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Rendering, the calculation and coloration of individual pixels based on the geometry and surface of an object, has existed for some time now.  First results of the Raytracing method were already described in the 1960's.

However, it became clear at an early stage that this process would place substantial demands on the hard- and software employed. In particular, large and complex constructions lead to a rapid deterioration in overall system performance. 

In the real world we are dealing with photons, which once emitted from a light source are either reflected on, refracted off or absorbed by different surfaces. As the geometry increases, the computational demands rise enormously in order to accurately define the surfaces which contribute to the color of an individual pixel.

The initial innovation lies in the algorithm used to execute a parameter examination very quickly. Without such an algorithm, it is impossible to use raytracing efficiently. 

The algorithm has already been integrated into software and assists this software in achieving a 10 to 100 fold increase in performance in comparison to existing software.

At this juncture it is important to note that microprocessor performance only doubles every 1,5 years. This means that only a 10 fold performance increase is necessary to catapult the market lead of AVALON (Software-Version) to five years. By corollary, it could similary be remarked that AVALON-software (our prototype) will always enjoy a substantial lead, since it will automatically benefit from further development.

Year Performance





Although the prototype-software is already very powerful the performance achieved is not adequate to render images in realtime. The use of the word realtime is in reference to the PAL television standard, which requires the generation of 25 full frames per second in order to offer seamless motion to the viewer.

In order to use rendering functions for games, flight simulators, or similar products, it is necessary to refresh the projected image every 40 milliseconds at a minimum, so that the observer can enjoy an uninterupted flowing scene. This corresponds to the 25 frames per second realtime representation.

At the moment the software version of AVALON can calculate one frame in a few seconds. By using the AVALON chip many processes which can only be insufficiently implemented in software can easily be turned into parallel tasks in hardware. This allows much more powerful computation elements than todays most advanced microprocessors (i.e. the Pentium III or Athlon – PC CPUs of the newest generation).

The chip design is a further innovation. It involves not simply porting the software to a chip, but also dividing it into multiple small units which may then be analysed, optimised and mapped onto logic circuits. Such a complex rendering chip has not yet been produced. Estimates put the speed of the processor at approx. 500GOps (500 billion operations per second). This immense power is equivalent to roughly 300-500 parallel Pentium III 500 processors (using SIMD instructions) !

This is only possible due to the dedicated logic circuits used for the AVALON graphics chip. Since it is known which computations can be completed independently, it is possible to process these in parallel.

This is the stage where architecture comes in. The architectual conception is key in this design. Based on our concepts the architecture is feasible. We have proved it in a half year technological study made by the Rheinisch Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH Aachen) [06/2000 - 12/2000].

Unnecessary to say that this concepts were not easy to find. A lot of hurdles were to manage and some issues are still waiting. But we are confident to solve them too.