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Adobe Acrobat Review

New Acrobat 3D Opens a Treasure Box of Possibilities

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Randall S. Newton, March 15, 2007

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Adobe will soon start shipping Acrobat 3D Version 8, a superset of Acrobat Professional. The new release is a game-changer in its ability to import and export 3D CAD data in a variety of formats.

To place a model in Acrobat 3D the user must first decide on the level of precision to be shared. Will the model be viewed or queried? It boils down to a choice between geometry and tessellation. Sending geometry gives anyone who receives the PDF access to CAD data; tessellation is the “look but don’t touch” option. Once a 3D model is placed into a 3D PDF using the PRC format, it can later be exported as a STEP or IGES file.

Adobe does not want users to think of Acrobat 3D as a CAD-to-CAD file conversion utility, but the capabilities are there nonetheless.

Collaboration and Interoperability?

Adobe says there is a three-fold value proposition for Acrobat 3D. One, users can save time by using 3D designs for collaboration, without dumbing down to 2D. Two, users can repurpose 3D assets for richer technical documentation. Three, interoperability can be improved. “We intend to do the best STEP,” one Adobe representative told me. We take points one and two as no-brainers, given Adobe’s history and how PDF has become the de facto digital publishing standard. But point three makes Acrobat 3D the new interoperability sheriff in town; we expect other vendors will have something to say about that.

Rak Bhalla, Senior Marketing Manager for the Knowledge Worker Business Unit at Adobe, suggests the following scenario as typical for how Acrobat 3D offers a new interoperability alternative. A MasterCAD user is sent a CATIA V5 file. To use it, there are three options, from most expensive to least expensive:

  1. Buy a CATIA license, open the file and convert it to STEP;
  2. Buy a CAD translator, and convert the file;
  3. Buy Adobe Acrobat 3D Version 8. Import the CATIA file to 3D PDF, then export the CAD data to STEP from the PDF.

Supported CAD Formats

  • ACIS, up to version 13.0
  • Autodesk Inventor, up to 10
  • CATIA V4, up to 4.2.4
  • CATIA V5, up to R16
  • CGR
  • IGES, up to 5.3
  • JT, up to 8.0
  • Parasolid, up to 16.0
  • Pro/ENGINEER, up to Wildfire III
  • SolidWorks, up to 2006
  • STEP, AP 203, AP 214
  • STL
  • I-DEAS, up to 12.x
  • NX (Unigraphics), up to NX4
  • VRML, up to 2.0
  • XVL, P-XVL

The full article is available for a fee at CADCAMNet.

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