When tablets began appearing, the design engineering community was fascinated by its ease of use and natural interface. But soon, it became apparent that, while powerful enough for doodling, artistic drawing, and fingertip-driven 3D rotation, the first generation tablets weren’t sufficiently powered to run CAD applications. So design work continued on traditional workstations for the most part.
But in the last couple of years, clear signs of a sea change emerged.
Earlier this month, the release of SolidWorks 2018 ushered in a touch-optimized version of the widely used mechanical CAD program. Now, HP has just released the HP ZBook x2, billed as a powerful tablet for the creative types.
Designed for use with Wacom EMP stylus, the detachable device promises to change how you sketch in your design workflow.
CAD on Touch Interface
The ZBook x2’s pen tip has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity with multi-directional tilt capabilities.
According to HP’s press office, “[CAD software programs] are targeted for certification for the HP ZBook x2. Certification will be completed after it begins shipping in December.”
While parametric modeling operations are still largely driven by mouse and keyboard, the usual starting point of design engineering — 2D sketching — stands to benefit immensely from the tablet’s natural drawing interface.
SolidWorks implemented multi-touch support in its software as early as 2010, making it possible to experiment with a handful of gesture-based controls. In the latest release, SolidWorks 2018, touch interface takes on a much greater role.
“If you install SolidWorks 2018 on a system without touch interface, the touch-activated commands will be hidden. But if you have a touch-capable laptop or a tablet, like Microsoft Surface Book, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the touch-based features,” said Kishore Boyalakuntla, VP of product portfolio management, SolidWorks.
The Tablet Momentum
The HP ZBook x2 follows along the path forged by Lenovo ThinkPad P40 Yoga, dubbed a multi-mode mobile workstation, and Microsoft Surface. You can detach the Lenovo ThinkPad P40 and use it as a tablet; you can also keep it attached to the keyboard and use it like a normal laptop. The P40 Yoga is priced beginning $1,493.
The ZBook x2 similarly offers several different usage options. You can detach it and use it as a tablet; you can use it folded as a clamshell laptop; or you can dock it and use it as a desktop. The Bluetooth-enabled keyboard stays active when detached.
The option to configure the ZBook x2 with Adobe Creative Cloud applications makes the device ideal for digital artists.
The ZBook x2’s computing and graphics power come from the combination of a Quad Core Intel Core processors (up to 4.2 GHz of turbo boost) and a NVIDIA Quadro GPU. 32GB of memory gives you generous room to load and work with large assemblies.
The ZBook x2 is set to be available in December. Its price begins at $1,749.