Optimize Your Workstation Budget for Design and Engineering Applications – Simulation

Article by Alin Vargatu, CSWE updated October 27, 2023


This article provides guidance on how to optimize your workstation budget for different CAD workflows and specifically covers structural and plastics simulation. We’ll discuss which components of the workstation are important to this particular workflow and come up with some sample configurations to help optimize your spending budget.

Optimize your workstation budget

Dell Workstation

Workflow: Structural and Plastics Simulation

Structural and plastics simulation tools include the SOLIDWORKS Simulation portfolio and the Simulia Multiphysics simulation platform—both include a range of physics-based simulation tools. The tools are used to predict a product’s real-world physical behavior by virtually testing CAD models and can be performed using either linear or nonlinear analysis, depending on the material and structures being analyzed.

How many cores should I have?

The solver portion of FEA-based models is parallelizable, meaning more processor cores can be used to reduce time-to-solution. Further, because the time spent in the solver increases geometrically with the problem size, the importance of additional cores grows as the model size increases (although there is a point of diminishing returns depending on the model size). SOLIDWORKS Simulation configurations should include a minimum of 12 to 16 processor cores (which translates to 24 to 32 threads with Hyper-Threading enabled).

How much memory should I have?

The next most important component when configuring for simulation workloads is system memory. Memory requirements for simulation solutions are directly proportional to the number of elements used in the model, however, the amount of memory still varies widely based on the type of element employed, its size, and the number of degrees of freedom being used in the simulation.

For example, even though shell or beam nodes may utilize more degrees of freedom, a model meshed with solids will generally have more total nodes/elements post-meshing—and hence would require more memory.

At a minimum, consider 32 GB or 64 GB for medium and larger models. FEA solvers also tax memory bandwidth, thus if the workstation architecture supports multiple memory channels that feature should be considered for larger model sizes.

What about the CPU?

When selecting CPU specifications, keep in mind that performance and efficiency increase with each generation of CPU, so it’s important to note the generation of the processor. Because CPU performance is critical to simulation workflows, Intel 12th or 13th Gen i7 or i9 processors, Intel Xeon W-3400 or Intel Xeon W-2400 Workstation Processors, or AMD Ryzen™ Threadripper™ PRO Processors are recommended.

Although CPU and memory performance dominate the configuration choices for structural simulation, visualization of complex simulation results still makes GPU choice important.  An NVIDIA RTX™ A2000 or higher is recommended.

Finally, selecting a workstation configuration that the hardware vendor tests and validates for your specific application is critical. For example, Dell and TriMech have worked with SOLIDWORKS to create prepackaged configurations that are specific to a workflow; these configurations are a thoroughly tested combination of hardware and software specifically chosen to eliminate incompatibility or performance issues.

To summarize, component suggestions for structural and plastics simulation workflows:

CPU12ᵗʰ or 13ᵗʰ Gen Intel® Core™ i7, or i9 Processor Intel® W Processor AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO Processor
GPUNVIDIA RTX™ A2000 and above. (Increase VRAM for larger models)
RAMMinimum 32 GB with 64 GB recommended
StorageSSD with NVMe interface—capacity .5 or 1 TB recommended
PackagingMobile and Tower
Application Testing & ValidationSelect specific SOLIDWORKS workflows at the www.dell.com/trimech portal.

SOLIDWORKS Workstation Recommendations

Simulation models traditionally required desktops or tower configurations. However, the Dell Precision 7680 and 7780 mobile workstations are a viable option for running moderately-sized models in the field or at home.  It supports up to 128 GB of RAM and up to 24 cores (eight performance, 16 efficiency cores when configured with the Intel Core i9 processor). The Precision 3660 is a great all-around solution for SOLIDWORKS application users and running moderately-sized simulation models.

Supporting a wide range of processor options, the Precision 5860, Precision 7960 and Precision 7865 towers are ideal solutions for larger models. The Precision 5860 and 7960 support Intel Xeon processors with up to 24 and 56 cores and up to 2 TB and 4 TB of memory respectively. The Precision 7865 supports the AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO CPU with up to 64 cores and up to 1 TB of RAM. All of these systems support ECC memory utilizing Dell Reliable Memory Technology (RMT) Pro.

While CPU and memory dominate the component choices, GPU choice is still important. The Precision Tower models support a range of NVIDIA graphics cards, up to 4 cards in the Precision 7960 Tower, including  NVIDIA RTX 6000-class graphics – highlighting the power, cooling, and expandability capabilities of the platform.

>>Simulation Diagnostic Tools: What They Are and When to Use Them

Workstation Budget Conclusion

Dell offers a curated lineup of Precision workstations with NVIDIA RTX GPUs that provide a full range of options for simulation workflows. Along with flexibility for scaling memory, storage, and graphics to support higher complexity designs, these workstations are tested and validated with SOLIDWORKS applications.

These workflow-based configurations, along with additional learning resources (and an additional discount!), can be viewed at the dell.com/trimech portal. The portal simplifies the selection of a tested and validated solution that dell.com/trimech will help you optimize your workstation budget.

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Alin Vargatu, CSWE

Alin is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and an avid contributor to the SOLIDWORKS Community. Alin has presented multiple times at SOLIDWORKS World, Technical Summits, and User Group Meetings, while being very active on the SOLIDWORKS Forum.