USB-C / Thunderbolt, external CAD 3D video

In order to properly use CAD/CAM engineering software you need a “workstation graphics” 3D chip, usually either FireGL or Quadro.

There has not been a way to do this as an add-on component for laptops without some very complex and expensive custom hardware, to have an internal high-speed video card slot inside a laptop.

Schools that teach these programs may require students to use a “workstation laptop” that often costs double the price of a normal laptop, and either the student or the school needs to provide for the classwork.

What with the availability of USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt and the ability to send high speed data and power over a combined cable, it seems feasible to put this 3D chip in an external dongle-box that then also routes its video output back into the laptop to the internal screen.

This then allows inexpensive laptops to be able to run engineering CAD/CAM, by using the dongle-box. Students who are just doing a required course for a semester could have it loaned to them by the school until they are done with the program, and then it is handed back and used by someone else.

The 3D chip dongle-box does not need a PCI-express slot or external video connector, so it can be very small and compact. The dongle-box could include its own cooling fan for the 3D chip.

The dongle-box could also optionally have a separate USB-C / Thunderbolt connector for an external power supply, to power both the dongle-box and the laptop at the same time.

(Though I am aware workstation 3D is a scam and the firmware that provides extra math precision can run on consumer 3D chips. It’s just the 3D chip manufacturers have a lock on the market and so can collude to prevent using their “professional grade” firmware without their associated blessed expensive 3D chips.)

Thanks for the suggestion Dale – clearly defined and very interesting use case. I’m looking forward to sharing with our product group.