Acrobat 3D Version 8 – Part 3 (First Impressions)

Nothing like a small vacation to refresh the mind. I returned to find that, as promised, Adobe had sent me a beta of their Acrobat 3D 8 software. After firing it up the first thing I did was to test their 3D file importers. File->Create PDF->From File brings about the File Open box. I was amazed to find that I could import these many 3D file formats.

3D Studio ASC (*.asc)
3D Studio MAX ASCII (*.ase)
3D Studio Mesh (*.3ds, *.prj)
3DXML (*.3dxml)
ACIS (*.sat, *.sab)
Autodesk AutoCAD (*.dwg, *.dwf, *.dst)
Autodesk DXF (*.dxf)
CADDS (*.cadds, *._pd, *.pd)
CATIA V4 (*.model, *.dlv, *.exp, *.session)
CATIA V5 (*.catproduct, *.catpart)
CGR (*.cgr)
I-DEAS (*.mf1, *.arc, *.unv, *.pkg)
IGES (*.iges, *.igs)
InDesign (*.indd)
Inventor (*.ipt, *.iam)
JT (*.jt)
Lattice XVL (*.xv3, *.xv0)
Lightwave (*.lw, *.lwo, *.lws)
Microstation CAD Graphic (*.dgn)
NX (Unigraphics) (*.prt)
OneSpace Designer (*.pkg, *.sdp, *.sdpc, *.sdw)
Parasolid (*.x_t, *.x_b)
PRC (*.prc, *.prd)
Pro/ENGINEER (*.prt, *.xpr, *.asm)
Rhinoceros 3D Model (*.3dm)
Right Hemisphere (*.rh)
Softimage XSI (*.xsi)
Solid Edge (*.par) …….. surprisingly no *.asm???
SolidWorks (*.sldprt, *.sldasm)
STEP (*.step, *.stp)
STL (*.stl)
Universal 3D (*.u3d)
VRML (*.vrml, *.wrl)
Wavefront Object (*.obj)

Judging by how Acrobat imports 3D files, I get the impression that Adobe is more interested in having PDF files contain tesselated models only. Many proprietary formats cannot be imported as NURBS, even if I set the “3D conversion settings” to “Data Exchange”. However, I may be doing something wrong here.

The DWG import feature is a disaster. Like the earlier version, Acrobat tries to start “the application that created the selected document”, something which comes with its own set of problems. DXF file import is direct like the others. I do not expect Autodesk to license their RealDWG library to Adobe so that Acrobat can import DWG files decently. The Open Design Alliance may be able to help here.

As regards exporting to 3D formats, one would expect Acrobat, like any other 3D application, to have an “Export” menu item in the “File” menu. It does. But there is no way to export to a 3D format from there. You have to right click on the model and then select “Export Data”, which, by the way is present only if the model is a NURBS model. If the model is a mesh then you have to choose “Edit in 3D Toolkit” which opens the mesh in another application called Adobe Acrobat 3D Toolkit from which I could find a way to save only U3D files.

These are my first impressions. I am sure there are easier ways to do the things I am trying to do, but they do not seem apparent. I am not the kind of guy who has the time to sit and go through tutorials. I install a software, fire it up and expect the most simplest things (such as file import and export) to be pretty simple and straightforward. But I guess Acrobat is not meant for data exchange and, in its present state, is surely not designed to be used as such.

I have to play around more to figure out how Acrobat treats 3D data, be it tesselated or NURBS.

More later.

  • ralphg

    I don’t think Adobe fully understands the CAD market yet, and its rather particular demands.

    For example, I’m glad you posted the list of imported file formats, because that list is unavailable at Adobe’s Web site.

    I suspect that Adobe is in the CAD market because, well, because engineers use documents. And a drawing is just a document printed on big paper, right?

    As for the DWG-related msg about looking for the application, that’s a bug, sort of:

    – If AutoCAD is installed, then Acrobat launches it in the background to xlate DWG to PDF, because that’s more accurate that using its built-in xlator.

    – If AutoCAD is not installed, Acrobat uses its own translator, but also displays the misleading message box.

  • ralphg

    I don’t think Adobe fully understands the CAD market yet, and its rather particular demands. For example, I’m glad you posted the list of imported file formats, because that list is unavailable at Adobe’s Web site.I suspect that Adobe is in the CAD market because, well, because engineers use documents. And a drawing is just a document printed on big paper, right?As for the DWG-related msg about looking for the application, that’s a bug, sort of:- If AutoCAD is installed, then Acrobat launches it in the background to xlate DWG to PDF, because that’s more accurate that using its built-in xlator.- If AutoCAD is not installed, Acrobat uses its own translator, but also displays the misleading message box.

  • Michael Kaplan

    I’d like to try to help clarify some of the issues you report here.

    First, the CAD formats that are heavily used in manufacturing, including CATIA v4 and v5, NX, IDEAS, PTC formats, and Solidworks all have B-Rep (exact) support in A3D V8. Many of the DCC formats (like MAX, Maya, obj) do not, as you mentioned, but they are not generally used in CAD design.

    Second, one reason the export menu item is not used for export of 3D data is that there can be many 3D models represented in a single document, and the export menu item is a document wide action. In order to allow the user to select a given 3D model to export, we tied the export menu to the 3D annotation itself. I agree that this is hard to find.

    On the previous reader comment that Adobe is in the CAD market because “a drawing is just a document printed on big paper”, this strikes me as just silly. If we were only concerned with drawings, why do 3D at all? I think it is obvious, based on the feature set, that Adobe is addressing serious 3D CAD issues with serious technology in Acrobat 3D V8.

    Michael Kaplan
    Director of Engineering, Acrobat 3D

  • Michael Kaplan

    I’d like to try to help clarify some of the issues you report here.First, the CAD formats that are heavily used in manufacturing, including CATIA v4 and v5, NX, IDEAS, PTC formats, and Solidworks all have B-Rep (exact) support in A3D V8. Many of the DCC formats (like MAX, Maya, obj) do not, as you mentioned, but they are not generally used in CAD design.Second, one reason the export menu item is not used for export of 3D data is that there can be many 3D models represented in a single document, and the export menu item is a document wide action. In order to allow the user to select a given 3D model to export, we tied the export menu to the 3D annotation itself. I agree that this is hard to find.On the previous reader comment that Adobe is in the CAD market because “a drawing is just a document printed on big paper”, this strikes me as just silly. If we were only concerned with drawings, why do 3D at all? I think it is obvious, based on the feature set, that Adobe is addressing serious 3D CAD issues with serious technology in Acrobat 3D V8.Michael KaplanDirector of Engineering, Acrobat 3D

  • Chris W

    Clearly Adobe has changed the cost of CAD data translation. The TTF technology embedded in A8 is EXCELLENT and will allow users to transport CAD data from one place to another. But will users decide to use Acrobat or continue to do what they have been doing for years? Not clear, but time will tell. Also not clear – will users trust the Adobe translation over their current IGES or Step translator purchased from their CAD provider?

    Michael makes an accurate point that in many cases an assembly will have parts from different CAD systems and since Adobe allows a user to mix even more formats Adobe must complicate the UI relative to exporting – It makes no sense to export a tessellated model via IGES…

    While the translation technology Adobe acquired from TTF is EXCELLENT the application side of A8 that Adobe acquired through Right Hemisphere just doesn’t cut it when comes to what users across the enterprise need. At this point Adobe has a confused message, a great platform, and a poor application. http://www.3dmojo.com/free-your-cad/concept-clash-document-vs-data/2007/03/05/

    Although it is difficult dealing with CAD file translation barriers – user communities have figured out how to design and releasing products into the market in the face of CAD translation issues. In my opinion CAD file translation through PDF is simply not enough to suck users in.

  • Chris W

    Clearly Adobe has changed the cost of CAD data translation. The TTF technology embedded in A8 is EXCELLENT and will allow users to transport CAD data from one place to another. But will users decide to use Acrobat or continue to do what they have been doing for years? Not clear, but time will tell. Also not clear – will users trust the Adobe translation over their current IGES or Step translator purchased from their CAD provider? Michael makes an accurate point that in many cases an assembly will have parts from different CAD systems and since Adobe allows a user to mix even more formats Adobe must complicate the UI relative to exporting – It makes no sense to export a tessellated model via IGES… While the translation technology Adobe acquired from TTF is EXCELLENT the application side of A8 that Adobe acquired through Right Hemisphere just doesn’t cut it when comes to what users across the enterprise need. At this point Adobe has a confused message, a great platform, and a poor application. http://www.3dmojo.com/free-your-cad/concept-clash-document-vs-data/2007/03/05/Although it is difficult dealing with CAD file translation barriers – user communities have figured out how to design and releasing products into the market in the face of CAD translation issues. In my opinion CAD file translation through PDF is simply not enough to suck users in.

  • Chris W

    Deelip I don’t understand why you would focus your attention / review of A8 on CAD translation? Why not focus on how 3D can be used / shared throughout the enterprise? For instance evaluate if A8 improves the efficiency and productivity of a Customer Service person or Assembly Planner. The real value of tools like A8 is that 3D can ultimately become an enterprise commodity like text in Word or graphics in Power Point…

  • Chris W

    Deelip I don’t understand why you would focus your attention / review of A8 on CAD translation? Why not focus on how 3D can be used / shared throughout the enterprise? For instance evaluate if A8 improves the efficiency and productivity of a Customer Service person or Assembly Planner. The real value of tools like A8 is that 3D can ultimately become an enterprise commodity like text in Word or graphics in Power Point…

  • Rick S

    Interesting evaluation, but I think it misses the mark for what Acrobat 3D should be used for. Translating between CAD programs is the wrong usage! I think it will become great for what PDFs are used for – Portable Document Format – not another CAD package. Now that a 3D image can become more portable justn add attribute and associated text data capability to it for querying the model, this will bring the end to 2D drawings.

  • Rick S

    Interesting evaluation, but I think it misses the mark for what Acrobat 3D should be used for. Translating between CAD programs is the wrong usage! I think it will become great for what PDFs are used for – Portable Document Format – not another CAD package. Now that a 3D image can become more portable justn add attribute and associated text data capability to it for querying the model, this will bring the end to 2D drawings.

  • Sergei Komarov

    Calm down guys 🙂 You are talking about CAD/CAM, but IMHO the main goal of the 3D PDFs is a

    new higher level of technical documents, nothing more. Imagine say a PDF-handbook or a

    schoolbook with interactive animated 3D illustrations! Currently I’m delivering lectures on

    machine parts in a technical university and used to prepare ebooks for students as HTML

    documents with embedded VRML 3D images. Also we tried DWF and eDrwings. But the last year I

    tried A3D 7. It’s much better (sorry, it’s not a place to discuss, why). The different import

    formats just allow to take (or to prepare) 3D illustrations from different CAD systems. Hope

    to try A3D 8 in the nearest future. Suppose, we must say “Thanks!” to Adobe for the great

    product.

  • Sergei Komarov

    Calm down guys 🙂 You are talking about CAD/CAM, but IMHO the main goal of the 3D PDFs is a new higher level of technical documents, nothing more. Imagine say a PDF-handbook or a schoolbook with interactive animated 3D illustrations! Currently I’m delivering lectures on machine parts in a technical university and used to prepare ebooks for students as HTML documents with embedded VRML 3D images. Also we tried DWF and eDrwings. But the last year I tried A3D 7. It’s much better (sorry, it’s not a place to discuss, why). The different import formats just allow to take (or to prepare) 3D illustrations from different CAD systems. Hope to try A3D 8 in the nearest future. Suppose, we must say “Thanks!” to Adobe for the great product.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Sergei, I think you ought to read my article titled “Acrobat 3D 8 and Data Exchange” (http://www.deelip.com/2007/03/acrobat-3d-8-and-data-exchange.html)

  • Deelip Menezes

    Sergei, I think you ought to read my article titled “Acrobat 3D 8 and Data Exchange” (http://www.deelip.com/2007/03/acrobat-3d-8-and-data-exchange.html)

  • gan

    Hi Deelip, I think u r expert in 3d objects. Can you tell me please is thr any api or plug-in avalaible to convert catia files to 3d pdf format. or any way to so that i can design my own plug-in for the same…..

  • gan

    Hi Deelip, I think u r expert in 3d objects. Can you tell me please is thr any api or plug-in avalaible to convert catia files to 3d pdf format. or any way to so that i can design my own plug-in for the same…..

  • Deelip Menezes

    You will need to contact Dassault for an API to read CATIA files, and unless you give them a good enough reason and probably lots of money, they are not going to hand it over to you.

  • Deelip Menezes

    You will need to contact Dassault for an API to read CATIA files, and unless you give them a good enough reason and probably lots of money, they are not going to hand it over to you.