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SOLIDWORKS RAM Requirements: How Much Do You Need?

Updated: Mar 14

Introduction


In our last article, we discussed the topic of SOLIDWORKS GPU requirements and how the required GPU can be more complex than it appears. We emphasized the significance of having the right GPU to manage your specific SOLIDWORKS application's rendering and processing needs.


In today's article, we will explore the subject of RAM requirements for SOLIDWORKS. RAM is an essential component in any computer system and plays a crucial role in the performance and speed of SOLIDWORKS. We will discuss how much RAM you need to run SOLIDWORKS smoothly without any performance issues. We will also provide some tips on how to optimize your system's RAM usage for better performance.



SOLIDWORKS RAM Requirements


According to the official website of SOLIDWORKS, only 16 GB of RAM is required to run the software. However, is this amount enough, or do we need more? We will explore whether 16 GB of RAM is sufficient and review different benchmarks to determine the requirements.


SOLIDWORKS system requirements showing a minimum amount of 16 GB RAM as a prerequisite
SOLIDWORKS 2022- 2024 system requirements

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is responsible for storing the data your computer needs to process quickly. In other words, it is like the short-term memory of a computer system. Unlike the CPU or GPU, having more RAM does not necessarily make your system faster. Instead, having enough RAM ensures that your system won't slow down.


During occasional spikes in RAM usage, Windows swaps to virtual memory which provide a safety net. However, it's not a substitute for having enough physical RAM for your typical SOLIDWORKS projects. Remember, virtual memory uses your hard drive, which is much slower than RAM, so relying on it too heavily can significantly impact performance.


Benchmark of RAM vs Time to Complete Test
Source: 3DExperience World 2022 Webinar

The graph presented above visually displays the correlation between the amount of RAM in a system and the time required to complete a test. The graph clearly shows that this relationship is not a simple linear one and is rather influenced by various other factors.


For example, when using 8000 components, the time taken to complete the test drops significantly from 4700 seconds for a system with 4GB RAM to 1000 seconds for a system with 6GB RAM. However, increasing the RAM beyond 6 GB to 8, 16, or even 32 GB does not correspond to a further reduction in computational time. This indicates that the performance bottleneck has shifted from the RAM to other components in the system.


So how much RAM do we actually need for SOLIDWORKS? To determine the amount of RAM required, it is essential to consider the exact workflow in SOLIDWORKS carefully. Understanding how the software is being used and the types of tasks performed will help determine the optimal amount of RAM needed for efficient and effective performance.



Two Main Types of Worklows for Engineers


Scott Hamilton, a global industry strategist for engineering and manufacturing at Dell, has classified engineers who use workstations into two categories: interactive and computational users. Interactive users mainly work on interactive tasks such as design and visualization using CAD software, while computational users primarily focus on rendering, analysis, and simulation using tools such as CAE and CAM software.


The requirements for SOLIDWORKS software may vary depending on the type of work you do. If you work with CAD software, your workflow may require fewer threads or even just one thread, but a good graphics card is essential for smooth performance. However, if you work with computational workflows, you may require more cores and a larger cache size since these workflows are highly multi-threaded. The amount of RAM you need will also depend on the specific type of workflow you are performing.


This post will be divided into two parts. The first part will mainly focus on the RAM requirements for CAD software. In the second part, we will touch briefly on CAE, such as SOLIDWORKS Simulation. We will also look at how to optimize SOLIDWORKS and our assembly design to allow for a smooth workflow in larger assemblies.


CAD Workflow


The amount of RAM required for your computer depends on the complexity of the part you are trying to create. It is commonly believed that more RAM is needed for more parts, but this is not entirely accurate. The number of unique components is more important than the number of parts, as demonstrated below:


Benchmark of Time to Compete vs Number of Unique Components
Source: 3DExperience World 2022 Webinar

Tip: Use the Assembly Visualization tool to see the number of unique components you have! Go to Tools > Evaluate > Assembly Visualization.


How to enable Assembly Visualization


According to 3D World, using DDR4 RAM in a setup, 32 GB RAM is only sufficient for up to 5400 unique components before the RAM becomes saturated and Windows switches to virtual memory. If the number of unique components is increased to 8000, at least 68 GB RAM is required to prevent Windows from swapping to virtual memory, which slows down the performance.


However, it's worth noting that common components, such as those duplicated through linear patterns, do not cause Windows to swap between RAM and storage, even when there are 12000 bodies (blue line). Showing that you only need more RAM when dealing with unique components.


This information should encourage CAD designers to consider intelligent design when creating a CAD part.



How To Work with Lower RAM


When dealing with low RAM in SOLIDWORKS, CAD designers have a few effective options at their disposal. Firstly, SOLIDWORKS comes with built-in settings that assist in mitigating low RAM issues. Additionally, designers can employ intelligent assembly design techniques to optimize performance. By combining these approaches, designers can work more efficiently and effectively in SOLIDWORKS even when dealing with low RAM. Below are the two most common techniques to mitigate low RAM issues.


i) Use Large Assembly Settings


Large Assembly Setting is a feature in SOLIDWORKS that helps improve the performance of assemblies with large numbers of components. It does so by adjusting system settings such as level of detail, graphics and display, and component selection. These settings are optimized to enhance performance while maintaining the integrity of the design. You can turn on the Large Assembly Setting at any time. Go to Tools > Large Assembly Settings.



Where to enable Large Assembly Settings
Large Assembly Settings


Large Assembly Settings indicator ON
This will be highlighted to indicate you are using Large Assembly Settings.


You can also set a threshold for the number of components and have Large Assembly Setting turn on automatically when that threshold is reached.


To edit the settings for Large Assembly Settings, such as enabling Lightweight Components to automatically turn on, go to Tools > Options > System Options > Assemblies, and check the box.


Where to edit Large Assembly Settings options


Another setting usually included with Large Assembly Mode is lightweight components.

When lightweight components are enabled (ticking the checkbox), SOLIDWORKS loads all model data into Fully Resolved components and only loads a subset of the model data into memory for Lightweight components. SOLIDWORKS then loads the remaining model data on an as-needed basis.


Enabling the Large Design Review checkbox allows you to quickly open large assemblies while retaining useful capabilities for conducting design reviews. In this mode, you can access all of the familiar view manipulation tools, including zooming, panning, and rotating, as if you were working on a single part. You can also hide and show different items to focus on specific areas. Additionally, window selection tools are available, and the Isolate command can be used to better clarify particular regions. However, this mode is usually reserved for reviewing the assembly and rarely for editing, so it is usually left disabled.


ii) Work smart! Optimize your assembly


As discussed earlier in the article, the amount of RAM used by a CAD design is determined not by the number of components, but by the number of unique components. By using subassemblies and saving the file as a part, a CAD designer can easily reduce RAM usage.



Assembly model of Colloseum in SOLIDWORKS made out of 4322 components
Credits: Christopher Ong :D


The designer created an assembly using 4322 pieces and over 4000 mates. Surprisingly, the Windows system report shows that it only uses around 8 GB of RAM. This is because the designer used a lot of sub-assemblies, simplified parts, and adjusted the large assembly settings.


Windows reporting of Memory used showing 8.6 GB RAM used

CAE Workflow


When it comes to running computational workflows, such as SOLIDWORKS Simulation and SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation, the amount of RAM required can vary depending on factors such as the type, size, and quality of the mesh, as well as the software and solver being used. As a general rule, it is recommended to have 2 GB to 2.5 GB of RAM for every 1 million elements in the mesh. However, this figure may be lower if the mesh quality is high and the nodal aspect ratio is low.


For instance, if you have a mesh containing 10 million elements, it is advisable to have a minimum of 20 GB to 25 GB of RAM to ensure the simulation runs smoothly. It is always better to have more RAM than the minimum requirement, as this can enhance the performance and stability of the simulation.


Since the topic of RAM usage for CAE is rather complex, we will address it in a separate post in the future.


Conclusion


In conclusion, the amount of RAM required for SOLIDWORKS is highly dependent on the type of workflow and unique components. For CAD applications, the specified 16 GB by Dassault provides a good starting point, with 32 GB RAM being sufficient for reasonably complicated models, while 64 GB RAM would be advisable for complex applications. Instead of brute-forcing the RAM, i.e., buying as much as you can, the RAM usage can also depend on the CAD designer’s ability to reduce the number of unique components used and by using features in SOLIDWORKS such as Large Assembly.


For computational workflows, getting as much RAM as possible is recommended. However, the intricacies of deciding on how much RAM is too much and beyond the scope of this post, as we will leave it for another post to get a more in-depth analysis.


We would like to hear from you! Let us know in the comments section if you have discovered an even better way to handle large assemblies!


Alternatively, join us in our forums for further discussion on other relevant topics.



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