Acrobat 3D Thoughts

There is an old joke about a child who doesn’t speak until age 7. When mom serves liver and onions one evening, an out burst occurs, followed by questions about why silence until now. The childs anwser, “until now everything has been okay… ”

This is the first of what will be numerous entries on PLM, manufacturing and related subjects. The motivation for this entry is a recent article.

In his recent article in eZine article, “Adobe Translates From 3D CAD” Ralph Grabowski highlighted many of the features of the upcoming Acrobat 3D Version 8 product from Adobe. Ralph also provides a link to Blog.Novedge.com. We appreciate the interest paid to A3D, as we believe it will enable customers to leverage their investments in PLM tools to collaborate even more effectively. I thought it might be a good idea to expand upon some of Ralph’s and Franco Folini’s points and possibly clarify a couple of things along the way.

Interoperability Definition

There are probably dozens of ways to define “interoperability”. The way I think about A3D is as a tool to extend the reach of CAD assets and visualization beyond engineers and designers. In the end, it is still PDF, so where combining 2D and 3D assets into things like work instructions and bid packages is needed, Acrobat 3D really excels. Still, I wonder if there is a better word than “interoperability”. I know it is a better word for what we do than “translation”. Even in an ideal World, where everyone relied upon the same formats for CAD and visualization, there would still be numerous cases where non-CAD users would need to interact with the data. Of course this is not an ideal World, so A3D is interoperable in the sense that it allows assets to be leveraged regardless of the format in which the data was originally generated. It’s true that A3D will enable a level of translation, but translation is not the main point… A3D is not intended to replace other CAD translation tools. True, B-rep models, IGES and Step formats can be exported, but A3D won’t address CAD-to-CAD translation and certainly not the complexities of feature-based translations, parametrics and part families. Ask any of the thirty or so world-class engineers that came to Adobe from TTF.

What is the difference between U3D and PRC and what are the benefits of each?

Why PRC? Do we need another format? Are the import options and combinations confusing? Good questions.
The internal 3D formats in PDF are not going to affect the recipient of the PDF. In fact, the originator really controls the extraction and use of data at the other end. The originator of the PDF is simply thinking about the intended use of the data by the recipient. Questions like: Is precise measurement needed? Will it be used to machine something or simply as reference data? Could the data be used to reverse engineer my product? You see the point. That’s why we think those options are important. To enable precise geometry with great compression, we really needed PRC… that really helps in data transmission.

Is all this it confusing? Maybe, but people that we have spoken to don’t seem to think so. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Besides, these are knowledge workers, with plenty of understanding and lots of capacity to learn. A3D has been shown to thousands of people at conferences and trade shows with no complaints about it being confusing. Of course there are default input settings for all of the formats, and even when users choose a custom path, most will settle on settings that they will use over and over.

Formats Supported

Ralph really nailed this. Supported formats aren’t a secret, but we have made information about them a bit hard to find. Supported CAD formats can be found in our Adobe’s support pages. I know, I know… how do I find those? We agree that this information can be made more visible, and it will be with release of version 8.
In the mean time, here’s the skinny on version 7: Acrobat 3D version 7 can import ~40 different 3D file formats including proprietary CAD formats like Catia V5, Catia V4, Solidworks, UGS NX, UGS IDEAS, ProEngineer, AutoCAD, Inventor, and Solidedge. Numerous neutral files like STEP, IGES, VRML, Parasolid, ACIS, JT and STL may also be read. Additionally, Acrobat 3D is bundled with the Acrobat 3D Toolkit which can read additional 3D file formats like 3D Studio MAX, Maya and Wavefront and these can be saved in the U3D file format and then inserted into PDF documents using Acrobat 3D. For a complete list of supported formats, please see the following document: http://www.adobe.com/support/techdocs/329371.html

Reader and A3D Version and compatibility

Okay, I admit it is a little confusing… let me try to clear up this misconception we have created. The real issue here is that A3D is out of phase with rest of family for now. Reader 8.1 will include the necessary features to support new features in A3D V8. We had this same problem when we released v7. Confusing, maybe… but key is download the latest Reader and everything will work.

Reader isn’t a translator

The Acrobat Reader 8.1 won’t be a translator. We have somehow created the impression that “you can use Reader for viewing CAD files: right-click a file name,
and then select Convert to Acrobat PDF”. The reader really is just that, a reader – it doesn’t do any conversion. You need Acrobat 3D for that. Once the updated Reader is released, it will display PMI [product maintenance information] data found in 3D CAD files, parts trees, and more. If enabled by an Acrobat 3D user, you can also use the free Reader to mark up and return 3D files. The key point here is, all the recipient needs is the reader to view any PDF, containing 3D data or not.

Reader not working?

Wow! The point about the reader working or not is interesting. We will investigate this and report back – this is the first I have heard of such issues with the Reader. Anyone else reporting similar problems?

Market Ahead – It’s is early in the game

Thanks to Ralph and Franco Folini’s for the positive comments and questions about how we might succeed. In the end, it will be customers who tell us where we are on target, and where we need to go next. Adobe has been focusing upon manufacturing since version 6 of Acrobat. We think we have learned a good deal about customer needs, but we are always listening for more