Nice article, Beth. How widely used is 3D PDF so far? Is it being used widely in aerospace, defense, and by Cat? My guess is that standardization would encourage use. At this stage is it a niche tool? Or, is there a potentially wide audience for 3D PDF?
My sense is that 3D PDF is used pretty extensively, particularly in government agencies and in the aerospace & defense sector as a means of sharing complex documents and 3D data. 3D PDF is not just limited to sharing engineering data, but there has been a growing number of companies leveraging the standard as a way to share this type of information without having to invest in pricey, dedicated tools.
I thought I might take s stab at answering your questions...
As to scope of use we don't yet know in any quantitative sense, but what has been surprising is to be in a forum or conference making a presentation, and asking the question of those in attendance, and getting a fairly large proportion of the hands going up. I believe most of that at this point are not necessarily corporate implementatinos, but even there I've been suprised to find them active. So far the use seems to be distributed, and not locked down to any one industry, such as aerospace. I've been told by Adobe that Cat is indeed a user, but don't have the details.
It is not just a niche tool, although I have seen niche uses of it. The DOD is moving aggressively to a Model Based Enterprise (MBE) strategy, and its a key element of that effort. I know of several large manufacturers who have also put corporate strategies in place for adoption, so the opinion I have is we are at the early stages of mainstream adoption, if that makes sense.
As far as standardization is concerned, 3D PDF is already a standard. Without getting into the gory details, PDF is covered by ISO32000, and the two 3D formats supported by Acrobat and PDF are referenced standards or standards in process. You can find the details on the presentation on the home page of the Consortium at www.3dpdfconsortium.org
Thanks for wading in, Dave. Your comments provide some good context around use case and adoption rate. I know we talk about this a bit in the post, but perhaps you can provide some richer detail on what the charter of the consortium is given as you note to Rob that it's not about standard setting.
The concept of the Consortium was hatched last spring at a meeting of a dozen or so companies with a vested intererst in 3D PDF tools and solutions. From a "mission" perspective, one of the concerns of the group was that while PDF (ISO32000) has an active, robust standards presence (via the ISO Secretariat - AIIM) the focus was and is largely around document managment and enterprise content management needs and considerations. The industries and job roles which were most widely reflected in the standards activity were not manufacturing in orientation, and while there was some representation on the standards committee with a manufacturing background, the concensus was that a group that was widely focused on manufacturing, as well as other industries where 3D is an important information asset (BIM, geopspatial, etc.) would be able to add value through providing input to the standards process.
The other aspect of the Consortium mission relates to driving adoption, because standards themselves don't assure adoption, and we want to do what we can to make sure both end-users and providers see the marketplace as a vibrant one, where users will invest in the solutions and providers in their development, because they see opportunity for both to gain. The best way we feel to do that is to a) make sure the end-user element of our community constantly sees new implementations and best practices objectively, and believe in the ability of 3D PDF to address their business challenges as they prioritize them; and b) that the providers then show how to turn those use cases into success stories, and get that information out into the market.
This is brand new to me; I have not heard of it before --- Is 3D-PDF simply a compilation of all the engineering data (.STL's, .STEP's, .IGES's) which I normally send, or is it intended to replace those eventually-?
If it combines my CAD data along with my presentation graphic (usually a PowerPoint) which I always send to explain a design, that clearly is a step saver, and I'm interested!!
Can it also be encrypted to eliminate the upload to a secure FTP server? Often, the late nights come well after the actual design is completed, and only the compilation, presentation, encryption, and uploading make me late for dinner.
Plus, now I can view real 3D ProE data on my cheap, aging home computer-?This sounds very good to me,,,,,
Thank you for the post. I'll try to answer your questions.
3D PDF is not intended to replace JT or STEP, or any other direct translator. Although certain 3D PDF-based products such as the Tetra 4D plug-in for Acrobat Pro, or the ProSTEP 3D PDF publishing solution based on the LifeCycle product from Adobe, can read in one CAD format, and output in another, the primary focus of 3D PDF as a platform is the ability to incorporate geometry, PMI information, and certain metadata contained within the CAD file, with unstuctured data found within documents and metadata contained in other line of business systems. This allows the creation of distributable documents and portfolios combining all of this information into packages that allow the author to use 3D information to support business processes and use cases that those formats (STEP and JT) cannot due to their technical architecture. Examples of what I mean would include what you need for RFQ processes, digital work instructions, technical manuals, marketing collateral, and the like.
PDF files do have the ability for various kinds of security, such as digital signatures, encryption, and digital rights managment, but how those are implemented depends on which tools you use. Some of this is enabled through Acrobat Pro, for instance, but there are also a variety of third-parry products that are used by organizations to accomplish these functions.
The data you see in Acrobat Reader is not "real Pro/E" data, but rather graphically represented in either U3D or PRC - the two standard formats for 3D representation that PDF supports. The former is a tessellated format; the later has the ability to represent any of the input forms supported, to PRC which can represent true 3D curves and surfaces as geometry. Which of these is used is dependent on the author or implementor of the solution being used.
One will never really know how widely used "it" is, because the same PDF file you use every day of the week can contain any kind of data, 3D models or 2D drawings, or specs, or work orders, or change orders, etc. You can now construct your complete RFQs in a single file with all product and non-product data included. And people who receive it can review it with their standard PDF reader. And if you want to comment or markup, etc. you use Acrobat, which you probably also already have around somewhere. SO it's kind of impossible to measure how widely it's used. How many users is "everyone can use it"?
I was overseas just a few months ago and a designer handed a manufacturing guy a file which he couldn't open. In about three mouse clicks I opened it in Acro 3D and voila! - there was the full BREP, automatically (correctly) identified as a Parasolid file. It could be fully manipulated, zoomed, etc. We then put some text around it to describe where we wanted to lose some wall thickness and some fillets to add strength around access ports, and sent it as a PDF file to the guy who was making 2 high-res copies of the part out of nylon (using additive manufacturing-laser sintering) for me to bring home the next morning. It works.
FYI - the first meeting of the 3D PDF Consortium meeting is being held at a relevant conference - the Collaboration & Interoperability Congress in May www.3dcic.com. There are numerous big companies presenting at the event their use of 3D PDF, e.g. Boeing, Grundfos, and others, in real big production applications.
David makes a great observation about the way this is being used today. At more than one conference, I've seen people use 3D PDF as a means to present concepts, ideas, etc. because of its lightweight footprint but capable functionality. In many cases these are individual users who acquired the product on their own (as opposed to corporate-wide implementations) because its inexpensive, easy to use, fits a variety of needs, and is highly functional. Its a bit like knowing how many use Powerpoint for a particular purpose - not really possible.
One elaboration on David's comments - the ability to comment or markup doesn't require Acrobat; it can be done with Reader, provided the author as enabled something in the PDF called Reader Extensions. This again is a HUGE benefit - if I want someone to have the ability to comment, but not the ability to measure, I simply enable that configuation in Acrobat as part of the publishing. This gives the author control over what features the recipient has access to.
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