What’s the big deal with SOLIDWORKS Visualize GPU Rendering?

Article by Scott Ellery updated June 17, 2016


With the release of SOLIDWORKS 2016 came a new product to the SOLIDWORKS suite called SOLIDWORKS Visualize. A stand-alone product that allows any 3D CAD user to create true to life renders of their CAD models. With the release of this new rendering platform it was announced that Visualize would have the ability to render models using both the CPU (Central Processing Unit) and the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). GPU rendering is big news as up until now SOLIDWORKS users could only render using their CPU in PhotoView 360.

So what is GPU rendering?

Well, to answer that question let’s start with how CPU rendering works: CPU rendering uses the cores of your computer’s CPU (this can vary widely depending on your CPU type) to process and render your 3D CAD model. That means the more cores you have the faster the render process will go and the average commercial CPU processor today has 4 cores.

GPU Rendering

GPU Rendering

This is where GPU rendering really kicks it up a notch, as SOLIDWORKS Visualize takes advantage of CUDA core technology which can process rendering in parallel, much faster than CPU, by spreading the load across the GPU and decreasing render time. The amount of CUDA cores will affect the time it takes Visualize to render your CAD models, the higher the better.

Does that mean that I need an Nvidia graphics card to run SOLIDWORKS Visualize?

The answer to this is kind of! SOLIDWORKS Visualize only officially supports some Nvidia Quadro cards (as far back as Keplar edition of K cards). That being said this does not mean that Visualize will not work with the graphics card you have.

If you have an older Nvidia card that does not support CUDA technology or an AMD/Radeon card you can still use Visualize but you will only have CPU rendering capabilities and will not be able to take advantage of GPU rendering.

Graphics Card

Graphics Card

Is GPU rendering really that much faster? 

GPU rendering sounds like marketing sensationalism to me! But if you are asking that question you are not alone, I was wondering the same thing. Generally when something sounds too good to be true [like halving your rendering time] it is to good to be true, so I put this theory to the test by rendering the following image at a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels using three different render processors/types. The results are compiled in the table below:

Mustang GPU Rendering with SOLIDWORKS Visualize

Mustang Visualize Render

Render Type Cores Render Time
CPU – Intel Core i7-4810-MQ 4 CPU Cores 20 mins, 30 secs
Nvidia K2100M 567 CUDA Cores 10 mins, 20 secs
Nvidia GRID K520 1536 CUDA Cores 3 mins, 18 secs


The results really speak for themselves and after performing the tests I am very impressed with the GPU rendering capabilities of SOLIDWORKS Visualize.

Learn more about SOLIDWORKS Visualize

To become a rendering expert you should attend our exclusive SOLIDWORKS Visualize training course, either in a classroom near you or online.

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Scott Ellery, CSWE

Scott Ellery is a CSWE and an avid contributor to the SOLIDWORKS Community, He is a ten time SOLIDWORKS World\3DExperience World Presenter and contributes regularly to SWUG meetings organized by four different user groups in Canada, Scott has worked with many CAD Software packages for over a decade in a multitude of different industries including Steel Fabrication, Injection Molding and Sheetmetal. With a background in Mechanical Engineering Technology and Design, Scott enjoys pushing SolidWorks to it's limits and teaching users to be as fast and efficient with SolidWorks as humanly possible.