t h e b u s i n e s s o f c a d
Issue #746 | August 13, 2012
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In This Issue
1. Second Generation Maximus from NVIDIA Professional Solutions Group
2. The Illustrated AutoCAD Quick Reference 2013, the final edition?
3. Out of the Inbox, and our other regular columns.
From the editor: We traditionally take August as upFront.eZine's annual vacation, but this year we'll be doing that in October. Despite the heat, we publish on!
Second Generation Maximus from NVIDIA Professional Solutions Group
Last week NVIDIA announced new graphics products at SIGGRAPH; the week before, however, the company spent an hour telling upFront.eZine about them.
Before I go on, however, it's best to understand the meaning of the many names that you encounter in this article:
David Watters, senior director of manufacturing and design industry at NVIDIA, talked to me about the company's next generation of Maximus technology, which features a new Quadro K5000 graphics card with a new Tesla K20 computing accelerator.
Maximus Next Generation
We know that CPU speeds stalled nearly a decade ago, and that Intel/AMD compensated by multiplying cores. More cores helped only a little, because most CAD software does not take advantage of multiple cores. Even when it does, the increase is not linear (using four cores speeds up software less than 4x).
NVIDIA figured it had a solution in its GPUs (graphics processing units). GPU processors can perform trillions of math operations a second, and so are suitable for interactive graphics and high-performance computing. The company worked with CAD/CAE vendors to get their software to run on massively parallel GPUs that are the foundation of the Quadro and Tesla products.
The idea took off with just a few takers initially, because of multi-fold drawbacks. It works only for programs where tasks can be separated easily into many streams; regular CAD operations do not. Software that runs well on massively parallel GPUs includes finite element analysis, fluid dynamics, and rendering. Another drawback: running on Tesla requires rewriting some of the CAD/CAE code in OpenCL or NVIDIA's own CUDA programming languages. A third drawback: should a CAD/CAE vendor do the rewrite, it works only for customers whose Windows or Linux computers have recent NVIDIA Quadro graphics boards; GeForce, AMD, and Intel graphics boards are excluded, as are all Macs.
So NVIDIA took another tack and wrote software that shifts certain operations to the Tesla GPU transparently and automatically, freeing the CPU up for handling more mundane tasks, like waiting for the drafter to click on a toolbar button. The software is named "NVIDIA Maximus unified technology driver."
Even as NVIDIA GPUs are used by the truckload on commodity clusters for cloud-based simulation and rendering jobs, the company also wants to dominate the desktop against archrivals AMD and Intel. "Maximus puts computing back on the desktop," Watters said. He listed for me some of the benefits to running CAE locally:=
Even something like checking the fit and finish where two automobile panels meet can result in differences, depending if the view is realistic, or the more typical false-color CAD view.
As an example, he used wheel designs: do they look good? are they strong enough? Real-world physics would answer this, he says. Making the design process more efficient is the role of the Tesla GPU in Maximus.
NVIDIA Maximus changes the workflow from design-then-simulate, to design-and-simulate at the same time, with the ability to simulate faster. According to NVIDIA benchmarks, Maximus technology runs ANSYS simulations up to 4x faster. Customers can then use the time they save to run more simulations on a greater variety of designs.
Maximus is application-transparent, but to ensure quality, some 22 applications are certified by various ISVs for the technology, as well as any app written in CUDA or OpenCL. I tried to pin down Mr. Watters on what this meant, because it is nearly meaningless to simply include names like "Autodesk" on the PowerPoint slide of supporting applications. So he gave me this 'for-instance':
SolidWorks uses the Quadro GPU for rendering and display, or visualization; the lite COSMOS simulation software included with SolidWorks is not GPU-accelerated. You can, however, do rendering or analysis simultaneously with SolidWorks modeling through other software, like Bunkspeed, 3dsMax, and ANSYS or SIMULIA/Abaqus.
In addition, there is a cost benefit to using GPU-aware software that helps offset the cost of the graphics boards (Quadro plus Tesla). Simulia is licensed per-CPU core. You buy tokens from Dassault Systemes to run jobs, one token per CPU core. For GPUs, however, you need buy just one token, yet GPU power is equivalent to 12- or more CPU cores. He noted that in the future, even more SolidWorks features will run on GPUs, and that Autodesk also plans to take more advantage of NVIDIA GPUs."
NVIDIA Quadro K5000
The newest Quadro graphics board is called the K5000, where "K" is short for Kepler. (This is the start of NVIDIA's new naming system, in which the letter prefix indicates the new model.) When it ships this fall, the Quadro K5000 will be the first of the next generation of NVIDIA Maximus with 1,536 CUDA cores, up from the 352 cores in its predecessor, the Quadro 5000.
Bindless textures is another new Kepler feature that increases the flexibility of textures. Before, each texture was bound to an object, and the Tesla board was limited to 128 textures. Now, it can store a million textures, each of which can be arbitrarily assigned to objects. Again, this is a feature that software vendors need to implement in their software. Anti-aliasing is improved.
The boards work with PCIe generation 3 slots that transmit data at a speed of 16BG/second, 2x bandwidth of PCIe gen2. A single GPU can now handle four displays, and four GPUs can be ganged up for 16 screens.
Figure 1: Yup, there is a graphics board under all that sheetmetal. NVIDIA's new Quadro K5000 and its four ports.
NVIDIA Tesla K20
The upcoming Tesla GPU is 3x more power efficient than the previous one due to Kepler. The new dynamic parallelism feature accelerates parallel nested loops without going back to the CPU; this allows simulations to get finer detail where needed, because the GPU spawns its own computation threads. (This was something pushed for by software vendors, says Watters, but they will have to write this into their software so the GPU knows to do this.)
Availability and Pricingo
The NVIDIA Quadro K5000 graphics board, with 35% more performance (and less power consumption), 4GB ECC RAM, and four outputs has an MSRP of $2,249, and will be available in October as a separate, discrete graphics card. The NVIDIA Tesla K20, with 3x faster double precision, ECC cache and GPU RAM, and active cooling, will have an MSRP of$3,199 and will be available in December 2012.
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The Illustrated AutoCAD Quick Reference 2013, the final edition?
With books sales falling, and a new cost-obsessive owner, publisher Cengage Delmar is busy cutting titles. Next year, my best-selling The Illustrated AutoCAD Quick Reference faces near-deat, for Delmar has asked me to not update it in the normal way (which was updating the entire book). Instead, for the next three years, I am to provide an electronic document that outlines changes to AutoCAD 2014 and so on.
For this reason, this year's edition is titled The Illustrated AutoCAD Quick Reference 2013 and Beyond. I am pessimistic that sales will fall further, and so I doubt I'll be asked to fully upate the book in 2017. Might this be the final edition? (I first wrote this book in 1991 for AutoCAD Release 12.)
Anyhow, long face aside, I have a dozen copies available for $50 each, signed by the author (me!). If you would like one (or more), please send payment (and your mailing address) to my PayPal account at firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at 34486 Donlyn Avenue, Abbotsford, BC, V2S 4W7 Canada. Warning: mailing books from Canada is v-e-r-y expensive, so I will ship them by surface mail.
"Inventor Fusion for Mac needs OS X Lion (1.7) or higher. There is no prerequisite for 10.8."
- Kevin Schneider, senior manager of emerging products and technology
The editor replies: "I checked it my Mac Mini, and you are right."
Out of the Inbox
Ben Decker of CADDIT Australia posts the first screen grab of progeCAD 2013, interesting to see because it is based on the new IntelliCAD 7 code. http://cadcam3d.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/progecad-2013-free-upgrade-offer-begins.html
ShipConstructor Software's new DesignSync syncs back design with associated documentation, useful, they say, "when working with sister ships, design tests, recovery from errors, and for general reuse of design data." http://www.ShipConstructor.com
PTC plans to finish acquiring Servigistics next month. The software does the distinctly non-CAD work that PTC calls "service lifecycle management (SLM)," like warranty and contract management, service parts definition, and technical information. http://www.servigistics.com
Surprisingly rare are olympics-related press releases, but maybe that's because of the IOC's brutal clampdown on anyone tagging along with the joyous occasion. Exception is Creaform, who used their 3D portable measurement technology to scan Australian kayaker Jessica Fox's kayak and lower body in paddling position to develop a custom seat for her racing position. http://www.creaform3d.com
Shuffling the top jobs at Geomagic as Tom Kurke is promoted from coo to president, Len Chamberlain from sales director to vp of worldwide sales, Joan Lockhart is appointed vp of marketing, and Karl Matthews is vp of the Sensable Group acquisition. Geomagic co-founder Ping Fu continues as ceo.
Kenesto 2012.2 adds an automated walk-through for doing tasks; templates for common business processes; multiple domains in one Kenesto account, and background uploads of attachments. The cloud-based business process software runs in HTML5 browsers, including on Android and iOS. http://www.kenesto.com
The free, open source BRL-CAD is popular in some circles, and now 7.22.0 has BREP-NURBS ray tracing, bug fixes, updated geometry converters, a new physics simulation system, and more. Get yourself a copy from http://brlcad.org/d/download
Spatial is that division of Dassault Systemes toiling away at a solid modeling kernel unused by all Dassault products. (They use either CGM or Parasolid.) Nevertheless, R23 of the venerable ACIS kernel is shipping, and Evan Yares does a good job explaining the new stuff at http://www.designworldonline.com/acis-r23-is-out-and-heres-why-you-should-care. For technical release notes, see http://doc.spatial.com/index.php/InterOp:Release_Notes
Synergis Software director of marketing Martha Lubow has the most Summer-y logo in CAD, and writes to say "Our summer release of Adept 2013 engineering document management introduces major enhancements to our CAD integrations for AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks, and delivers CAD and viewing support for the 2013 suite of Autodesk products." http://www.SynergisSoftware.com
Envisioneer 8 from Cadsoft brings an all-in-one Navigator for walkthroughs, instant contoured terrain meshes, SketchUp export, and a new Wall Panels function for automatically extracting, sorting. and annotating framed wall panel diagrams. http://www.cadsoft.com
On our blogs
Here are some of the items that appeared on our WorldCAD Access blog at http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com:
Letters to the Editor
Re: Right Hemisphere
"What neutral lightweight format? As a side note, Boeing uses Right Hemisphere software to generate 3D PDF customer documentation for the 787 Dreamliner."
- Evan Yares
The editor replies: "It is a proprietary one called .rh . See http://righthemisphere.com/support/kb/index.php?action=article&id=1385&relid=90"
Mr Yares responds: "Let's translate what they're saying: 'The format is not standardized or documented. It consists of a scene graph, and any other data they choose to put in it. Its format is purely a function of whatever plug-ins are used to write the file. If you want to write or read rh binary files, you need to license (pay for) the Deep Exploration SDK.' In other words, it's neither neutral nor lightweight."
Re: AS_SYM.shx file
"I recall that in the very early days AutoCAD shipped with an shx font file of AStronomical SYMbols - any connection? I've checked my archives but can't find a copy."
- Bill Fane
The editor replies: "That astronomy symbol font was known as SyAstro.shx."
"In your Alcove9 article, I think it is interesting that ceo Sam Abu-Hamdan didn't mention their main competitor, Docupoint's DrawingSearcher."
- Brad Bishop
"Thanks for many years of interesting articles."
- Alan Olifent
"For years, I have been reading your newsletter to keep up to date with industry happenings."
- Dick Bourke
"For 99 cents, people feel very entitled."
- Carl Bass, ceo, Autodesk
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Entire contents copyright 2012 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.