CAD Workstations - What's The Difference?
In this section we'll delve a little deeper into the essential differences between a CAD workstation and a standard desktop PC on a conceptual level without getting too technical. We'll also explore briefly how easy it is for a business to bleed thousands from bottom line profit without even realizing it by making a poor investment decision based on the cost of a CAD workstation as opposed to needs requirement and business productivity.
CAD Workstation Motherboards and Processors
In brief, in a workstation PC typical component differences will be the quality of the motherboard and chipset, the performance and specification of the processor (engine), it could be a dual core, quad core or more depending on the CAD software's requirements (see more information on the multi -core processors page).
CAD workstation memory is often different as well having error checking and correcting capabilities to maintain the stability of the CAD geometry or a complex calculation. Without this tiny memory errors could result in data loss or corruption resulting in hours at least of potential rework.
Or possibly the CAD software your company uses could need to run over night rendering an image perhaps required urgently by a client the next day. If the program crashes leaving the job incomplete - how much would a lost client cost the business.
CAD Workstation Cooling
In addition CAD workstations often need to work at an order of magnitude harder than an office PC during its life time, so they will be stressed much harder and will perform hotter thereby requiring better cooling. for example an office PC may only hit sustained peaks of usage every once in a while where as a Workstation PC or mobile workstation could be running flat out for hours (and sometimes days) on end.
This causes excessive heat build up and unless properly cooled (as would be the case in a proper workstation PC) this could lead to premature component failure or even total data loss or data corruption as a computers hard drive is very prone to degradation in a hot environment.
Workstation Hard Drives
Hard drive speeds for CAD workstations and a mobile workstation need to be much quicker (with a larger cache) than an office machines, as there is a world of difference between opening a word document and even a small cad file that may compose of a hundred parts or in the case of large CAD files tens of thousands of separate files.
In addition some CAD application constantly access in built databases and a single process that would take around 5 seconds to perform on a performance workstation will take 30 seconds or more on a slow hard drive, so if a user only had to perform one particular function 5 times an hour, and only worked with their application 4 hours a day. This equates to a staggering loss of 40 hours (at whatever your internal man hour cost is) in a single year.
Solid State drives are now much more affordable than before for a relatively small extra cost, and can also give substantial increases in data transfer speeds, so these are well worth the extra investment.
Hard drive performance is something that is in a majority of cases not taken into consideration by management and IT departments making hardware purchasing decisions purely based on budget as opposed to business value. But in deference to anyone in your business unless they specialize in CAD hardware they may not understand that the few hundreds saved on the initial purchase of a CAD computer will in all probability cost the business substantially more during the computers lifetime.
Workstation Graphics Cards
Workstation graphics cards are specially designed and have special software drivers written to maximize the performance of CAD software. Running expensive CAD software on a games card as opposed to certified workstation graphics cards could easily lead to constant software, crashes, errors or data corruption or inaccuracies.
Hopefully the information supplied so far will help you understand that having CAD software in the business and running it on inappropriate hardware just to save a few hundred a year in hardware costs compared to buying a CAD workstation can cost a business tens of thousands or more in lost productivity and profitability in reality over a period of years.
Another aspect to consider is that different CAD software also has different hardware configuration requirements, so assuming you are in agreement that a proper CAD workstation is a sound business investment and not just another computer, in the next section we will look at matching your Cad workstation to your software and why this is also important too.