Faster Image Rendering in SOLIDWORKS Visualize – Courtesy of Your GPU


Creating magazine-quality images from 3D CAD models can consume a lot of time. Not so much in setting up the model’s viewpoint, background, lighting and appearances, but the time it takes to ‘render’ the image. Rendering images is where rendering software, like SOLIDWORKS Visualize, works to create a realistic two-dimensional image from three-dimensional CAD geometry. Much of the calculation time is used to determine the position and direction of light in the scene (i.e. where it’s being emitted and where it’s being reflected), the resolution of the render and the complexity of the geometry and textures.

To speed up the rendering process, SOLIDWORKS Visualize can utilize the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) on specific NVIDIA graphics cards (see the Fine Print below). This means that you don’t have to rely solely on the CPU (Central Processing Unit) to crunch all the numbers. It’s like having an extra engine in your car – turn it on and you’ll get there quicker.

Here’s an example of the GPU at work.
Using one of the sample projects to render the image below, I used a NVIDIA P3000 graphics card, 377.11 graphics driver and i7-7700HQ CPU @ 2.80GHz:

  • CPU mode took 3 minutes, 51 seconds to render.
  • GPU mode took 27 seconds!
  • Hybrid mode took 25 seconds.
Sample project in SOLIDWORKS Visualize

Why the different modes?

  • CPU, if your CPU is significantly more powerful than your graphics card or you don’t have an NVIDIA graphics card, or one that meets the Fine Print (below).
  • GPU, if you have a powerful video card such as an nVidia CUDA-enabled GPU with more than 1 GB VRAM.
  • Hybrid, if you have a balanced system with a good nVidia card and a comparable CPU.

GPUs can also scale effectively to allow you to reduce render times without costly investments in large CPU-based render clusters

How to activate
After opening your project, click on the Output Tools icon at the top of the screen, then scroll down to Render Device and make your selection.

The Fine Print
To take advantage of GPU acceleration, you need a CUDA-enabled NVIDIA Quadro/GeForce/Tesla graphics card with the NVIDIA Kepler chip at minimum. Dual-GPU setup requires at least NVIDIA Maxwell cards. The driver should be at version 385.41 or newer and needs to support CUDA 9.0 or newer.

  • See the SOLIDWORKS Visualize system requirements here.
  • Find CUDA-enabled NVIDIA graphics cards here.
  • Find out what CUDA is here.
  • Get the latest NVIDIA drivers here.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize is a standalone image rendering tool that comes free with each license of SOLDWORKS Professional or Premium on active subscription.

Chris Snider
Field Technical Services Manager