Building a Solidworks PC – 2016 Edition

Solidworks Icon

EDIT: This article has been updated in Building a Solidworks PC – 2017 Edition

Another year, another release of Solidworks.  2016 will bring a mix of incremental upgrades (an updated move triad!) and a few new features. This article is an update from my workstation build last year.  Not a whole lot has changed regarding a workstation build but it’s time to start considering Windows 10 and a beefier CAD GPU.  Overall there have been minimal performance relevant changes in 2016 and most of the hardware remains the same.

The core of a good Solidworks workstation is still a fast CPU, lots of RAM, and a Solidworks approved workstation graphics card.

Solidworks performance is limited by the CPU and unfortunately only runs single-core for everything except simulation and rendering.  An Intel i7-4770 processor will provide good performance for the price even if you’re using only a single core on the chip.

16GB of RAM is a minimum and important for dealing with large assemblies.  This stuff is cheap and can easily be expanded in the future.

A basic CAD workstation graphics card should be sufficient and won’t hinder performance.  They key here is stability and performance with Solidworks which is why you want something like the Quadro K4000.  Workstations graphics cards are essentially glorified gaming cards but they have extremely stable drivers.

Those are the important bits, the following list covers the complete build.  All components are from Amazon because they have fairly competitive prices and good customer service.  Shop around though, your experience may vary.

The system price at time of writing is is $1880.  Part prices are not listed here because they seem to change week to week.  Expect the system price to trend downward in the next few months.

Processor – Intel i7-4770 – good performance for the price

Motherboard – MSI Z97 PC Mate LGA – feature-rich motherboard to provide flexibility in the future, has a fancy BIOS and will support up to 32gb of RAM

Graphics CardQuadro K4000 – you’re paying for stability here

Memory – Kingston 16GB – fast and cost effective

Storage – Samsung SSD 840 EVO-Series 500GB – a nice solid state drive for speedy performance, I think it’s important to stick with a name brand here to ensure good performance over the life of the drive

DVD LG Electronics 24X – sigh, can’t quite escape physical discs yet.  With writing feature for all of your documentation purposes.

Case – Corsair Carbide Series 200R – a nice clean case that’s easy to work on

Power Supply – Rosewill 80 PLUS BRONZE 550W – Solid power supply with more than enough wattage, will support expansion in the future

OS Windows 10 Pro OEM – The new supported standard, if you don’t upgrade now you may be forced into it soon

That’s everything you need for a complete build!  The case comes with all necessary hardware and fans, the power supply has all the cables, and the CPU has it’s own cooler and heatsink.

Need monitors?  I’m a big fan of the 24-inch Dell Ultrasharp because of the positioning flexibility.  It’s easy to setup your dual monitor view in any configuration.  Ergonomics are a big deal if you’re sitting in front of monitors for 8+ hours a day.

Backpacking Gear

Backpacking Gear – 2015

Every engineer should enjoy the great outdoors and after a recent backpacking trek I wanted to share my gear selections.  Backpacking can be a very expensive hobby if you buy top-notch gear across the board but its very affordable if you look at mid-range items.  There is a ton of gear available online and there are plenty of deals to be found on clearance stock.

Gearing up for a multi-day trek can be cheaper than a plane ticket somewhere. Backpacking can be a very inexpensive vacation when you start considering the travel and hotel costs of a traditional vacation. What’s better, a week backpacking in the mountains or a short weekend at an Orlando Holiday Inn?

Here is my loadout for a recent venture on the Black Forest Trail.

Backpack – Kelty Pawnee 55 – A great and well rounded pack that has unfortunately been discontinued. The mid-size volume is a nice fit for most backpacking treks.  I would consider the Osprey Exos 58 as an alternative.

Boots – Montrail Fluid Trailrunner – A bit of a misnomer here, these are trail running shoes and not hiking boots.  Very capable for almost all treks – you’re trading the ankle support of a heavy boot for lightness, flexibility, and improved traction.  These shoes have extra sticky patches on the sole that latch onto rocks and provide confident footing.

Trekking Poles – Komperdell Shockmaster – Essential gear for back packing, trekking poles provide stability and reduce knee impact when going downhill.  These are lightweight and have a cushioning system to reduce overall impact when descending hills.

Tent – ALPS Zephyr 1 – Inexpensive, freestanding, and relatively lightweight.  Plenty of internal room and overhead space.  The zipper pulls are functional but leave something to be desired.

Ground Pad – Tyvek Sheet – Lightweight, strong, and waterproof.  I custom cut mine to fit the Zephyr footprint.  Very noisy until you give it a good crumple and introduce creases.

Sleeping Bag – Ledge Sports FeatherLite – An Amazon bargain, this is comfortable and inexpensive.  Compresses well too.

Sleeping Mat – Klymit Stativ V – Worth every penny.  Lightweight and packs in a tiny stuff sack.  Extremely comfortable after a long day of hiking.  The center of the pad near the top has a nice triangle section that works well as a pillow.

Stove – Etekcity Ultralight Stove – This is a lot of stove for $10.  Works great although you may want to consider an external stand if you’re working with larger pots – the stove has a small footprint and you need to carefully balance larger pots to make sure they won’t tip.

Food Sack – OR 20L Ultralight Dry Sack – Plenty of room for 4+ days of food.  Easy to hang if necessary (pesky bears) and the waterproof nature helps seal in most of the food aromas which should reduce animal attention.

Stuff Sack – OR 15L Stuff Sack – 15 liters is the perfect amount of room for a change of clothes, extra socks, and warm weather gear.  Keeps everything contained and makes packing much easier.

Underwear – ExOfficio Boxer Briefs – Amazingly comfortable, these are a vacation in itself.  Synthetic clothing is a must for backpacking and sweating, avoid cotton at all costs.

Socks – Darn Tough Merino Wool – Bulletproof and comfortable.  Fast drying for when you dunk your boot in that stream crossing.  The durability of these make them worth the money.

Flip Flops – Teva Mush Flip Flop – A trail luxury but completely worth it.  It’s nice to give your feet a break and kick off your boots any opportunity you get.  I like to wear these if I stop for a long lunch break somewhere and these are my primary footwear in camp.

Gaiters – OR Rocky Mountain Gaiter – Perfect for the high brush you’ll encounter along the trail or any situation where you need long pants but prefer shorts.

Jacket – North Face Momentum Jacket – This is made of a stretchy fleece fabric which makes it snug and extremely comfortable.  Great for chilly early mornings and works as a great pillow at night.

Rain Jacket – North Face Venture Jacket – The classic rain shell, everyone in Seattle owns one of these.  Lightweight, tough, and compacts nicely.  Inexpensive for the performance.

Food – Mountain House ProPack – Perfect backpacking food, I recommend the Chili Mac, Lasagna, Beef Stroganoff, and Biscuits & Gravy

Water – Aquamira Treatment Drops – If your water sources are of reasonable cleanliness I would recommend just using these drops, no filter.  Much better taste than Polar Pure.