A company that makes workstations and rendering engines to run 3D CAD applications caught our attention at SoldWorks World, a gathering of the CAD-maker’s users, held earlier this month in Los Angeles.
The rendering solutions from Boxx allows users to free up their workstation and to offload complex rendering and simulation tasks to a dedicated computing device. For those who need to render their Solidworks assemblies, the company offers several options, each with different compute requirements.
The company also makes workstation computers for the 3D graphics market.
For engineering organizations, selecting the number of processing cores in a SolidWorks workstation is an important consideration, said Tim Lawrence, Boxx vice president of engineering. SolidWorks is a frequency bound application, meaning that it predominantly uses only one core, he said.
Since the frequency of that core determines performance more than any other variable, a workstation with fewer cores but higher frequency is ideal.
Unlike modeling and design tasks, rendering and simulation are multi-threaded and will take advantage of many CPU cores. While Solidworks, simulation is multi-threaded, performance gains level off after 10 cores. An ideal solution for Solidworks simulation is an overclocked eight-core or ten-core Apexx workstation, Lawrence said.
Boxx showed its newly released workstation, the Apexx 2 model 2403 at the show and demonstrated its soon-to-be-released Aprexx 8R a rack-mounted workstation that features eight NVIDIA Quadro P6000 graphics cards.
The new Apexx 2 model includes a safely overclocked Intel Core i7 7700K processor, reaches 4.8GHz and sustains it across all four cores. It’s available with up to two, full-length NVIDIA or AMD Radeon Pro professional graphics cards.
In terms of sustained performance, the integration of the processor makes the workstation nearly ten percent faster than the standard edition Apexx 2 2203, according to Boxx. The new workstation also features the liquid cooling and compact chassis features included across the Apexx 2 line.
SolidWorks 2016 included the Visualize tool that enables designers to quickly make marketing-quality renderings. In SolidWorks 2017 Visualize was updated with PowerBoost, a tool that allows the user to draw on the resources of a GPU-accelerated network rendering server and stream the end result directly back to the end user’s viewport. Design elements and features can be evaluated in the context of real world materials, finishes and photo-real environments.
Because PowerBoost offers real-time visual feedback it allows users to iterate faster.
Apexx workstations are also good choices to run SolidWorks Visualize, a standalone GPU accelerated rendering tool based on Nvidia’s Iray, Lawrence added.
At the show, Boxx employees showed off the quick rendering capability the Apexx 8R GPU Quadro P6000 could bring to SolidWorksVisualize Power Boost, accessed on a Boxx Apexx 1 1201 workstation. The system architecture of that workstation enables up to eight discreet GPU graphic boards to communicate directly with each other on the PCIe bus.
The majority of Boxx customers running Solidworks use Nvidia Quadro graphics for 3D design and modeling. But these can lack the required compute power to deliver real-time ray traced rendering, Lawrence said.
By offloading rendering to the Apexx 8R, users have the required compute power to deliver real-time ray-traced rendering.
Design demos were also held on the Apexx 1, equipped with the newest Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA Quadro P1000 graphics card.
Orange County Choppers lead designer Jason Pohl recently upgraded his Apexx 1 with the new P1000.
“It enables me to work at the speed of thought,” he said. “OCC relies on a number of 3D CAD design and visualization and the P1000 easily handles everything we throw at it. It’s the perfect GPU for an ultra-compact workstation.”
Another Boxx demonstration featured ProVDI, the company’s scale-out approach to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which enables an organization to host multiple power users on a single physical server.
“For the first time ever, IT groups and end users can exploit all the benefits of VDI without sacrificing the performance and productivity of content creators using graphics intense 3D applications,” Lawrence said.
Also at the Boxx booth, we saw the GoBOXX MXL VR. Designed for engineers and architects ready to incorporate mobile virtual reality into their workflow, it features a desktop-class Intel Core i7 processor of 4.0GHz, NVIDIA GeForce graphics, and up to 64GB of RAM. In the coming-days of virtual reality, a tool like this will be helpful.