3D PDF Technology for CAD Collaboration

A 3D PDF is a PDF that’s lightweight (low in file size), that houses CAD data, it’s meta data, other files, has security features and may have the ability to demonstrate model animations.

Some types of 3D PDFs from PROSTEP

Advanced PDFs can be used to show engineering data such as CAD geometry, annotations, measurements and bills of materials (BOMs).

Why is file size important?

When engineering departments need to collaborate with other domains , their CAD files are often too large for transfer. More importantly, large file size puts your CAD at risk for theft!

Rarely do outside users need access to the full-fidelity CAD, so a secure ‘lightweight’ representation – a PDF file – is an ideal solution. Unlike a full-fidelity CAD file, a PDF allows you to create a CAD representation without size restraints.

Sending a PDF instead of the entire CAD will not only be easier and accessible to numerous users, but also greatly reduces your risk for IP theft with embedded security features.

A PDF can be viewed by anyone using the FREE Adobe Reader found on most current electronic devices.  This adds a greater level of collaboration between users without CAD viewing tools.  Specified users in sales and marketing, and anyone outside the company domain, can now easily access the CAD data.

What about the general export of PDF documents using PLM or other systems?

Using a PLM to export CAD data to a 3D PDF limits both information and interactivity. The 3D PDF will not be equipped with any security features, either.

3D PDFs created with software from PROSTEP are interactive, animated, and secured through digital rights management, expiration and user access control.

PROSTEP 3D PDFs can be fully integrated into your environment, meaning that your PLM system can be adjusted to create PROSTEP 3D PDF’s.  They can also be created using client desktops. 3D PDF gives you the ability to easily annotate and view CAD within a freely collaborative document.

What’s the overall Benefit Using 3D PDFs?

Today’s engineering environment consists of multiple domains comprised of partners, suppliers and vendors. How will you share your complex data securely, efficiently and effectively while also remaining competitive in the market? The answer is a virtual lightweight representation in the form of a PDF. With a 3D PDF, you can illustrate product data and transfer information within a secured ’container’ – something that modern PLM systems have VERY LIMITED functionality over.

Your 3D PDFs help:

  • Bring products to the market faster due to the easy collaboration between supply chain domains
  • Reduce production costs by using 3D PDF revision to eliminate errors and re-work
  • Improve quality with less re-design by monitoring and tracking designs within the 3D PDF

3 Key Advantages of 3D PDF Documents

3D PDFs propose several key advantages for engineering data:

  • You can repurpose 3D CAD Model Based Engineering (MBE) data for data sharing. Because of the multitude of CAD systems (CATIA, SolidWorks, NX, Creo, Inventor), you can transfer standard file formats to 3D PDF. Standard file formats include JT, STEP, IGES, VRML, STL, Parasolid, U3D, and PRC. With the right software from PROSTEP, large CAD compression ratios can be achieved – 186MB to 10MB, 315MB to 31MB. Lastly, 3D CAD data can be reused for other end-user jobs or applications in other departments such as sales, marketing, procurement.
  • 3D PDFs add an increased level of data security. Intellectual property is protected as the original CAD data is never shared. 3D PDFs can place navigation controls on the full metadata, limiting edits to specific users with password protection.
  • The biggest advantage of 3D PDFs is the ability to read them on the widely used Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader, which is found on nearly 98% of computers worldwide, is all you need to view 3D data. Because of this, the 3D Portable Document Format makes downstream distribution easier.

How do you create 3D PDFs?

PROSTEP 3D PDFs can be created via a SERVER or CLIENT solution.

CLIENT Solution to Create 3D PDFs Client solutions involve converting CAD data into 3D PDF documents via a desktop application, such as Tetra’s 4D Converter. Tetra4D Converter is a plugin that you install on the paid Adobe Acrobat Pro software. Such a solution is low cost and necessary for those who have small scale 3D PDF creations. Tetra Enrich, another Adobe Acrobat Pro plugin, is a more advanced version of client 3D PDF creation, leveraging pre-built and configured templates. You can also add animation to your 3D PDFs via PROSTEP’s plugin to Adobe Acrobat Pro, 3D PDF Pro. Using 3D PDF Pro adds another dimension of interactivity, demonstrating things like product assembly and disassembly.

Learn about client side 3D PDF Animation with 3D PDF Pro HERE


Learn about client side 3D PDF Creation with Tetra4D Enrich and Tetra4D Converter HERE


SERVER Solutions to Create 3D PDFs

There are two server solutions for advanced 3D PDF creation. PROSTEP product PDF Generator 3D is the most advanced automated 3D PDF solution. With PDF Generator 3D, you will centrally manage the creation, merging, distribution and archiving of engineering product data in a single PDF document. PROSTEP PDF Generator 3D can quickly convert any CAD file into a more secure Adobe PDF file. You can easily connect leading PLM, ERP and ECM systems to view, manage and archive metadata and CAD files in PDF.

The other server based 3D PDF solution is Tetra Automate. With Tetra Automate, you can easily generate data rich, interactive 3D PDF documents from PDM/PLM systems or internal storage networks.


Learn about server side 3D PDF and HTML5 creation with PDF Generator 3D HERE


Learn about server side 3D PDF Tetra4D Automate HERE


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