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More 'Power' for the Parking Project

More 'Power' for the Parking Project

Some design projects are so massive that they require powerful computing technology to match.

We're not necessarily talking about NASA projects, where engineers need advanced technology to handle complex, memory hungry models. But a challenge presented to EPAQ CARE Solutions (www.epaq.co.za) to create a model wasn't much smaller than some NASA designs. The design firm, based in Centurion, South Africa, was contracted by U.S.-based international car park specialist Spacemaker to design an 11-story, 470 bay, fully automated parking garage right down to the last nut and bolt.

The project would end up with EPAQ developing one of the world's largest Pro/Engineer (www.ptc.com) CAD models: It has more than 500,000 components, and just opening the file consumed 3.7G bytes of memory.

Adequate computing power was a challenge.

"We were using Intel 32-bit machines at the project's inception, and there was a limit on the memory they could take (2GB for a P3 machine)," explains Anton Greeff, one of the senior designers at EPAQ, and lead engineer on the parking garage project. "The model itself used almost 4GB to open and up to 6GB when working with it. A single machine could not handle it, so we had to split the model into 22 sub-assemblies and divide it between six designers' machines," he adds.

Collaborating in this way was time consuming, and engineers weren't able to see the garage model in its entirety. They decided to look for an alternative technology, and settled on HP's Itanium-based workstations running Windows XP 64-bit Edition. The company used both Itanium and Itanium 2 systems throughout the design process, conducting its final rendering with an HP zx6000. Co-developed by HP (www.hp.com) and Intel (www.intel.com), the workstations support HP-UX, Linux, and Windows XP.

As a result, EPAQ, a reseller of PTC's Pro/Engineer CAD software and its Windchill PLM applications, was able to work with one, fully integrated model that multiple designers could access simultaneously.

With the first iteration of the hardware and software, the model took almost 28 hours to open--an improvement on not being able to open it at all. Technological advances in the months that followed brought this time down to 11 hours.

"We installed an Itanium 2 workstation with production releases of the operating system and Pro/Engineer Wildfire for 64-bit Windows, and the model opened in just one hour," Greeff says.

He adds, "We'll not only be able to run the model in a fraction of the time of comparable systems, but also be able to perform top-level interference checking and engage in collaborative, fly-through design reviews on a level of detail previously unthinkable for a desktop workstation."

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