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PDF for 3D CAD

There are certain things that people need to do that they really don’t want to have to do.

There are certain things that people need to do that they really don’t want to have to do. Think, for example, of the last time you had a physical. Enough said.

Perhaps moving into that category is “sharing CAD files.” Or “buying a viewer that will allow us to read a CAD file.” Or “dealing with a customer who has switched over to a new CAD system.” You get the picture. Dealing with CAD files can be unwieldy. And unpleasant, especially when the whole purpose is to communicate and collaborate, not something more exotic and demanding.

So enter Adobe Acrobat 3D Version 8 (www.adobe.com). Yes, the PDF people. This new software allows files from CAD applications including CATIA V5 R17, UGS NX 4, Pro/E Wildfire 3, I-DEAS 12, and SolidWorks 2007 to be compressed and converted into a PDF file. Compressed to the extent that it can be 100 times smaller than the native CAD file. Consequently, this smaller file can be viewed by people with the free Adobe Reader. What is viewed is a 3D design that can be not only seen, but manipulated, analyzed, marked up, and commented on. The Adobe software allows you to provide annotated cross-sectional views, to hide or show parts, and to highlight particular areas.

In addition to which it allows the conversion of any CAD format into a neutral format, including STEP and IGES.

Because CAD files are, after all, rather critical intellectual property, Acrobat 3D Version 8 provides protection in that there are settings that don’t allow the changing of the native CAD file. In addition to which, “permissions” can be set so that just who can print, save, or modify a document can be established.

While design and engineering have become more digital, when it comes to collaboration and communications, things haven’t necessarily gotten any easier—or pleasant. Evidently Adobe is working to change that.—GSV