, the descriptively named Autodesk Generative Design tool will make its commercial debut in Netfabb 2018. Read more »

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's editor in chief.

▶ WHAT’S NEW


CAD Manager Column: Get a Grip on the Cloud for CAD
If you're trying to make smart choices about cloud technologies for your company, don't base your decisions on hype and hearsay — start by understanding real-world benefits and liabilities. Read more »

Cadalyst Debuts 'Summer on the Cloud' for 2017
Running all season long, the special series of content will deliver software, hardware, and managerial insight for CAD and IT professionals. Read more »

AutoCAD Video Tips: Zoom In on AutoCAD Objects with the View Cube — Even in 2D!
If you want to zoom in on an object with maximum speed, then be sure to check out this super-speedy tip from Cadalyst and Autodesk Evangelist Lynn Allen! Who would have guessed the View Cube could come in so handy in 2D as well? Watch the video »

Sponsored: Immersive Visualization for AEC Delivers Interactive Realism Without a Headset
From Autodesk: Architects and contractors can reset expectations with clients and project stakeholders by providing a way to step inside the design to experience it in a different way. Read more »

Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users — 2017 Edition
The editors of Cadalyst, with help from our contributing editors and readers who are in the CAD trenches day in and day out, have compiled this guide to software tools and resources that don't cost a cent. "Fabulous Freebies for CAD Users" has something for everyone. Download our guide and you'll soon be asking yourself, "How did I live without this?" Download now »


About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

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