Tag Archives: Solidworks

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.

Viewing CAD files in VR

vr

Virtual reality has suddenly arrived. Headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Valve Vive are near a consumer release and offer immersive VR experiences. While most of the hype has been surrounding VR video games there is a huge market for VR visualization of 3D CAD files. Conceptual factory layouts, machine assemblies, and architectural plans can all be visualized in VR prior to release.

Engineers and designers can use VR to evaluate the human interaction and ergonomics of conceptual designs. VR will be an excellent sales tool by allowing potential customers to visualize the scale and impact of a final design, something especially important in architecture.

Currently there is no native VR support for any of the major CAD packages but there is a simple workaround for viewing any CAD data in VR. While most native solid CAD files are almost impossible to interchange, generic 3D files like STEP can be opened by almost any 3D modeling program.

Video game engine packages such as Unity and Unreal are free to download and use and offer direct Rift and Vive support. You can use these packages as glorified model viewers by importing generic 3D files and using their direct VR viewing mode.

Here’s what the workflow looks like:

Native: Solidworks, CATIA, Inventor, Sketchup

Save as intermediate: .STP, .3DS, .STL, 3D .DXF

Import into VR Environment: Unity, Unreal

This workflow can export Solidworks, Inventor, CATIA, and SketchUp files to the Oculus or Vive. There are multiple intermediate formats to exchange the data, some experimentation may be necessary to find the best one for your CAD package. If you can’t find a direct exchange format you may have to use another 3D modeling package, such as Blender, as an intermediate. Blender has a ton of export formats including .obj and .fbx

Edit:  http://www.cad-vr.com/ has a detailed guide on viewing Solidworks files in VR.

Building a Solidworks PC – 2015 Edition

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

The core of a good Solidworks workstation should be 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 K2000.  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 $1495.  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 K2000 – 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 7 64-bit OEM – The old standard here, I prefer it over Windows 8

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.

 

Move with Triad

Solidworks Triad

This is by far my favorite Solidworks feature that no one seems to use or even know about.  It’s called “move with triad” and it makes working with assemblies much easier.  Right click on any part in an assembly and it should be an available option.

Triad Menu Option

The triad tool allows you to constrain part translation or rotation to a single axis.  This removes a lot of frustration when positioning parts in an assembly prior to mating them.  The flexibility to position things easily can really speed up machine layout and concepting when things are loosely defined.

The triad can also help you locate parts lost in larger assemblies or move parts that have gotten lost inside other solids.

Bind it to your “T” key now!

 

 

 

Solid Modeling and Solidworks

Over the years I have used most of the available solid modeling packages for machine design and part detailing.  Autodesk Inventor, PRO/E, CATIA, and Solidworks.  I tried Sketch Up once and considered it an abomination – it is in a strange uncanny valley between engineering and consumer uses.

Inventor and Solidworks are extremely similar in appearance and function but Solidworks is by far the package I have used the most.  It is my current favorite (having learned all of the its idiosyncrasies) and has a nice blend of usability and performance.  I have easily surpassed the 10,000 hour mark but still have much to learn.

That being said I have learned a few tips and tricks over the years and plan to share them here.  Stay tuned for some Solidworks specific posts.