Seeking advice for building a new 3D modeling Computer

Hi everyone,

I’m working with a new 3D software program right now, and it doesn’t seem like my computer is up to snuff for it anymore. We are considering ordering a new one for me. Unfortunately the software developers don’t give us much input in terms of optimal specs or hardware. The program is a parametric 3D modeler similar to Solidworks, and it also has it’s own plug in rendering engine that uses ray tracing. It’s a program that’s targeted towards 3D Upholstery Design. Basically, I build the solids as you would normally, but then I can draw up my seam lines on the surface, and create 3D polygon mesh surface regions over top of the solids. These polygon mesh regions are then flattened into a 2D pattern that can be cut by the automated fabric cutting machine. I can also place a texture map over the flat pattern pieces, and those will be applied accordingly on the 3D model.

I have a Xeon processor with 3.0 Ghz, an nVidia Quadro FX 540 video card, and 2 Gb of RAM right now, and it’s not enough. Most noticeably, the program runs slow during the Pattern Mesh flattening, importing large groups of meshed objects, and at times it will not render if the texture map is too detailed or of a resolution higher then 75 DPI. I’ve also seen it lock up if the rendering is too complex.

The software company is small, and they don’t offer any test data on video cards like Alias, Solidworks, etc. do. I’ve only been told I need an Open GL card (which I do have now) with an AGP or PCI express port.

So my question is, what would you guys consider to be an optimal setup for 3D modeling and rendering?

Any particular computer model or processor? (We use Dell in our office predominantly BTW)

What would you consider to be the best Video Cards these days? I know I need an Open GL and will probably chose an nVidia Quadro, I’d like to get some more feedback on what may perform best, and what size memory I should chose.


The general rules of thumb are the fastest CPU you can afford (if your app doesn’t support multiple cores aim for a dual core with a high clock speed), 2-4 gigs of ram (ram is SUPER cheap now so getting 4 gigs isn’t an issue), and a decent Quadro should be fine. If you aren’t using an app that does a lot of hardware shading the Quadro may be totally unnecessary and a Geforce series card might be just fine. Renderings and everything else are being handled by the CPU not the GPU.

I would just pick the fastest Dell at the time with all the above mentioned and purchase it as referb if you can and go! You just can’t go wrong that way.

skip the XEON, as long as you don’t go for Dual CPU with 8 cores for hardcore renders and aniamtions. by a nice Qzuadcore CPU like q9450 or even q9550.
add minimum 3GB of RAM or more if you run a 64bit Windows version.

Get a descent Quadro card, like the Quadro FX3700 and you will work for 2 to 3 years with taht machine

you can always spend more money later on ram. Get a 2 gig chip with the box and another one later.

If you can afford it, the Quadro 4600 would be a good bet, it’s on board memory is 768mb, which would definitely keep you in good shape for at least a couple of years. If that’s out of your price range (~$1500 CAD) I would go a minimum of 512mb of on board memory on the card to make the upgrade worth your while.

And you may want to check out ATI’s FireGL line up. Apparently they aren’t quite as good as the same spec’d Quadro, but they are a fair amount cheaper, which might mean you can get a card with better specs for the same price. A FireGL 8600 with 1 GB of on board memory is only $1700 CAD compared to the Quadro 5500 with 1GB of on board memory at $3000 CAD.