Getting the most out of your SolidWorks graphics–with help from NVIDIA

SolidWorks recently held a Technical Training summit for North American resellers.  About 75 technical leads from various resellers attended technical training and also learned about new features and offerings for SolidWorks products. 

NVIDIA was invited to attend and speak for an hour about the state of graphics for SolidWorks and it relates to Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). It was a great opportunity for attendees to discuss what works best in SolidWorks from a video card performance perspective, and how to adjust settings to make the application perform optimally.

Key takeaways from the workshop:

  •  NVIDIA showed something new for SolidWorks 2013. Shaded and Edges performance is now almost on par with just Shaded mode. Previously in SolidWorks 2012 and earlier when you turned edges on, performance would drop by 50% on average. Now in SolidWorks 2013, that drop is less–around 15%.
  • NVIDIA also showed overall performance comparisons of different cards.  For example, their new Quadro 2000 can be 3 times FASTER than the old Quadro FX 1700.  When upgrading SolidWorks, do consider upgrading the video card as well to benefit from the significant hardware performance improvement.
  • General guidelines on which graphics cards are best to use were also discussed. Generally speaking, for component design through assemblies with fewer than 500 components, the Quadro 2000 is ideal while the Quadro 4000 or event Quadro 5000 are available for better results on larger designs (assemblies >  10,000 components).  
  • Professional graphics cards like NVIDIA Quadro provide full scene anti-aliasing (FSAA).  

Beyond the performance improvements, it was nice to understand what factors could contribute to performance degradation as well. A few key things stuck out as items to watch out for and avoid, if possible:

  • Transparency in assemblies can drop performance by up to 50%. Making use of transparency is a very effective way to communicate a design but it is important to understand the potential performance impact while designing.
  • Assigning colors/materials per face in an assembly impacts performance greatly.  The more faces involved then the greater the impact can be. One nice guideline is that if you only change 10 faces in a 500 component assembly, you probably won’t see any real drop in performance. But, if you are assigning changes to hundreds  of faces, you’ll see the problem. Nice to know!
  • Saving an assembly as a part and then leveraging that compacted model for bigger assemblies saves on space and open time but it won’t help your graphics speed. Assemblies are efficient in SolidWorks but having a flattened assembly with hundreds  of bodies is going to be slower from a graphics processing perspective. If you don’t need to do this, then don’t.

It was nice to hear about how much real-world benchmarking is going on too. NVIDIA leverages model sets from SolidWorks and customers to verify interactive performance with every release of SolidWorks to make sure things are progressing. Performance is a big focus for them. The audience at this technical summit was glad to hear that NVIDIA works closely with SolidWorks R&D on a regular basis. 

Overall, it was nice to get some insights into how a partner hardware company works with a key software application like SolidWorks and the investments they make to make SolidWorks perform at its best. More information about NVIDIA Quadro for SolidWorks is available on their website.

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Robbie Liotta

Robbie Liotta