World of CAD XV: Generative Design, New AMD GPUs, and More

Updated Oct 4, 2023
Radeon Pro WX 3100 Graphics Card

Welcome to World of CAD, Scan2CAD’s monthly roundup of CAD-related news. This month, we’ll discuss the new generative design tools coming to Autodesk’s Netfabb software. We’ll also look at some new graphics cards from AMD, as well as ANSYS‘ acquisition of partner firm CEI. Finally, we’ll cover the impact SolidWorks had on this month’s World Para Athletics Championships.


Autodesk to release first commercially available generative design software

A few weeks ago, we covered Autodesk University London 2017: the first ever British edition of Autodesk’s long-running conference series. One of the key themes discussed at the event was generative design, whereby machines independently create solutions to problems. Now, they’re showing that they’re not just all talk. Autodesk have now announced its AM software Netfabb will incorporate generative design capabilities later this year.

Autodesk have long been exploring the possibilities of generative design, but this is the first time that its customers will have the chance to make use of these new breakthroughs. Software that is not merely human-directed but is instead adaptive provides us with the ability to find new and innovative solutions. It’s hoped that engineers can use the new software to “not only discover a new solution… [but to] bring it to life”. With Autodesk Netfabb, designers can even go straight from generative design to additive manufacturing.

As an example of the revolutionary capabilities of generative design, Autodesk have pointed to Stanley Black & Decker. The latter firm used the technology to create a new hydraulic crimper that maintained strength and durability while coming in 60% lighter than their existing part. The company praised the software as “almost magical”, stating that generative design was “clearly the future”. Learn more at the Autodesk website.

AMD releases GPUs targeted at CAD users

Anyone building their own ultimate CAD PC will need a few key components. Naturally, you’ll need a monitor (check out our guide to the best CAD monitors under $1,000 for tips). You’ll also need a CPU, motherboard, memory, and more. In the field of design, however, a great GPU is crucial. In recent years, NVIDIA has dominated this market: over 76% of market share last year went to NVIDIA. However, AMD are now hoping to make a comeback.

Why should CAD users pay attention? Two of their newest graphics cards, the Radeon Pro WX 2100 and WX 3100, are certified for Revit, SolidWorks, and PTC Creo, amongst other CAD applications. These models are hoping to win favor amongst 3D CAD users as an affordable, entry-level graphics solution. Both have consumer-friendly price tags, with the WX 2100 priced at $149, while the WX 3100 costs $199. On its website, AMD claims that the two are “the fastest entry-level workstation cards on the market today”.

Radeon Pro WX 3100

AMD claims its new WX 3100 is 47% faster than the NVIDIA P600 when running SolidWorks. Image source:

The cards’ performance in CAD applications is worth paying attention to. When running SolidWorks, the WX 3100 card is 47% faster than the NVIDIA P600, whilst the WX 2100 is 60% faster. Both cards also best the NVIDIA on software such as PTC Creo and Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA.

If all that wasn’t enough, AMD are also close to unveiling their new high-end GPU, the Radeon RX Vega. It’s clear that AMD are making an aggressive play to capture some of NVIDIA’s market share. We’ll follow this story in the coming months to see if it pays off.

ANSYS acquires CEI

When you realise another company’s product outperforms yours, you have two options: beat them, or acquire them. This is the dilemma that CAE firm ANSYS faced earlier this month. They realised that a partner, Computational Engineering International (CEI), had created a state-of-the-art post-processing tool called EnSight. ANSYS admitted that EnSight was superior to their own tools when dealing with computational fluid dynamics, as well as other data.

Chevy Traverse in ANSYS Ensight

Simulation of a Chevy Traverse in EnSight. Image source: ANSYS

ANSYS decided against playing catch-up, and instead opted to take over CEI this month. CEI’s EnSight tool will now therefore form part of ANSYS’ comprehensive CAE toolset. The acquisition should be of particular help when processing large CAE datasets, and goes beyond ANSYS’ existing “good enough” visualization tools. ANSYS have noted that EnSight “[adds] a lot more features and ways to visualize the data, produce analytics and create photorealistic animations and stills”. These capabilities should be particularly useful in the field of fluid dynamics, which often involves vast amounts of data.

Rather than keeping its tools separate, ANSYS plans to integrate EnSight into its Workbench software. There’s also potential for the tool to form part of other ANSYS software in the future.

Getting ahead in para-athletics—with SolidWorks

The links between CAD and sport aren’t new. In fact, we’ve already examined how CAD has impacted on sportswear when looking at CAD in fashion. This month, we’re taking a look at the relationship between CAD and para-athletics. We’ve just seen the conclusion of the World Para Athletics Championships in London, and anyone watching the action will have seen plenty of sporting prowess on display. What you may not have realised, however, is that SolidWorks has played a key role for some athletes.

The host nation’s team, Team GB, have partnered with BAE Systems since 2008. The aim of this collaboration is to use BAE Systems’ mechanical knowledge and technology to help Team GB ascend the medal table. To help British athletes gain an edge, BAE Systems used SolidWorks to help create a bespoke system for para-athletes. It’s called the WATT System (Wheelchair Athlete Test and Training System), and it helps athletes to simulate real-life environments while training. It does this through the use of an adjustable frame and electric motor brakes.

Henry White of BAE explains that, with the WATT System, athletes will “be able to complete whatever training they need and access courses from all over the world, from wherever they are”. The result? A resounding success, as Team GB finished 3rd in the medal table, with 18 golds.

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