PERFORMANCE ENTHUSIASTS ASSUME they can build a faster and more economical computer than top brand PC manufacturers. And that’s what Ronnie Frantom used to think until he discovered BOXX Technologies and their purpose-built, almost minimalist, professional workstations.
Now he and his twin brother’s multi-disciplinary design firm—Frantom Designs—deliver transformed design workflows for their business partners and end clients and even have created new service offerings.
A Tech-Forward Design Firm
Frantom Designs, based in Richardson, Texas, is primarily a production housing home designer founded by Ronald Frantom, CPBD, and his twin brother. Their business journey began when they formed a custom contemporary metal furniture company out of high school. That business would evolve into motorcycle design and manufacturing, but Ronnie was always interested in home design.
“I was also always doing home design,” says Ronnie Frantom. “I always had an interest in architecture and furniture design, which led to our relationships with builders and developers doing production housing.”
Ronnie was also interested in cutting-edge computing and pushing the envelope with software. “I started using Revit before Autodesk bought it,” he says, acknowledging his BIM chops. However, production housing developers weren’t initially so keen on 3D workflows back in the late 90s. “Still, it gave us a competitive edge,” adds Ronnie, “because the industry was still doing hand drafting and 2D CAD, and we were far beyond that.”
To gain a further edge, Ronnie turned to building his own computers. “I used to build my own PCs,” he says. “Nothing against Dell or HP or some of those other companies, but they just tend to come loaded with a bunch of things I don’t need or want on my workstation computers.”
A Faster Workstation Computer
A central frustration Ronnie was having, though, with his custom PC hardware only got out a little further than the software. “Hardware for a long time has been the limiting factor on 3D rendering and animation,” he says. “It would take a day or two back in the day to produce a really great animation.”
Things changed recently when Frantom Designs tested a BOXX workstation. “Only recently, with BOXX, has the hardware been put in the background where it is no longer a limiting factor. This would be the first time I really feel that way.”
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Frantom Designs is now powering its design workflows with new BOXX APPEX A3 workstations powered by AMD Ryzen 7950X CPUs and AMD Radeon Pro GPUs. “BOXX is the only computer company that made me feel comfortable not building my own PCs,” adds Ronnie. “And they have built me a computer that I wouldn’t even build myself because I had not even gotten into liquid cooling technology yet.”
Winning The Work
As Frantom Designs has gained more work, Ronnie admits BOXX came along at the ideal time. “I no longer really have the time to build computers now,” he adds. Instead, the Frantom brothers are increasingly doing more with their 3D workflows for clients while creating more ‘value-add’ services they can offer clients.
“In many design meetings with clients, we were just looking at black and white Revit models until we fully rendered it at the end, but now with the BOXX workstations, we can bring clients into the conference room and work in realistic mode and that’s been very beneficial.” Increasing certainty with clients by getting more realistic in the visuals means clients understand their projects more completely.
Only recently, with BOXX, has the hardware been put in the background where it is no longer a limiting factor. This would be the first time I really feel that way.
With the volume production housing, Frantom Designs is now adding a new service powered by the BOXX workstations running Lumion. The typical way these projects run is the developers start building a model home, and as Ronnie Frantom explains, “we go out there and do what they call a ‘frame-walk’ and look at things that might be issues for the builders or discover better design options.”
“But that’s an expensive time to make changes because it is always framed,” says Ronnie. “What we do now with our volume builders is we do what we call a ‘virtual walk’ and bring our Revit model into Lumion to explore it.” This yields the same benefits of the real physical walk but with the upside of lower costs to make design changes. “It’s like walking the house at sheetrock stage,” he adds, “but they can visualize the changes they want to make.”
Increasing certainty earlier benefits all Frantom Design’s clients, volume builders, or single-family clients alike. “Now, with the software handling this, we can charge something reasonable. And when we are showing them around [the model], we have eliminated that potential clunkiness to that experience,” Ronnie explains.
With production housing clients seeking efficient margins, it has always been important for Frantom Designs to deliver impactful design services at reasonable costs while simultaneously helping these clients add value to their businesses. “Renders used to take a long time with less powerful hardware,” says Brad Sanford, Technical Marketing Manager, BOXX Technologies, “The BOXX workstation really put the hardware in the background (less of a concern) and no longer limited their [Frantom’s] design work.”
With the higher-quality BOXX workstations outfitted by powerful chips from AMD, Frantom Designs has taken existing software workflows and increased their utility to the overall processes.
Why the AMD Chips
“In general, I have been very happy with the overall performance of the AMD GPUs,” says Ronnie. “It also comes down to budgets,” Ronnie explained that for years during his custom PC build days, he would always work with the same total budget and allocate specific funds for the GPU and get the very best AMD graphics card for that build.
His interest in the AMD professional GPUs began after his happiness with the AMD CPUs, back in his custom PC days. “Early on, I was using a competitor CPU and GPU, but AMD, in my opinion, just stepped up and took the fight to their competitor,” he says, speaking of the advent of the Ryzen CPUs.
And we test our systems for months. When new chips come out, we can safely determine how high frequencies can be elevated with liquid cooling and overclocking.
Ronnie has been using Lumion for quite some time and noted that there was always this fear of crashing on his custom PCs because the visualization workflows took so long. “We were doing these very large multi-family projects with address-specific colors and materials for the neighborhood review board to approve,” he says. “These were on my hot-rod PCs that I had these issues, but my BOXX workstations are so much better. They keep up.”
Tuned for Demanding Pro Work
Frantom Designs’ BOXX APEXX A3 workstations are ideal for their specific workflows because they serve both the needs of high-frequency, singled-threaded performance with Autodesk Revit while leveraging multicores in the AMD Ryzen 7950X CPU with Lumion.
“The specific system that Frantom Designs chose is what I would call a cross-trainer,” says Brad Sanford, Technical Marketing Manager, BOXX Technologies, Inc. “It can do multiple sports, so to speak. In those cases where apps need a lot of cores, the system can deliver. But it still has a very high frequency—certainly the AMD Ryzen 7950X.”
Another advantage BOXX has over rival workstation vendors is their expertise in developing professional, industrial-grade workstations with liquid cooling so CPU frequencies can be performance-tuned higher than the standard maximum GHz rating.
“We use closed-loop liquid cooling—unlike the gaming system guys,” adds Brad. “And our motherboards are mounted upside down so that the bubbles in the liquid cooling system advantageously go in the right direction. This leads to better reliability.” Architosh learned that BOXX uses only Asetek coolers because they are more durable and last longer than competing liquid coolers.
BOXX custom-develops its own metal chassis and internal support structures. “And we test our systems for months,” adds Brad, “when new chips come out, we can safely determine how high frequencies can be elevated with liquid cooling and overclocking.”
An interesting fact about BOXX is that it develops and tests its computers using SOLIDWORKS. In other words, a liquid-cooled BOXX workstation will be running SOLIDWORKS, which simulates the thermal dynamics of a liquid-cooled BOXX workstation.
“In the past, I’d been very excited to use the latest hardware in my PCs but ultimately disappointed when using the latest software because it would be using all of that new power and more. The whole experience was just about keeping up—never gaining,” says Ronnie.
“With BOXX and how they build their workstations with the high-end components—and where AMD is at with the processing power they deliver—that excitement is still there, says Ronnie, “even after many months. Even with the latest software.”
For more information about AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series processors and their performance boosts for AEC design and engineering professionals, visit this AMD page devoted to the subject. – https://www.amd.com/en/processors/ryzen-for-creators