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Apple first out of the blocks with new generation Xeon (Nehalem) processor

Published 05 March 2009

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with: rendering, hypershot, apple, intel, develop3d, 3dsmax, al dean

This week Apple lifted the lid on Intel’s new Xeon processor, way in advance of the other major workstation vendors, and, much to our amazement, even in advance of Intel itself. The Quad Core chip will feature at the heart of all new Mac Pro desktop systems.

The Xeon version of the Core i7 (Nehalem) chip is no secret, but bizarrely there is still no mention of it on Intel’s website, and from what I understand Intel and all the major workstation vendors won’t ‘officially’ be talking about the new chip until the end of the month.

While it’s intriguing as to why Apple can talk about the processor while other hardware manufacturers can’t, what’s more important is what this chip will offer the CAD/CAM/CAE sector. Intel’s Xeon (Nehalem) is very much like Core i7, but unlike the Core i7 will be available in dual socket workstations. This means heaps of power for multithreaded applications, with the most obvious beneficiary being rendering which scales very well across multiple cores. While dual socket Quad Core workstations have been available for some time, what makes the Xeon (Nehalem) different is that it supports HyperThreading, which splits each physical core in to two. The first part of the core does the lion’s share of processing, while the other part squeezes in additional computational tasks as and when there is spare capacity.

For a dual processor Xeon workstation this means access to 16 cores in total (eight physical and eight logical) and while many CAD/CAM/CAE applications can’t take advantage of multi core processors, let alone HyperThreading, applications like 3ds Max, HyperShot and CAD-resident renderers will lap it up, so expect never been seen before levels of processing power on the desktop.

If you can’t wait until the end of the month, when all the major workstation manufacturers will be announcing their new Xeon (Nehalem) based workstation line ups, you could always go out and get your hands on a shiny new Mac Pro. After all, as Al Dean points out in his comment in the March edition of DEVELOP3D, Macs are back in a big way! Register here to make sure you bag yourself a copy.

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Bentley Motors pushes Perceived Quality with aesthetica

Published 05 March 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: simulation, visualisation, bunkspeed, tolerance, tolerance analysis, percieved quality, bentley motors, aesthetica, icona solutions, quality

News just out of Icona Solutions, that Bentley Motors has adopted its aesthetica product to assist the multi-disciplinary team involved in new vehicle design to visualize and agree on gap and flush conditions early in the design process at its design and manufacturing plant in Crewe, England.

It is being used to streamline and improve the process of achieving consistently high perceived quality in the company’s vehicles without negatively impacting development timescales and manufacturing costs.

Perceived Quality is something of a new concept, but the principles are pretty easy to grasp. By improving the fit and form of your product, you can, with careful planning, have that product (it’s by no means limited to the automotive world) achieve a level of aesthetic quality, with over burdening the manufacturing and assembly. Basically, if you get the tolerances right, you can have a repeatable product, that’s of a very high aesthetic quality, with reasonable tolerances (meaning lower cost and effort).

Aesthetica let’s you create the tolerance information using native CAD geometry and conduct stack up analysis to find out different assignments, different conditions effect quality.

The problem is that how in the name of all that’s holy, find that balance. This is where aesthetica comes it. It combines an advance tolerance analysis and stack technology with high-end visualization technology (in the latest releases, courtesy of bunkspeed). This mix allows you to play with tolerances, see how they shift as you tighten or loosen them off in specific places, experiment with control – but at the same time, have a photo realistic representation of how the variance of those tolerances will effect the visual quality of the product. What this also enables is that everyone involved in the process, who typically have very different skills, different language, references and focuses, can concentrate on their specialism, but both can see the effect of their field on each other’s data and specific core concentration areas.

At the same time, you can use the HyperShot integration to find out how those variations and assignments will effect the aesthetic quality of the product.

As the press release says, quoting Jim Shaw, manager of concept engineering at Bentley Motors commented that “We are constantly seeking ways to improve the design processes required to achieve quality in manufacturing. However, the practicalities of getting everyone involved to agree the gap and flush conditions ahead of the Class A surfacing process meant there was a reluctance to commit to them early enough in the design process. This was resulting in agreements only being reached after tooling prove-out models had been milled and stacked, which was leading to loops in the Class A surfacing activity that were eating into the development timeline.

Following the findings of a working group that was formed to look into dimensional management throughout the development process at Bentley Motors, several new techniques were identified and justified, with the implementation of aesthetica being the final piece of the jig-saw puzzle.

“In several pilot projects over recent months it has been clearly demonstrated that aesthetica allows us to truly visualize the effects of all stake-holders proposals, not just for edge conditions but also for the underlying fixing constraints”, said Shaw. “Styling, engineering, quality and manufacturing people can therefore appreciate and understand each other’s requirements and reach agreement at a much earlier stage in the development process than was the case before.

The use of Icona Solutions aesthetica software at Bentley Motors allows the variation in key areas of the vehicle that would occur under manufacturing conditions to be visualized, studied and understood without the need for the manufacture of solid, physical models. These key areas have been agreed with the cross-functional team that is responsible for design approval.

Specific viewpoints that are used by the audit team have been set up in aesthetica so that they review the virtual 3D models in the same way that they view production cars,” explained Patrick Crutchley, Senior Engineer for Surfacing at Bentley Motors. “The improvement in understanding and the promotion of collaboration between departments that this brings has been immense,” he adds.

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HyperShot 1.8: Decals A Go Go

Published 05 March 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: rendering, visualisation, bunkspeed, hypershot

Rendered in HyperShot, using HDR environment from

A little late, but HyperShot 1.8 is out and perhaps the one thing that existing users have been waiting for is finally implimented – decals. or for those of us without funny accents – stickers! This means that you have a great deal more control over how both textures and decals are applied, whether they’re on a single part or across multiple parts. This is current built into non-transparent materials, including Metal, Anisotropic, Metallic Paint, Plastic, Diffuse, and Flat.

Other updates for this release include the ability automatically assign materials when importing data and to control values in dialogs using a dial, rather than tapping in values manually (mouse wheel support for this might have been useful too). There’s also been some work done on the quality of blur when you’re using Depth of Field – which is previous release can be more than a little noisey – this new release should give you a much ‘cleaner’ blur (if that makes any form of sense).

Render by Inovo Design for its client, Motonica

HyperShot is sold on a similar pricing scheme to that of digital cameras – higher resolution and more features costs more. For those working with the Pro version, the batch and render queue has been tweaked to run the render queue in a seperate process (for those using multi-core machines – which makes massive sense in this instance).

With HyperShot 2.0 on its way soon, HyperMove shipping (look out for a full review in the next issue of Develop3D), Bunkspeed are going at it. Big Time. And with Autodesk on the offensive with Showcase both in a technological sense and pricing (it’s been dropped to $995), they need to keep up the momentum they’ve already built in the short two years. HyperShot 1.8 is available for free to existing users and ready. Nice Video below:

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Blue Ridge looks to cluster technology to boost CFD performance

Published 26 February 2009

Posted by greg corke

Article tagged with: amd, cfd, intel, cfdesign, core i7, cluster, windows hpc

Despite the emergence of multiple CPU cores in individual workstations (the standard is now 4 cores) most CAE applications still can’t harness all the available power, probably never will until there’s a major architectural change, and many max out at two cores. The way round this is to use clusters, or to put it simply a series of desktop computers directly connected together with some clever stuff.

Blue Ridge Numericsis the latest CFD vendor to promote its own cluster solution, which works with Microsoft Windows HPC networks. (I’m not hugely familiar with cluster technology, but I do know that Microsoft introduced its cluster technology a few years back, in response to the success of Linux in this sector.)

Blue Ridge’s CFdesign high performance computing (HPC) Module works directly with Windows Server 2008 HPC Edition, and with a little tinkering can turn two or more desktop workstations into a mini cluster. As with a single workstation, there is a limit to the performance gains you can get but Blue Ridge is quoting a maximum reduction in simulation time of 550% for a four node, 16 core setup. From what I can ascertain it looks like there might be a little exaggeration here as the baseline appears to be taken from a single core workstation.

Blue Ridge told me last year that in a single multi core workstation one can expect speed increases in CFdesign of up to 140% (Intel) to 160% (AMD), though I would imagine Intel has now got faster with the introduction of the Core i7, which receives its data directly from system RAM rather than going via a front side bus (FSB).

So by my rough calculations, the performance increase from a single multi core workstation to a four node, 16 core cluster, would be about 350%, which still is not to be sniffed at (I’m sure Blue Ridge will correct me if I’m wrong here).

Percentages aside it’s certainly a very interesting technology and I look forward to test-driving it in the near future. I’d better dust off my copy of Windows HPC cluster for Dummies first though.

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