Engineered personal computer

CAD projects often range from simple 2-D drawings to graphicsintensive engineering applications. Computationally intensive number crunching in 3-D surface and solid modeling, photo-realistic rendering, and finite element analysis applications demand a great deal from a personal computer (PC). Careful selection of a PC for these applications requires an examination of the capabilities of the CPU, RAM capacity, disk space, operating system, network features, and graphics capabilities. The industry advances quickly, especially in microprocessor capabilities.

There are minimum requirements of PC configurations for various CAD applications. This area of development has more capability than what is reviewed here and because of its rapid advances whatever listing exists is continually outdated.

For 2-D drafting applications, a low-end PC is sufficient. This denotes a PC equipped with a 486 processor running on a 16-bit DOS operating system with 16 MB of RAM, or Microsoft Windows widi 32 MB of RAM. The operating system needs 4 MB, most drafting applications require at least 8 MB of RAM, and Windows holds as much data as possible in RAM. Eight K of on board cache memory and 256 K to 512 K of external cache for faster response is recommended as a minimum. A 500-MB, fast SCSI (smaller computer system interface) hard drive is the minimum. SCSI is a type of bus used to support local disk drives and other peripherals. Five hundred-MB is considered minimum because CAD files require approximately 150 MB, and the operating system itself usually requires about 100 MB. A 16 inch highresolution (1024 x 768), 256-color monitor should also be considered a minimum requirement. CD-ROM drives and fast modems with transfer rates of 28,800 band are essential for non-networked tasks.

For 3-D modeling and FEA applications, a Pentium 100 MHz processor running on a 32-bit Windows NT operating system works significandy better. The minimum memory requirement for Windows NT is 32 MB and the operating system requires 160 MB of hard-drive space. The system should have a 16-K internal cache with 256 K to 512 K of external cache for increased performance. The monitor for these applications should be 21 inch with 0.25 ultrafine dot pitch, high resolution (1600 x 1280), and 65,536 colors Peripheral component interconnect (PCI) local bus (a high-bandwidth, processor-independent bus) and a minimum I-GB SCSI-2 hard drive are also required.

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