Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS is one of the most popular CAD productivity suites and is used by millions of engineering and design professionals across the globe. It has been a mainstay primary toolset in design & manufacturing pipelines for everything from coffee makers to motorcycles, and even to AMD’s very own Radeon™ RX Vega graphics cards.
SOLIDWORKS 2019 started shipping in early October 2018. Continuing the long-standing technology partnership and product alignment between AMD and Dassault Systèmes, Radeon™ Pro WX-series professional graphics cards are now fully certified for this new release on both Microsoft® Windows® 7 and Windows® 10.
Graphic-level certification is a critical part of building a productive CAD pipeline, as it ensures that the user’s workstation is rock solid and compatible with new, features and optimizations as new SOLIDWORKS versions come to market. AMD’s engineering teams work very closely with Dassault Systèmes throughout the application development and certification processes to address potential performance optimizations and bugs long before products ship to customers. With a rigorous process for graphics card and workstation-level testing and certification, Dassault Systèmes ensures that its customers have peace of mind when picking a certified option from its list of qualified graphics cards and drivers.
New Era of Graphics Performance
Speaking of changes… SOLIDWORKS 2019 brings along hundreds of updates, as is typical for its annual major releases. However, one new feature that is particularly exciting to those working with massively complex assembly projects is the revamping of the SOLIDWORKS viewport graphics engine.
Like many CAD applications, the SOLIDWORKS graphics engine is powered by the industry standard OpenGL 3D graphics API. While all AMD Radeon™ Pro graphics cards support OpenGL 4.6 (the current standard), it is up to each individual software vendor to implement specific individual OpenGL features for their applications. Previous versions of SOLIDWORKS supported features from OpenGL 1.1 to 4.3, which spanned roughly 15 calendar years! While backwards compatibility is important for many enterprise-level customers, it is actually impossible for a customer to run SOLIDWORKS 2019 on graphics hardware from 1997. There is simply no combination of operating system and driver that would allow for this. By dropping backwards compatibility for obsolete OpenGL features, SOLIDWORKS 2019 is able to introduce an updated 3D graphics engine for the viewport that is much better-optimized for modern computer graphics hardware capabilities.
To try the new graphics engine, simply to go Tools > Options > Performance and tick the checkbox at the bottom of the page. Note that there will be a warning popup about the experimental nature of this feature.
NOTE: The new graphics engine is still under development, so performance and stability are not guaranteed for all scenarios. For this reason, the feature is disabled by default as users in mid-production-cycle environments would likely prefer the more time-tested graphics engine for stability.
SOLIDWORKS 2019 Built-in Test
The graph below compares the performance of the legacy graphics engine versus the new graphics engine using SOLIDWORKS’ built-in performance test and a Radeon™ Pro WX 8200 graphics card. There are significant improvements even for the relatively simple models used in this test. With the new graphics engine, performance was improved by up to 65% for simple models1.
Working with Massive Assemblies
The performance uplift with the new graphics engine is much more pronounced when working with large assemblies with tens of thousands of parts and millions of triangles in the viewport. The graph below shows the average frame rate for manually rotating a complex aircraft assembly with 17M triangles and over 2400 components. With this complex assembly, viewport performance was improved by up to 3.6x when using the new graphics engine2. The improvement in user experience for this case was rather staggering – it was the difference between having a smooth interactive viewport versus one that was very choppy and not responsive. This kind of difference translates directly to user productivity and can revolutionize workflows by allowing designers to work with increasingly complex assemblies that were simply unpleasant to work with in the past.
Overall, this is shaping up to be an exceptionally exciting feature for upcoming releases of SOLIDWORKS with major ramifications for productivity. AMD is working closely with Dassault Systèmes to further optimize performance and stability of the new pipeline. Keep in mind that the new graphics engine is still in “beta” as of the SP0 release of SOLIDWORKS 2019, but it’s an exciting preview of what’s to come in the near future once it becomes production ready.
Additional Pages of Interest
Bill Ma is a Product Marketing Manager at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied. GD-5