CAD workstation: Choosing a computer for CAD work

As the name of our professional field suggests, computer aided design which is the use of computer systems to assist in creating graphic designs relies heavily on computers. This makes a designer’s computer the most important ingredient in CAD modeling. I know some of you reading this may disagree and list a CAD software as being the most important but is this really so? The answer is definitely No, for without a computer to run these software applications; there would be no ‘computer aided designs’.

So what is a Workstation?

A designer’s workstation is the working environment that supports him/her in the effort of developing design ideas and bringing these ideas to life with the tools in a workstation. Therefore, most workstations consist of a personal computer for designing, a design software, a sketch pad to check ideas and other idiosyncrasies that help CAD users focus on the task at hand. In today’s tutorial, emphasis will be placed on the most important tool in any workstation; the computer system.

Choosing a Computer for CAD work

CAD-laptopWhen choosing a computer for CAD work, three important criteria must be taken into consideration;

The graphic card of the system

This is a collection of hardware and software tools that generate a feed of output images to the display monitor. In simpler terms, graphic cards are the tools required to translate the images a machine or computer produces.

The Systems Memory

Memory space plays an integral part in computer aided design for—available ROM –determines how fast the system runs while managing bulky designs, as well as storage space—available RAM—for saving projects directly on your computer. Although most computers aided design platforms now come with cloud storage options, having an alternative on your personal computer eliminates any cloud connection issues.

The processing speed

A computer can only function as fast as its processing chips and the faster your personal computer is, the quicker you would be able to execute certain design tasks—rendering, animating etc.—while working on a project.

Choosing between a Laptop and a Desktop Computer

Now that the most important features have been outlined, the next step to choosing the perfect personal computer for Computer-aided design is choosing the aesthetics of the computer that will make up your workstation. To do this, the following criteria’s must be explored and the answers to the questions they raise will determine the computer each designer requires for his/her drafting purposes.

How you Work

How you approach designing plays a huge role in choosing between a laptop or a desktop computer. If you are the type that loves flexibility and handling multiple tasks while designing, then having a mobile computer-laptop-is probably the best choice you can make. While for individuals who love order and thrive on their ability to focus solely on one task, then setting up a desktop computer is the way to go.

Where you work

Freelancers, amateur designers and CAD hobbyist will probably love the freedom using a laptop gives when designing. Using a laptop means you can design models on-the-go without the limitations of being glued to a desktop computer. While designers and graphic artist working in structured firms and animation studios basically make use of desktop computers in order to fit in with company policies. Immobile desktop computers also make networking and collaboration easy in the workplace.

Last thought

Choosing between the mobility of a desktop and the flexibility a laptop gives is determined by how each individual works or where he or she is situated during design hours. CAD users can also choose to have both an office desktop and a working laptop for home use depending on office policies. Saying one mode of computing is better than the other is completely false due to the fact that you can equip any computer system you plan to continuously work through, with any specifications–disk size, processing speed, video/graphic card–you choose.

If you use AutoCAD and want to know what is the system requirements for AutoCAD

System requirements for AutoCAD 2016

Operating SystemMicrosoft® Windows® 8/8.1 Enterprise
Microsoft Windows 8/8.1 Pro
Microsoft Windows 8/8.1
Microsoft Windows 7 Enterprise
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
CPU TypeMinimum Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon™ 64 processor
MemoryFor 32-bit AutoCAD 2016: 2 GB (3 GB recommended)
For 64-bit AutoCAD 2016: 4 GB (8 GB recommended)
Display Resolution1024x768 (1600x1050 or higher recommended) with True Color
Display CardWindows display adapter capable of 1024x768 with True Color capabilities. DirectX® 9 or DirectX 11 compliant card recommended.
Disk SpaceInstallation 6.0 GB
Pointing DeviceMS-Mouse compliant device
Media (DVD)Download and installation from DVD
.NET Framework.NET Framework Version 4.5

Check the system requirements for other versions of AutoCAD

What others say (unedited)

get as much RAM as you can. a good GPU and CPU will work for most 2D applications

AutoCAD does not utilize multiple cores so the clock speed of a multi-core chip matters…not the numbers of cores.

If you stick with straight-2D then onboard graphics would suffice. But if you want any kind of modeling or shading (3D) then get a workstation video card. I use Quadro 600/660 cards for Civil 3D. Do NOT use a video game card…that’s a different kind of 3D.

Bump up RAM,if you can.

The GPU is the most important factor besides lots of RAM (8 or 16 megs is good, more is better, but 16 is good). Autocad has a hardware acceleration feature that only works with certified GPU from Nvidea, AMD and intel


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