Adobe Outsources 3D to Tech Soft 3D

Today Adobe PR sent me an email pointing me to a Tech Soft 3D press release and an Adobe blog post announcing a long term agreement between the two companies whereby Tech Soft 3D will develop and distribute the Adobe 3D SDK technology. Tech Soft 3D were already distributing it. Now they are going to develop it as well.

Four years ago, Adobe acquired Trade and Technologies France (TTF), a French data translation company to give Acrobat and PDF its 3D functionality. SYCODE develops data exchange plug-ins for Acrobat and I have been working with the Adobe 3D PDF SDK since its early days. In fact I have kept a close eye on the SDK and have seen how it has changed over time. Truth be told, it hasn’t changed very much. I get the feeling that Adobe got hold of the technology and really didn’t know what to do with it apart from embedding into Acrobat. After four years, Adobe’s 3D technology looks pretty much like how it did when it was first released. I remember three years ago I wrote a post on this blog titled “Wireframe, Measurement and Collaboration” explaining exactly how much I thought Adobe understood CAD. I wrote:

I am now assuming that Adobe’s interpretation of the word “wireframe” means the render mesh that is used to display the model as a solid, something quite different from what we in the CAD industry know it to be. Like Ralph Grabowski commented to my earlier post, maybe “Adobe does not fully understand the CAD market yet and its rather particular demands”.


Everyone knows that engineers are paranoid about dimensions and tolerances. They talk about microns as if they were miles. I am not sure they are going to be happy when they come to know that Acrobat’s measurements are based on the same render mesh that they call “wireframe”. If I want to measure the distance between a point and the mid point of an edge curve, I have to hope that the render mesh has a vertex at the mid point of the edge curve in question and then successfully find that vertex in the crazy maze of vertices of the “wireframe”.


I am not quite sure what Adobe’s view of collaboration is. You just cannot give an engineer down in manufacturing a mesh (however fine and hence unmanageable it may be) and expect him to “collaborate” effectively with an engineer in the design department. He needs to know distances, angles, surface curvature and continuity, etc. precisely, from a NURBS model, not based on some stupid render mesh. A 3D model is not any ordinary document like a purchase order, and I feel Adobe needs to realize that.

Finally, it looks like Adobe had decided to put the 3D part into the hands of people who know what to do with it. Tech Soft 3D is an excellent choice since they already have a tremendous amount of experience in developing component technologies. But what interests me more is how this plays out with Tech Soft 3D’s relationship with Spatial. Spatial develops 3D InterOp, a data exchange technology which I license and Tech Soft 3D develops HOOPS, a visualization technology that I hope to license one day. The thing is Tech Soft 3D and Spatial used to distribute each others technologies. Spatial still distributes HOOPS but 3D InterOp is missing from Tech Soft 3D line of products. In its place I see something called “CAD Foundation Libraries” which is basically the data translation technologies of the former TTF. The page also says that the TTF programmers from Lyon in France will be joining Tech Soft 3D, which effectively means that Adobe is now completely outsourcing the 3D part of PDF to Tech Soft 3D.

With this agreement Spatial now becomes a rival of Tech Soft 3D, at least in the field of data exchange. Its good to know that Spatial still intends to distribute HOOPS. But I am assuming that the 3D InterOp Developer section on the Tech Soft 3D web site will soon be taken down. This makes things interesting for me because I get another place to shop around for data exchange technologies, if and when the need arises. 😉

This effectively means that through this agreement with Tech Soft 3D, Adobe is actually getting into the CAD data exchange business, something which I believe can bring it one step closer to getting CAD vendors to increase the adoption of 3D PDF. It will be interesting to see of Tech Soft 3D manages to get the job done for them. Because frankly, I don’t see Adobe developing a CAD system. All that Adobe wants is to proliferate 3D PDF into manufacturing so that it can promote the use of its LiveCycle portfolio to automate processes and improve communication. In fact, I believe that was the whole point of acquiring TTF and adding 3D to PDF to begin with.