Poor OpenGL support in PC-DMIS

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  • Poor OpenGL support in PC-DMIS

    I have been having graphics issues with PC-DMIS, and have tried many things to solve them.

    We use tags where I work to show what points are where on CAD models while we are validating jobs, or programming, or for when we print reports. Problems arise when there are a significant number of tags on the screen. Rotating a model with tags on it becomes choppy to say the least. The tags reappear one at a time slowly and make their way around the model.

    I have discovered a few things…

    If I change my OpenGL setting to something such that I get the message “these settings don’t support hardware acceleration”, the tags are generated very fast.

    With OpenGL working, after just a few tags things slow down.

    In PC-DMIS 4.1 both wireframe and solid modes have the same slowdowns

    In PC-DMIS 3.5 wireframe mode is faster, but still slow with many tags and OpenGL acceleration.

    I have tried the following hardware in different combinations…

    Intel P4 3.4GHz
    Intel P3 733
    Intel P2 400
    2GB RAM
    256MB RAM
    Diamond FireGL1
    ATI FireGL 8700
    Nvidia Quadro 4 700
    Nvidia GeForce 7800GT
    Nvidia Quadro FX 3400

    My current system is an Intel P4 3.4GHz, with 2GB RAM, and a Nvidia Quadro FX 3400 card.

    I have reinstalled OSes many times, and started from scratch with PC-DMIS installations of 3.5, 3.7, or 4.1 (only recently 4.1, as it has only recently been available).

    Here is the bottom line…

    When I pick OpenGL settings such that hardware rendering is not supported, I get the best performance. The CAD model is not fluid, and I loose out on things like antialiasing, but at least the tags show up and I can work with the program. If I do use hardware rendering, the CAD model moves liquid smooth, but once 20 or so tags get on the screen, things slow down more and more.

    I demonstrated this to a B&S representative about 6 months ago and he agreed the performance was unacceptable but never got back with me about anything.

    I really cannot believe anyone else does not have the issues I am having. I have tried so many combinations of things all with the same results, I would guess everyone has such poor performance. I suppose if you don’t use tags on your points this would never be an issue, but I don’t know how you could do anything without tags?

    I have been trying things and sorting out the results of this poor performance for a whole year now. I am finally going to give up trying things myself. With that in mind, does anyone have any suggestions to try, or ideas as to how to get hardware rendering to work with tags on the screen? At this point I am pretty disappointed that I cannot use my $2,500 graphics card, when Intel chipset graphics will outperform it!

    Thanks for the long read, and I would appreciate any help.

  • #2
    One more thing to note…

    We do not have a direct CAD interface for PC-DMIS.

    All of our CAD data consists of IGES files exported from Unigraphics. I have tried STEP files too just to see if there was any difference, but performance was still slow.


    • #3
      Do you have the latest graphic card driver? I had a problem with open GL and the updated driver fixed it.


      • #4
        sigpic"Hated by Many, Loved by Few" _ A.B. - Stone brewery


        • #5
          It would be interesting to see how much memory you're using for PCDMIS when you run these programs with tags.

          Run a program that you've been testing. When it's running, open up the task manager (CTRL-ALT-DEL) and go into the processes tab. That will show you the memory/CPU usage.
          I used to be high on life but I built up a tolerance.

          Brown & Sharpe Global Advantage
          PCDMIS CAD++ v2011mr2



          • #6
            I have the latest graphics card driver. I have tried the latest, and several older versions for each and every card I have used.

            RAM usage is 330MB with a large CAD file (by our standards), and 700 or so tags. My system is a bit bloated at the moment, so I am sure that would be well below 300MB.

            CPU usage is 52% max, as the CPU is hyperthreaded, and PC-DMIS does not support dual processors.


            • #7
              I would try with video settings to the lowest and see what the difference is. P4 3.4ghz is mighty plenty if you ask me. And 330mb memory usage ain't too bad. FYI, vertical sync and antialiasing slows down the graphics significatly! turn them off!
              I used to be high on life but I built up a tolerance.

              Brown & Sharpe Global Advantage
              PCDMIS CAD++ v2011mr2



              • #8
                This problem is so interesting, as it does not make much sense. With software rendering and several hundred tags things update nearly instantly, but rotating or moving the CAD model is a bit clunky. With no tags and hardware rendering, I can move the CAD model liquid smooth with settings as high as 4x antialiasing. Each tag slows down the system a bit more.

                My best guess are the tags are rendered as 2D sprites or something to that affect, so the card has a hard time layering 2D objects into a 3D window. Or maybe the tags are individual 2D windows, and each one is yet another window in a window which the card must draw.

                Either way, this is clearly a major flaw in the software, of which I doubt can or will ever be addressed. I noticed in version 4.0 of PC-DMIS, when I had 5 or so tags on, and I right clicked on one to show all tags, a message box came up saying the maximum number of features which can be displayed was 100. It then turned on 100 tags, but no more. If I went into the feature editor and specifically turned on all 700 tags, they would all show up but at terrible performance. So it looks like a work around was embedded into the software, only 100 tags can be displayed. This in itself leads me to believe I will never see usable performance out of the newest versions of the software.


                • #9
                  We have found a few things.

                  1 - Steps files work much faster & more efficiently. (Not our normal file,..$$$ to make it that way)

                  2 - Even though a file shows a normal size, the TYPE of features inside it control the actual ability of the program to easily handle it.

                  3 - Playing with the SETTINGS for iges import result in more efficient files.
                  Excercise your mind,..... muscle works better than fat!!


                  • #10
                    Even with taking steps to keep files efficient, such as using STEP or trying to optimize an IGES, am I wrong in thinking that hardware acceleration should be faster than software rendering?


                    • #11
                      Video drivers are key here. But as a side note, a couple of our customers tried out the 3D Labs based cards (at our suggestion) because they were not happy with the performance of the nVidia's. Needless to say, they love the cards, the performance with PCDMIS, and have claimed to buy 3D Labs in the future. Currently, the brand they sell is Wildcat, but they can be fairly pricey. We had an older 3D Labs Oxygen in house years ago, and its performance was very good.

                      Unfortunately, that's only 2 or 3 that I know of using the cards with PCDMIS, not a huge sample, but never a single complaint so far.



                      • #12
                        Well, I also have tried the ATI FireGL 8700. Now I understand it is not the best card out there by any means, but being from a totally different manufacturer, I would expect it to either work, or have some other totally different problem. It had the exact same issue.

                        I wish Wilcox would recommend a specific card, or a specific system. To my knowledge they do not. The Quadro line is very popular these days, which was not the case around its inception. If PC-DMIS is not compatible with NVIDIA cards such as the Quadro 4 700, or the Quadro FX 3400, then they are severely limiting their customers.


                        • #13
                          ATI's are not very good with PCDMIS. Found this out the hard way on numerous occassions. Also, on my laptop, being a widescreen, the cad image was stretched sideways. The ATI video card was thinking the cad image should be displayed on a 4x3 monitor, so it decided to widen the image because of the 16x10 ratio of my screen. Over a year like this, then last month, their latest ATI driver finally fixed it. Generally, ATI cards and OpenGL do not mix. nVidia is much better, but, as I said before, I have heard very promising reports of 3D Labs cards.


                          PS - It's the drivers. The latest isn't always the best, but sometimes you have no choice.


                          • #14
                            I just tried software rendering on version 4.1, and it is probably 3-5 times faster and smoother than on 3.5, and that is with similar tessellation values of 1, 0.1, and 0.01.

                            Based on the fact the user is limited to only 100 tags under PC-DMIS 4, and 4.1, it is my feeling this is a round about way of them admitting they have no hardware 3D capabilities once a tag is on the screen. With only 100 tags in PC-DMIS 4.1, the screen will redraw in roughly 45 seconds with my system. With all 700 tags, I left the computer on for an hour and it still had not redrawn the screen.

                            Also, either the jump from 3.5 to 3.7, or from 3.7 to 4, significant graphics performance was claimed. This is obviously on software rendering, as I just saw that performance increase.

                            I spent most of yesterday with a representative of B&S emailing back and forth trying things, with no luck, and zero improvement. We also talked on the phone about the issues I was having, and my setup.

                            I was told the best settings were 16bit Z buffer, 32bit color, and 1 for tessellation. Coincidently, this combination disables hardware rendering, and with a tessellation value relatively high at 1, I get pretty good performance under version 4.1 of the software.

                            I really hope I am wrong on this, and someone will either prove me wrong, or shed some light, but PC-DMIS does not make use of hardware accelerated graphics cards, and buying one for it is a total waste of money.

                            I am willing to give a 3D labs card a shot, but I would want more proof it would work before I talk my boss into yet another card which most likely will not change a thing.


                            • #15
                              Okay, first off, I work for a company in Canada that's been selling and supporting PCDMIS since the DOS days. Myself, been training and supporting on PCDMIS for over 3 years, ever since 3.5 MR1's release (I've been told I was fortunate to miss the original 3.5 Release, but that's another story). Most of the information we have in this company is from first hand experience, some is from B&S and some from Wilcox. In this case with Video Cards, we've been pretty much on our own for figuring out what to recommend to customer's.

                              With that out of the way, here is what we know. If you change your OpenGL settings in PCDMIS where you receive a warning that hardware acceleration will not be used, then you just basically turned off the card. For most video cards (I'd say over 95% of them), the settings should read as follows....

                              Double Buffering should be checked on.

                              Z-Buffer Depth set to 24 bits.

                              Color Depth set to 16 bits or 32 bits. This completely depends on your current Desktop settings when you specify the screen resolution.

                              Tessellation set to 1. (I've only ever needed to change this with ATI cards because of their poor performance.)

                              With these settings you should not get a warning (Z-Buffer depth is the setting that would flag the warning if it is not set properly).

                              Now, with that aside, go to your video card's driver settings and ensure that Vertical Sync is completely disabled. This is the key for any OpenGL software program to run at high speed.

                              With these settings, this is the best performance you can get out of this card. Now, the video card driver is now the ruler of system performance. Get a good driver, and performance, clarity of cad edges and stability of PCDMIS will be top-notch. Get a bad driver, then you get nothing but problems. The best driver isn't always the latest driver. I remember back in July 2004, nVidia released a driver (version 61.77 I think), that was unbelievable. It made very unstable systems very reliable. Since then, the drivers have fallen down a bit. But newer cards can't use that driver because it's so old. So lately, I've been using the latest. They are not bad, but they still can be better.

                              Now, the MAIN problem you are experiencing is the number of labels in the Graphics Window. Here is the problem. Each label is a "Window". Imagine a program opening up 100 windows at once. It can take a lot of resources to process. From my experiences, nVidia cards can be slow, and ATI cards are even more painful to refresh the screen. This one customer we had in particular, was not happy with his $1500+ nVidia for refreshing his labels, much like yourself. He called almost daily, begging for a solution, the lack of speed was killing him. He tried many cards, ATI (I think), nVidia GeForce, nVidia Quadro, nothing was fast enough for him. So we suggested trying a 3D Labs card. Unfortunately, we haven't had one in house for a couple years to test, so it was a gamble.

                              Fortunately for us, he has never been happier with his video performance. They bought the top of the line card and he says it blows nVidia out of the water for performance. Since then, they bought a new computer and he had to buy a new video card (old computer was AGP, new one is PCI-Express) and went 3D Labs again. Same thing, excellent performance.

                              We would love one in house to test, but they are a pricey card. Being that they only make workstation cards, it makes sense. But, with that in mind, only making workstation cards may mean they know how to get the best performance.

                              I hope my short story and information is useful in helping you get the performance you need.



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