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    Discussion in '2D and 3D CAD general discussion forum' started by thebigconsultant, Oct 19, 2011.

    1. thebigconsultant

      thebigconsultant Active Member

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      Hi,

      I use licensed SolidWorks 2011 for my main CAD.

      I have a main CAD machine, that I hand build, based on the inexpensive Intel i5 750 overclocked to 3.9Ghz. Inside I have a Quadro FX550, and 10,000 RPM SATA hard drive, a large data drive, and all the trimmings.

      For my portable machine, I have an aging Dell M90 Precision. It has a Quadro, and I have upgraded it with a Hybrid Solid State Drive from Seagate, and 4GB fast ram, plus some other tweaks.

      Unfortunately my M90 (which is still a good and fast machine) even though it is reaching 6-7 years old (its a 2.6Ghz dual core), is starting to fall apart. The Quadro graphics card, has a problem with the BGA chipset, and although I have had it re-flow soldered twice, it is giving up the ghost and only lasts about 6 months till I have to do some re-repairs.

      Basically I am resurrecting something that should have been laid to rest some time ago! ... But saying that, if I had it working still, I would still use it and I recommend this machine.

      Now, SolidWorks really seems to need either a. The Quadro Graphics Cards or b. The FirePro Graphics Cards.

      So, I have looked for new machines (i.e. Laptops), and the minimum I will have to pay is around £2,500 for a suitable laptop to work remotely on, or for taking on-site.

      So I have had an idea. :D I want to build, a hand built machine. A portable, and put it in either
      i. An aluminium flight case
      ii. A laptop or briefcase style lightweight case
      iii. Use a Micro ITX motherboard, with an i7, 8GB ram, Win7 64bit, Micro PSU, Fans etc.

      I will mount an LCD screen in there manually. I have one here that I have removed the plastic surround and bezel, and I dont mind screwing it in place, for example in the flight-case lid.

      I am not bothered about batteries. As I always plug in anyway. Besides, the train has sockets!

      Yes I am seriously thinking along these lines:-

      [​IMG]

      Why you might ask?

      Easy:-
      1. I need the POWER. I can build this as a >4GHZ i7 with 8GB and an LCD to run Solidworks fast. (I will probably put in my existing i5 though, and upgrade my main CAD PC to the new i7).
      2. Simply cost. Power comes 1st, and for the same cost, and actually about one quater, I think I can build something that is more powerful, expandable, repairable, and is fine for working on.
      - Hell, if I want I can also plug the case into a monitor when I get there, if I want a larger one. The keyboard will be wireless, and I will put in the Quadro Graphics card, wireless, and suitable cooling so that I can fun this fast.
      3. Portability. I always take my M90 everywhere. I dont really have much paperwork... Really a small leather bound case will do for this. So I end up shoving my 4.5KG Dell M90 into a leather Pilot Case anyway, or into my briefcase. And then I have to unpack it and plug it in.
      ... Would be quicker if the computer was the case! (no need to unpack then!) :D

      So this might be a bit 'unconventional'. But in my business, money is time. And also money is money! I dont want to spend another 3k on a laptop!

      So this will help me to be productive, right away. Open it, plug in and I am going (at 3.9Ghz), plus I have all the advantages of a workstation power. Ill run the LCD power from the 12v feed on the PSU.

      Before I go ahead, I have not been able to find a suitable case. I really did think that someone would have designed or sold a case so that you can make a portable PC, using standard desktop components. Very surprised that I could not find anything?! ... So maybe I am crazy?

      Anyway. The way I see it, is that I have no choice. I do like the HP Elitebook, at around £2,500, but what is to stop me having the same problems with overheating as I had in the £3,500 Dell M90 at some point down the line (out of warranty). And also, I worry that even the Elitebook does not have the power to use 'in anger' when I have some serious amount of number crunching to do?!

      Can anyone add their thoughts? ... Am I crazy? :shock:

      Are there other options, or is there a better way to do this?

      Kind Regards,
      (Name withheld!)
       
    2.  
    3. GarethW

      GarethW Chief Clicker Staff Member

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      Haha - great idea! Sounds like a great project, and also a great way to stand out from the crowd - you'll might get the occasional funny look using your "laptop" on the train :D

      Perhaps you could build it into an ordinary briefcase. Would that be big enough? I think the tricky thing will be ventilation - after all you don't want to set fire to anything. You'd probably need to drill holes all over the place!

      That pic you posted kinda reminds me of this for some reason. I think you should use brass fittings where possible!

      [​IMG]
       
    4. GarethW

      GarethW Chief Clicker Staff Member

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    5. srdfmc

      srdfmc Well-Known Member

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      For sure you can go trough airport security check with that ... in a day

      My SW copy run well on a nimble ACER netbook (without any SIMULATION package). Tht's the most portable CAD system I know as I can fit it in my climbing camel bag - experienced ! :D
       
    6. thebigconsultant

      thebigconsultant Active Member

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      Cool!

      ... Yeah, I can see what you mean about airports!!! :lol:

      Can anyone give me specs on non-Quadro or non-FirePro based laptops that can run Solidworks ok?

      I am not prepared to pay £2500 plus on a HP Elitebook, or its ilk, right at the moment.

      I was just pricing up a Mini-ITX from this web store in the uk http://www.mini-itx.com/store/?c=3#joujye568i-220w

      Using this box, which is 88(H) x 254(W) x 218.8(D) (3.5 x 10 x 8.6in)
      [​IMG]

      and adding, Quadro on a right angle PCI-Express riser +£15
      - And maybe i5 low power CPU, Wi-fi, etc etc

      Then this would easily go in a small case (say 250x350x150) WITH an LCD screen, and room for cable stowage.

      But, I will take any ideas on a suitable, and protable CAD machine. I AM desperate, as you can see!! :D
       
    7. srdfmc

      srdfmc Well-Known Member

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      i5 quad core 3GHz 8Go Ram 64 bit runs well. Makes sure you hve a low memo usage such as with other software running in Bckgrd.

      Just went to model a entire building that way and although rendering was slow and painfull it ran smoothly for the design and FEM part.

      Let us know how it goes !
       
    8. thebigconsultant

      thebigconsultant Active Member

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      Cheers,

      It was interesting to see what srdfmc wrote, about using a standard laptop. I am not so sure it would have the power required for hard core FEA or rendering though?

      Bet that building took a bit of wellie! ... :D

      Yep, I looked at the following Quadro or FirePro capable laptops:-
      1. Lenovo = is great, but silly prices above 3k for W301 ... but its a beauty!
      2. Fujutsu = "Celsius H910" comes in at £1852 with 17" screen and Quadro 3000M
      3. HP Elitebook = £2564 for something with the Quadro
      4. The trusty Dell M6600 = £2000 plus, and is probably quite a nice replacement for the M90 Precision

      But, I have also discovered some new information! :?

      Looking at the Solidworks website, SW2011 now supports alongside the Quadro and FirePro ... and new graphics driver!! The Intel HD Graphics P3000 ...

      Now, this looks like an "on-chip" graphic solution, and according to this articel ( http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/xeo ... 933-4.html ), it is at least powerful as the entry level Quadro FX 580 ... which co-incidentally is the card I have in my main machine right now, and its very good.

      However, there must be a drawback?!! ... Yes, it goes onto the Xeon processor only! ;)

      So, back for a moment to the laptops? IS there a lappy that has the HD Graphics built in? And how does this compare for price?

      Also, this makes the a. Suitcase PC or b. Mini-ITX build a LOT easier!

      I am now considering, Mini-ITX with a Xeon E3-12x5s PSU ... of which there are 4 to choose from.

      Regarding i5 CPU. I have the i5 750, and I have clocked it to 3.9GHz stable with a Coolermaster 7 fan for only £15 ! With the Quadro and my great Gigibyte P55 motherboard, and WD Veloceraptor 10,000 RPM hard drive, rendering and FEA is a breeze... Honestly, I am still amazed.

      Basically the i5 is a Quad core, non hyperthreaded (which runs cooler). Hyperthread effectively doubles the CPU's seen in Windows to 8. This is what most i7's do. And as far as I am concerned the i7 is really not needed for the additional price. Especially as overclocking the i5 750 is sooo easy, and 3.9Ghz is pretty fast for Solidworks.

      However, two options present themselves.
      a. Using a "Low Power" version of the i5 or i7 in a mini (suitcase) ATX... as its cooler, and can 'throttle back' if it does get too hot.
      b. Whacking in one of the Xeon E3-12x5s chips, and then using the build in Intel HD P3000 professional graphics, that should work very well with SolidWorks.

      Drawback of a. is that it must use a seperate PCI-Express graphic card, using an additional 40W+ and mounted using a PCI-Express right angle riser extension to fit into a Micro ATX case (or attache/suitcase)
      - Advantage, I know that this is a good setup, and blisteringly fast.

      Regarding b, there are some unknowns. What is the cost/performance benefit, or indeed drawback?
      Can it be overclocked... and does it need to be? Also, what is cooling and power usage like?
      - I like the fact that no extra graphics card is needed, and HD Graphics P3000 is on board.
      - Advantage two. The cooling would be easier.

      What I need to do is find a Mini ITX board that supports Xeon E3 ! ... I did find one, but I lost it and could not find it again on Google! I think it is made by "Zotac"

      Now, I am still torn.
      1. A suitcase (really an attache case) with
      - Xeon, and HD Graphics. CPU cooler offset maybe a H70 water cooler to one side, to keep height low (under 60mm).
      - Thus, I reckon I could build a custom aluminium or plastic attache case PC, that is only 100 to 120mm thick when shut, with an intergral LCD screen, PSU and Xeon ... that is damn fast, and frightening less than £650 ... better than any laptop at number crunching and 3D CAD

      2. Building the Mini-ATX into a pre made box, like the "Jou Jye NU-568i-B Mini-ITX Case 220W". Then slapping this in a Pilot case or bag etc when I need to travel. Maybe with a small and light weight LCD screen.

      3. Buying as someone suggested, a non "SolidWorks" certified, standard consumer notebook. If so, I would want to know that it works well with SolidWorks, as I have had problems before with non-certified graphic cards... Especially in laptops. Hence the high prices, for the professional workstation ones.

      What do I do!!!! :lol:

      To be continued.
       
    9. srdfmc

      srdfmc Well-Known Member

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      Don't expect too much out of a netbook ;)

      FEA and meshing complex assambly is for sure out of reach. Although I did run quite complex analysis back in 2004/2005 out of a HP Pavillon (some of earliest laptop with 16/9 screens) :D. it seem tht SW meshing model have grown quite heavy since.

      By teh way Cosmos designStar run quite well on anything today (including a netbook :? ).
       
    10. MikahB

      MikahB Member

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      Old thread but just saw this. Because I used to travel 50%(plus!) of the time, I used a Lenovo W700 as my main CAD machine. I use Autodesk Inventor for my CAD and FEA and Showcase for renderings. The W700 (now nearly 3 years old!!) has proved a trooper never once letting me down or having a single issue. For me, it was easy to justify the additional cost when I thought about the consequences of opening my laptop at a clients' site to a non-working computer - not good!

      I'm just now building a desktop CAD cruiser beause I'm travelling less and doing more complex designs and FEA and the ol' W700 is starting to choke a little bit. While building a laptop would be fun, whether you can justify doing it depends on your business and if it's cost effective.

      My laptp specs:
      Lenovo W700
      Intel Core2 Duo 2.8GHz
      NVidia Quadro FX2700M
      8GB RAM
      120GB Intel SSD Drive
      Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit
      Autodesk Product Design Suite Ultimate 2013
       

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