The latest from the DEVELOP3D Blog:
Published 31 March 2009
Posted by Al Dean
While I’m sworn to secrecy regarding the next release of Geomagic’s line of reverse engineering or, as they would have it, Digital Shape Sampling and Processing (DSSP), applications, there’s something that’s been talked about a little bit online and recently posted to the company’s labs web-site (labs.geomagic.com), that’s too good to resist a little yap about.
When you look at the use of reverse engineering within the context of 3D design, there are several workflows and processes that it supports. Whatever your end goal, the process of capturing a physical form digitally is used across a wide spectrum of the design and manufacturing world. There’s those looking to capture concept models/clays/styrofoam concepts and turn them into something more workable. there are those looking to capture organically generated shapes because that’s the only way they can be produced. Then looking into more production related applications, the use of revser engineering technologies is huge in many areas. Whether that’s the digitalisation of physical legacy parts for remanufacturing where either digital data doesn’t exist, or the ‘in-use’ part doesn’t match the source 3D data (something that’s huge in aerospace and turbomachinery). There’s also inspection and metrology applications that are gaining massive traction.
Whatever your use and purpose, it’s common that the scanned form is used as the basis for the construction of more accurate, cleaner surfaces. This is true of the automotive styling world as it is of the product design or medical market. you’ll start with a physical form, but your end requirement is a clean, smooth and fully featured surface or solid model. Now, the problem is that while you’ve traditionally been able to create surfaces and solids which can be passed to your workhorse design system, there’s very little in the way of intelligence. you can derive forms based on scan data, but editing that geometry, to effect design changes, takes complex edits and in many cases, complete rework.
#1: Using Geomagic Studio to indentify ‘features’ and surface entities within your scanned data.
What Geomagic has done is to develop a series of connections that establish a link between its host application (Geomagic Studio) and either SolidWorks, Inventor or Pro/Engineer. You perform the standard scanning, registration and clean up processes (look out for a full review in DEVELOP3D in April for more information).
#2: Surface entities created using automatic and manual tools
But once done, you then use the built in tools (from the Geomagic Fashion module) to start to break down the model into precisely defined surfaces and solids. The system has, for some time, included a range of tools that allow you to create very clean surface/solid data using that underlying point cloud. This extends that by passing that same data to your workhorse CAD system. This is then used as the basis of reconstruction your models in your CAD system, using standard operations and features.
#3: Surfaces transferred to SolidWorks, with generating sketches in place and feature history constructed – ready for boolean and trimming operations.
The benefit this gives you is that you’ll end up with a quasi-parametric model which contains a great deal more intelligence (in terms of enabling design modification) than you’d traditionally get.
#4: Final SolidWorks model, clean, trimmed and intelligent.
Looks cool eh? it is. While Geomagic’s arch-nemesis, RapidForm has a similar tool in the form of RapidFormXOR/Redesign, Geomagic’s Parametric Exchange looks like a very elegant solution that lets Geomagic do what it does best (working with point cloud and polygon data) and leaves you to do the bulk of the surface and solid editing in systems best suited to the job. The images above show the system working with SolidWorks – now here’s a nice little video to show how it inter-operates with Pro/Engineer.
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HP’s AMD-based workstation, the xw9400, is to support six cores per CPU
#5: With all the hype surrounding HP’s new Xeon 5500-based Z Series workstations, I asked HP what this meant for its AMD-based workstations, specifically the xw9400. The response was that the xw9400 will still be able to differentiate itself from HP’s Intel-based machines as it will be able to support six cores per CPU later this this year.
This could be very interesting for those pushing the boundaries of CAE on the desktop, because despite the new Intel platform featuring a total of 16 cores by counting the 8 created with HyperThreading, most CAE applications can’t take advantge of this virtual core technology. As a result, the xw9400’s 12 cores will still be the maximum available from a mainstream workstation manufacturer.
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#4: It’s been a frustrating few days for me. Not only because I had to leave sunny LA at the tail end of last week to return to wind and rain in London, but I got to see all manner of exciting technologies at HP’s global workstation event, which I’ve been unable to write about until now due to embargo restrictions.
One of these technologies is HP’s brand new workstation family, the Z Series (pronounced Zee Series by those the other side of the Atlantic). Comprising three models – the Z400, Z600 and Z800 – the new machines are something to get quite excited about. This is not just because of Intel’s new, incredibly powerful Xeon 5500 series processors, but because HP has completely re-thought the workstation and the way it can be serviced, upgraded and generally taken to bits.
To my mind, only Apple and Sun have delivered similar levels of serviceability offered by HP’s new Z series, which is completely tool-less in design. For its demonstrations, HP focussed on its top-end Z800 showing exactly how easy it is to service and maintain.
HP’s New Z800 workstation, can be taken to bits in minutes – and look, no wires!
The whole system relies on clearly marked green levers and clips to give users visual clues as to how to take things apart. HP has done this before but never to this level of simplicity. First of all there are no wires inside the machine! These are all routed behind the back of the motherboard – not only to make things easier, but not to interfere with the CFD-optimised airflow throughout the machine. Even the dongles used to power high-end graphics cards, such as the Quadro FX 5800, are routed behind the motherboard and neatly clipped away when not in use.
Everything in the system, from graphics cards to hard drives and even motherboard, feature innovative mechanisms for easy and tool-less removal. Components that rely on power, such as the power supply and memory fans, use blind mate connectors, which are funnel-shaped to guide the components into place.
The power supply itself has been completely redesigned, and runs the whole length of the chassis so it can take in cool air from the front of the machine and as a result generate less fan noise. User maintenance and diagnosis has also been improved and should the workstation develop a power problem the supply unit can be removed simply by pulling it out by its handle. Then plugging it into the mains will help the user verify the cause of the problem. If the supply is indeed faulty the green light on the side of the unit will not come on. HP will then ship out a replacement power supply which can be easily installed by the user.
In its quest for even quieter machines HP has also innovated in its cooling mechanisms. Specially designed injection moulded ducting means each CPU in a dual socket machine receives fresh air from the front of the workstation reducing the load and improving acoustics. Dedicated fans for each memory bank also run independently from each other to minimise noise.
For those craving even fewer decibels, a liquid cooling option will also be available this summer and new Intel solid state hard drives, which not only run quieter than traditional physical drives, but consume less power and produce less heat, will also be introduced soon. These will also increase performance for those that access a lot of data, frequently.
HP made some bold statements about power, claiming that on average its new workstations consume 35% less power than similarly configured machines in its previous generation. In terms of power efficiency, all of its power supplies now surpass the 80plus initiative and are now 85% efficient. The redesigned 1,100W unit in the Z800 is even 89% efficient.
HP has also done a lot of work on power saving and a new hibernate mode called HP WattSaver reduces power consumption to 0.8W, compared to the 2.1W in its previous generation workstations.
In addition, HP claims that all HP workstations are to 90% recyclable by weight and the HP Z line is registered as Electronics Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) Gold, the highest rating available.
DesignWorks was instrumental in the development of the innovative new chassis for HP’s new Z Series workstation. Foam protoytpes pictured.
HP engaged BMW DesignWorks as part of its industrial design team and to do the global customer research into what its customers want from workstations. In addition to the totally tool-less design to transform the way users re-configure systems, the Z600 and Z800 feature integrated handles making it easier to move them around on site. Also, because the workstations don’t have rubber feet, they can be slid around on carpets and tiled floors.
Styling was also high on the agenda and the ‘design language’ developed by DesignWorks expresses clean lines and premium materials. The grill that runs down the entire front of the Z600 and Z800 was made possible by incorporating a slot loading optical drive and brushed aluminium side panels also feature. Finally, with its injection moulded components, the machine also looks elegant from the inside, as opposed to the usual mess of wires and clips. It’s a welcome change from HP’s ‘xw’ chassis, which was getting a bit long in the tooth and while the Z Series has a refined look, it’s still no Mac Pro in terms of character.
Alec Bernstein, Senior Director, Strategy, Research & Strategic Partnering, DesignWorks USA, also explained how the Z800 applies a lot of the principles of green design. For example, minimizing the amount of screws and fasteners can have a huge impact on the environment as screws travel more than any product in the world as they are mined, manufactured and then shipped globally.
The Z family
HP’s new Z workstation series feature three models, the Z800, Z600 and Z400. The entire family is based around Intel’s new Xeon processor 5500 and 3500 series (codenamed Nehalem), which feature integrated memory controllers and Turbo Boost Technology.
The Z400 is a single socket machine taking the price/performance position in the range (though HP will continue to produce its Core 2 Duo-based xw4600 for those that want an even lower entry-point). The Z600 is a compact dual socket workstation, but for ultimate expandability the Z800 offers up to 192GB memory and 7.5TB of internal storage.
All workstations are armed with 1,333MHz DDR-3 memory and new professional graphics solutions have been introduced across the line. These include Nvidia’s Quadro FX380, FX580, FX1800, and FX3800, which join the established FX4800, and FX5800 in the high-end machines. The choice of AMD graphics cards has also been expanded over previous generation workstation families with the ATI FirePro V3700, V5700 and V7750 all offered as standard options.
With the introduction of the new Xeon 5500 Series, it’s an exciting time for workstations in general, because performance is about to go through the roof, particularly when users are multitasking or running multithreaded applications.
However, while this level of performance will be seen across new product introductions from all the major workstation vendors, what makes HP stand out from the crowd at this moment in time is its innovative approach to chassis design, which looks set to make the servicing of workstation an absolute breeze. Check back in the coming months where we plan to get our hands dirty with full reviews of the systems.
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#3: Despite being one of the most interesting technologies to appear at HP’s workstation event, it was surprising that this new workstation virtualisation technology was given so little stage time. Parallels Workstation Extreme enables users to run multiple Operating Systems on a single workstation, meaning Linux and Windows users don’t have to work with two workstations concurrently or resort to dual boot. But the real beauty of the technology is that it is claimed to run applications at 95-100% of their full speed.
I had a very interesting chat with James Raquepau, OEM Alliances Director, Parallels, who explained more about the technology and how he has already had interest from the automotive and aerospace sectors. For those that don’t know, Parallels is best known for its software that enables Windows to run at speed on Apple’s OS X. The new workstation-class product will do a similar thing for Windows and Linux so engineers could switch between their Linux-based CAE software and Windows-based design software, accessing the same data off the hard drive array, driving efficiency and reducing the costs and power requirements of maintaining two workstations.
Schlumberger, a specialist in the oil and gas sector, demonstrated Parallels Workstation Extreme at the event running on a HP Z800 workstation with two 30-inch monitors. It showed it running a Linux-based simulation using all eight cores while continuing to perform interactive 3D modelling operations under Windows at full speed. Changing control of the application was as simple as moving the mouse from one screen to the other with the keyboard following suit automatically.
Schlumberger’s excitement for the software was evident, particularly as many of its customers regularly need to run legacy Linux code alongside more modern Windows applications.
James Raquepau told me the requirements for the system are two identical graphics cards (HP currently supports Nvidia’s Quadro FX3800, FX4800, and FX5800), lots of memory and ideally a dual socket (CPU) workstation. The technology is made possible by new virtualization technology built into the new Intel technology and while it should run comfortably on any dual socket Intel Xeon 5500 platform, Parallels is initially partnering with HP for the launch of the product. It will retail for $399.
This looks to be an essential technology for those with multi OS requirements, and Raquepau also told me this could include those that want to work with the forthcoming Windows 7 whilst maintaining legacy Windows XP applications. Interesting times.
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