Working with Large Assemblies – Projects or Inferior Hardware

SliderWasheryPlant

Don’t want to go into detail, just jump to a line with #Instant. (For the first time in blog history.)

I want it to be useful for both beginners and professionals. So I will start with some basic fundamental about how software works and then will move forward to possible improvisation scope based on that. Basically, I am going to publish series of blogs, which will cover different CAD software. In this part, I am going to focus more on some general improvements.

Normally people want to buy high-end hardware to increase performance and reduce time but it is not always true. One need to judge that based on the type of work. At the end, it is all about getting best out of what you have. So let’s have a look at how we can achieve that.

Difference Compared to other Blogs : You will find a number of blogs / Help topics related to the same topic which will guide you regarding ways to improve performance. Indeed, those are very useful and I have also gained knowledge from that. But major blogs /help topics don’t mention how to judge whether one has to upgrade hardware or not and if yes which part needs to be updated. The user needs to judge that based on their requirement. I will help you decide that.

Main components of computer which directly affect performance of any CAD/CAM/CAE software are

Processor

Motherboard

RAM

Graphic Card

Storage (HDD/SSD)

Network Environment (for Intranet and Internet)

Operating System

Workstation : To avoid compatibility issues and to get driver support for new operating system and CAD software, (#Instant) we always prefer to buy a system from the manufacturer (Dell, HP etc) and don’t go for assembled computer by a local vendor.

Certified hardware will obviously perform better due to tight integration with other hardware. One should consider this only when the computer is taking more time than one need to spend a time to give instructions to the software.

Motherboard & Processor : As mentioned on Autodesk website, (#Instant) The wisest choice is to procure the fastest single CPU that your budget allows. If your budget allows, buy the fastest Multi-core CPU and suitable motherboard.

You need to go into detail to understand your requirement. Let me give you some insights of software. All CAD software are not multi-thread software. In laymen language, CAD software is not designed in such a way that it can give instruction to multiple cores. As a developer I can understand, it’s a big task to program in such a way. However, CAD Software uses multicore during some processes such as rendering, Animation, raytracing, Stress Analysis, Hidden line calculation in drawing etc. For more detail refer article Support-for-multi-core-processors.

If you are using any process mentioned in that article you should opt for a multi-core processor. Let us take one example to make it clearer.

e.g. If one need to create drawing with more than four views, obviously multicore is helpful. But if views are very complex and drawing has few views then one should opt fastest single CPU.

(#Instant) Apart from that, if you already have multi-core processor then you can take advantage using multiple instances of the CAD Software. I personally open another inventor for reference model as the operating system can run the second inventor on other core. It is not advisable if you are running out of RAM, as it requires more RAM.

RAM : Higher RAM is always better but only when you need that. The easiest way to check the same is by monitoring resource monitor or performance tab of Task Manager. (#Instant)As a thumb rule, if your system is using less than 75% RAM in normal working condition than there is no significant benefit by increasing RAM. But of course, faster RAM is always beneficial. So opt for the fastest RAM available in the market and increase RAM only if required for your working condition.

You always need to check maximum amount of RAM and type of RAM that your motherboard can support. Also, it is limited by your windows License!

Often you will come across various methods of using your HDD or USB as a RAM. I always had doubted whether it is reliable or not? To understand that we need to understand the significance of RAM in the system. RAM is designed to frequently read and write data during the process at a much higher speed compared to HDD/SSD (See table below). Also, a lifespan of HDD/SDD/USB will decrease significantly if used as a RAM. But you can use this function only a few times when you come across some work which requires extensive RAM than your normal work. For professionals, this feature may waste your significant time than saving your few bucks, if you are using more than 75% of RAM in normal working condition.

Have a look at below comparison to get a clear idea regarding RAM.

Category Speed (Approx) Cost (Approx)
DDR3-1600 (10-10-10) RAM Transfer rate of 12.8GB/s (latency of 12.5 ns) $6/GB
SSD (eg. Samsung SM951) 4.5GB/s read and 3GB/s write (Seek time ~0.08 ms) $1/GB
HDD 10000 RPM sequential media transfer – 1.6 GB/s

sustained transfer rate up to 1 GB/s

(Seek time ~0.2 ms & Rotational latency 4.17 ms)

$0.04/GB

Some blogs recommend using tools to free RAM. As there is no method to access RAM directly to any software, software need to ask OS to provide more RAM. In that case, OS will write data to pagefile i.e. on HDD and then software free the space of RAM. In short, those tools are forcing OS to write RAM pages to the pagefile. So it is obvious that if your CAD software is using the most amount of RAM then all that data will be written to HDD and software performance will be drastically reduced. But it is useful if you run that tool before you start Inventor and perform a heavy process. It is advisable to increase RAM if you frequently need to do that.

Pagefile : It is file/space located on the local drive which acts as a virtual RAM when all processes require more RAM than actual RAM. Page means 4KB pieces of information that OS move from RAM to the pagefile on the hard disk to free up some space on RAM for other processes.

(#Instant) Don’t worry about this if you never use 75% of your RAM. If you use, then windows recommend making the page file 1.5 times the size of the installed RAM. But at any point of time, If you require more to work on the large file you can temporarily increase pagefile size.

You can google how to set that based on your operating system.

Graphics card : Never choose a graphic card based on review related to game performance. As it is an altogether different thing. CAD software demand for real-time rendering based on mathematical calculation while games demand renders which are predefined in most of the cases. Hence Graphic card manufacturer needs to provide appropriate driver along with hardware which is optimised for CAD performance. That is the reason you will find recommended graphic cards from CAD software.

(#Instant) Sometimes I came across scenarios where cheap graphic cards which are not recommended by CAD software can decrease the performance and you will find improved performance when you disable that graphic card. So I personally suggest going for CAD software recommended graphic cards.

Local or Network Storage (HDD / SSD) : If you are accessing big files from your local / network hard disk then only you need to consider this.

(#Instant) Fragmentation is useful in case if you are using HDD. It will reduce head movement while reading.

(#Instant) Always SSD (optionally Hybrid Drive) can give you better results but in case if you have budget constraints then, the Best practice is to use SSD for your OS and work folders (if you are using vault then you can configure vault to place the folder on that SSD). Purchase HDD for extra space, if you require putting your less important data and you don’t need that frequently such as Audio, Video files, Completed work files etc.

Operating System : (#Instant)
Advancement in Hardware and software opens the door for new functionalities for CAD software. No one can make an operating system support all future hardware. So we insist on using latest OS for new hardwares. On the contrary, never jumps into the new version and test that before you implement if you are doing work. If you are a student then you can jump to new system immediately. it will help you learn the latest technologies or functionalities.

Network Environment (for Intranet and Internet) : It is very vast topic to cover here and it is mostly applicable to corporates. The whole network depends on a lot of factors such us the cost, security, no of the user, future plans etc. So I insist you consult good network administrator who can guide you in selection.

(#Instant) In order to use the maximum amount of speed your network, you need every single component in your network (including your computers) to be gigabit compliant.

Any comments and suggestion will be appreciated. You can reach me through my email ID : harshj@monovative.com

References and Credits

I would like to thank my colleague Siddharth Raval for collecting useful information.

Old blog of Understanding, Identifying and Upgrading the RAM in your PC – http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/tutorials/identifying-and-upgrading-ram/

My favourite hardware website : http://www.tomshardware.com/

Why not use SSD space as RAM? http://superuser.com/questions/617864/why-not-use-ssd-space-as-ram

HDD vs. SSD http://www.diffen.com/difference/HDD_vs_SSD

Hard disk drive performance characteristics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_disk_drive_performance_characteristics

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2160852

Pushing the Limits of Windows:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/markrussinovich/archive/2008/07/21/3092070.aspx

http://members.shaw.ca/bsanders/WindowsGeneralWeb/RAMVirtualMemoryPageFileEtc.htm

http://www.zdnet.com/article/windows-7-memory-usage-whats-the-best-way-to-measure/

https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Why-you-should-use-a-Quadro-video-card-in-Solidworks-2016-751/

http://www.computeraideddesignguide.com/best-graphics-card-for-cad-programs/

http://www.digitaleng.news/de/impressive-new-gpus/

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