The big picture

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Through its extensive software portfolio of SolidWorks, Catia, Simulia, Delmia and Enovia, Dassault Systèmes (DS) enables engineers and industrial designers to digitally define and simulate products, processes and resources.

With its latest brand, 3DVIA, it invites ordinary individuals to unleash their imagination and express themselves and their vision in 3D.

Dassault Systèmes has had positive experiences testing Catia V5 and V6 on six screens using an ATI FirePro V9800

Through a 3D platform of community, 3D content, and complimentary 3D software, consumers can create and share lifelike 3D experiences online.

As DS looks to establish 3D as the universal language for both businesses and consumers, it also exploits the latest developments in computer hardware in order to deliver a high performance and high productivity experience for its customers. Such hardware developments include the ATI FirePro family of professional graphics products and, in particular, the new ATI FirePro V9800 professional graphics card.

Christophe Delattre, who leads the Dassault Systèmes Research and Development (R & D) visualisation team in Paris explains, “A powerful graphics card is mandatory when handling large data sets in an application like Catia. It is key to getting the best out of the software and providing a real-time 3D experience. In R & D we regularly conduct compatibility testing of our software on various hardware configurations.”


Model behaviour

For compatibility testing the DS R & D team has some favourite models – typical customer assemblies that contain several hundred parts.

These are very large datasets with between one and five million polygons. The R & D team loaded these in both Catia V5 and Catia V6 and manipulated them using the ATI FirePro V9800 professional graphics card, taking a particular interest in shading and rendering performances.

“For a single card, it has a crazy number of stream processors – 1600! It must be one the most powerful graphics processing units ever made,” says Delattre.

One of the unique capabilities of the ATI FirePro V9800 is being able to drive six monitors from a single graphics card. According to Delattre, setting this up was quite straightforward. “We put the graphics card into a Windows 7 OS-based workstation. We plugged in six HD (1,920 x 1,200 resolution) LCD screens and we set up the screen configuration using the ATI Catalyst software. We started Catia, and it worked just fine.”

The team went on to explore ATI Eyefinity technology and checked out OpenGL support, dynamic manipulation of shaded models and assemblies, video memory for both large data sets and textures and real-time photorealistic rendering.

“Moving from one screen to six was very easy and we achieved very good performance and speed without the need to modify our application. This is clearly going to have a beneficial impact on our customers and their ability to conduct collaborative design reviews on power walls and within virtual reality rooms,” says Delattre.

Delattre also tested the bezel function in the ATI Catalyst software – this enables engineers to make an allowance for the edge of each display unit. “We did not have to remove any pixels and did not lose any part of the image.

In CAD, having a seamless image really matters. Actually the ATI FirePro V9800 professional graphics card is ahead of its time and we are looking forward to an ‘edge-blending’ capability in an upcoming version of ATI Eyefinity technology so we can drive several HD projectors for a large display wall. We are also waiting for LCD manufacturers to provide provide edgeless screens.”

The big screen

A key feature of the ATI FirePro V9800 professional graphics card is its plug and play simplicity. A PC cluster, which would be the normal requirement for supporting several screens, can require additional IT skills. “It is amazing that one card can drive a high-resolution projector and a big wall or room with stereo as well. It is definitively one step forward in terms of providing a life-like experience to DS customers,” notes Delattre.

“With ATI Eyefinity technology, the feeling of complete immersion is really impressive,” says Jerome Maillot, senior manager. “At Dassault Systèmes we aim to push the limit of high quality images on screen in order to bring users as close to reality as possible.

The ability to drive six display outputs simultaneously and achieve such a large image on a very high-resolution display is a great step forward for engineering collaboration.

Sharing a 3D model at full scale and achieving a significant cost reduction at the same time sounds like a dream, yet it is a reality. It is clear that the ATI FirePro V9800 professional graphics card has delivered the high level of technology that Dassault Systèmes has come to expect.”

ATI FirePro V9800-Dassault Systemes
ATI FirePro V9800 graphics card delivers a high level of technology