New Autodesk Releases for 2018

There’s exciting news in the Autodesk world if you regularly use their products, including AutoCAD and Inventor. The 2018 Autodesk updates to both products have been released from beta and are available to the public. Both AutoCAD 2018 and Autodesk Inventor 2018 contain user-enhancement upgrades and performance improvements that can advance your workflow.

Whether you’re an architect, engineer, project manager, graphic designer, or you work in another profession, these updates to AutoCAD and Inventor will help you achieve your goals more easily.


What’s New in AutoCAD 2018?

AutoCAD 2018 is the best version of the software Autodesk has created. It includes many major performance improvements, along with some necessary changes to the DWG file format. It’s now even easier to import PDFs into AutoCAD 2018. Autodesk has improved external reference file paths, making it easier to correct damaged paths and specify the correct path. Autodesk now supports high-resolution (4K) monitors in full resolution, allowing you to see your creations in the clearest way possible.

With all the improvements to object selection, text to mtext conversions, user interface, sharing, the AutoCAD mobile app, AutoCAD 2018 is one of the most comprehensive overhauls in recent years. Learn more about the advancements in AutoCAD 2018 on Autodesk’s website.


What’s New in Inventor 2018?

Inventor is the perfect tool to make your inventions come to life. Whatever you’re designing, Inventor’s 2018 updates will improve your workflow. Including under-the-hood updates and advancements to performance, Inventor 2018 offers a new measure tool, 3D annotations, ANYCAD for Inventor, and much more. Inventor 2018 also adds model-based 3D definitions, Top Inventor Ideas, all with improved performance to help you get your work done faster and better.


Take Your Autodesk Software Workflows to the Limit with BOXX Today

If you want a new powerful workstation to run the latest Autodesk software optimally, consider a custom BOXX machine. We also offer mobile workstations that provide the performance you need in a portable package. Run AutoCAD and Inventor on the go while you’re on the job and use the AutoCAD mobile app on your phone or tablet, for convenience.

A BOXX mobile workstation or desktop will optimize your Autodesk’s 2018 software workflows and reduce bottlenecks. Contact us today so we can help customize one to suit your specific use case.

Going Virtual with the BOXX ProVDI 8401R-V

Virtualization has enabled companies to host multiple users running business office applications on a single server. But until recently, these virtual machines lacked the power to meet the graphics-intensive needs of designers and engineers.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a recent variation on the client-server computing model. It hosts a desktop operating system – such as Microsoft Windows – on a centralized server. That desktop image is then delivered over a network to an end-point device, most often a traditional PC. The user then interacts with the OS and its applications as if they were running locally.

This approach can have many benefits. Because little actual computing takes place at the endpoint, you no longer need a powerful workstation at your desk. With the applications and user files all residing on a central server, data is stored securely in the data center. You can login remotely from anywhere with a LAN or internet connection. And because everything stays in the server room and runs on the server, users don’t need to transfer large files – only keyboard and mouse input is sent to the server and pixels streamed back to the user.

 
BOXX Breaks New Ground

BOXX has been quite active in the VDI arena for many years, having previously released both PCoIP- and GRID- (GPU virtualization) based solutions. Last fall, BOXX introduced its ProVDI 8401R-V, the world’s first overclocked VDI system. BOXX claimed that its new ProVDI solution provided enough power to fully support graphics-intensive 3D modeling applications. By overclocking the CPU, the BOXX ProVDI hardware significantly boosts performance over that of competing VDI systems. And by relying on individual professional-grade NVIDIA graphics cards rather than GRID technology, the BOXX ProVDI solution delivers faster frame rates on the endpoint device while eliminating the licensing costs associated with GRID software.

At least, that’s the promise. To see for ourselves, we undertook one of the most intensive hands-on reviews ever conducted at DE, extending over several months. BOXX initially configured a ProVDI system for our use at their headquarters in Austin, TX. We logged on to this system remotely and ran an extensive suite of tests, including industry-standard benchmarks as well as several mainstream CAD applications. BOXX then shipped the hardware to our offices where we repeated all of those tests a second time to compare the difference in performance caused by latency. We reasoned – quite logically – that performance would improve when accessing the virtual machines over a LAN with the server sitting a few feet from the clients rather tha over the internet to a server located more than 2,000 miles away. The results surprised us.

 

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Why Small Size Matters for Your Workstation

Maybe you’re renting an office space that’s a little smaller than you’d like, or maybe your business has been growing, and you’ve been forced to get creative with your workspace layouts. And, if your business relies on engineers, architects, or other creative professionals, you also have to think about the size of the workstations your team uses to design or render.

When many people think about professional graphics workstations, they think of a giant monolith taking up valuable real estate on or under a desk. However, desktop workstations have been getting smaller and sleeker, which is ideal for offices with limited space. Even if you have a decent amount of space in your office, compact workstations can still be valuable, especially if you’re planning to scale up and will eventually need to pack more workstations into your facility.

As more and more people begin working from home at least part of the time, small workstations can also be a powerful addition to home office setups. With a compact workstation at home, creative professionals can use programs like Maya and SolidWorks without worrying about performance bottlenecks. Additionally, the smallest compact desktop workstations could easily be taken home or on-the-go and hooked up to most any monitors and desktop input setups.

While small size matters, no creative professional wants to compromise function for form. Fortunately, there are now high performance workstations available in a compact form factor. Within these smaller chassis workstations, a lot of power can be packed inside. Small form factor workstations can house high performance processors, two 2.5 inch drives or even smaller M.2 PCI Express solid state drives, powerful graphics cards, liquid cooling and much more.

Space constraints shouldn’t force you to slow down your workflow. Ultra-compact workstations like our tiniest powerhouse, the APEXX 1 can help you blow past performance bottlenecks without taking up a lot of room. The APEXX 1 is loaded with the latest powerful hardware components. The APEXX 1 is just 4.7 inches wide, 8.5 inches tall, and 9.0 inches deep. It weighs in at 7.6 pounds, making it easy to move around your office if the need arises. It may be a cliché, but it’s true that good things come in small packages. Learn more about our powerful compact workstation – the APEXX 1.

New Arnold 5 Update Released

Solid Angle, the company behind Arnold–the industry standard production renderer–has released its newest edition in April 2017. Arnold 5 is the latest update to Solid Angle’s production renderer, which updates the API and sampling algorithms, as well as adds new physically based Standard Surface, hair, and volume shaders.

With Solid Angle’s Arnold 5 release, the company has introduced support for Light Path Expressions and included improvements for CPU performance and workflow advances. There is still no support for GPU rendering yet, which many power users and production companies have been waiting for, though Solid Angle says they are working on adding it in a future update.

Arnold 5 is shipping bundled with 3DS Max 2018, which was also released April 2017. It is available for Windows 7+, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.8+. There are integration plugins available for Maya 2015+, 3DS Max 2017+, Cinema 4d R16+, Houdini 13+, Katana 2.5, and Softimage 2013+.

 

What’s New in the Software?

Arnold’s new release includes updated sampling algorithms with changes that can result in reduced render noise in direct and indirect illumination. The new software also includes support for two-dimension dithered sampling, which doesn’t reduce noise but redistributes it in a more visually pleasing way—creating a result with softer shadows, indirect illumination, and DoF at low sample rates.

Arnold 5 includes a new set of physically accurate shaders, with a Standard Surface uber shader replacing the old Arnold Standard shader. This new Standard Surface shader is compatible with Disney principled material, including layers focused on replicating real-world materials like skin, water and ice, glass, and metal.

Included in Arnold 5 is also a Standard Hair Shader, which is also physically based and replaces the old one. It includes parameters that measure the amount of melanin (the pigment in human hair and skin), to create biologically plausible hair.

 

Speed Boosts and Other Improvements

Solid Angle has made changes to the architecture of Arnold 5 leading to “significant speedups during both render start-up and ray-trace time.” This can lead to up to a 10x speed boost when pre-processing textures in the .tx format, though other performance improvements may be more marginal. You may see a 2x boost when loading a “large” OpenVDB volume cache, as well as 2x speed boost when rendering “indoor scenes with multiple GI bounces [and] objects with high transmission depth.”

Arnold 5 now supports Light Path Expressions (LPEs) to extract individual lighting components into separate AOVs, which increases flexibility during compositing. The new update also introduces support for the OpenColorIO and SynColor color-management standards.

 

Conclusion

Arnold 5 is a step forward in production rendering forward, with a level of improvements heretofore unseen. While GPU rendering is still on the table for a future release, and industry professionals continue to desire it, Arnold 5 is the latest and best rendering software available.

New permanent floating licenses cost $1220 a piece, which includes one year of maintenance, with rental options available. Any integration options you need are free with your license.

Boxx offers specific workstation solutions for Arnold 5 rendering workflows.

APEXX 8R – 8 GPUs, Blazing Fast Rendering

BOXX got its start building high-end workstations and render nodes for the visual effects industry. It’s in our blood. It’s what we do and we do it well. As many of you know, the available options for quality rendering engines continues to grow. New features and optimizations can help mitigate the demands of today’s demanding pipelines, but how do you cope with the ever increasing shot complexity that leads to unacceptably long render times?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the BOXX APEXX 8R and how GPU-accelerated rendering can drastically accelerate look development, increase refinement iterations and help you build more compelling visuals. Additionally, we’ll look at different use cases for the system and discuss performance benchmarks. Continue reading