One major snag with the traditional use of CAD files is that not everyone has CAD software to view, annotate, and edit the files — not even at engineering companies. This problem is increasingly limiting. Industry 4.0 (today’s Industrial Internet of Things) relies on free data transmission from order intake to manufacturing. Plus, locking CAD data in limited-use files means that engineering enterprises can’t use them to generate shop-manual illustrations or assembly instructions. In addition, proprietary software doesn’t usually let suppliers freely collaborate with OEMS and other customers.
Now, there are some solutions to address this. One tool is 3D PDF files that let designers share 3D data within the common Adobe PDF format.Brief history of PDF-based CAD
In 2005, the 3D Industry Forum consortium authored a Universal 3D file-format standard for 3D graphics data. More recently, organizations that include the 3D PDF Consortium—online at 3dpdfconsortium.org—have continued the work. The Consortium’s 3DPDF is an ISO32000-standardized PDF file with 3D content representing geometric objects including manufactured products. This data must be defined in one of two formats.
Specifics on one option
One member of the 3D PDF Consortium is Theorem Solutions. The company works to reduce the cost of project collaboration with customers, suppliers and internal departments mostly with data-translation software. Now, its Publish3D-Document software lets engineers translate 3D CAD data from within CATIA V5, NX, PTC’s Creo Parametric, and JT applications into a readable PDF with an embedded interactive 3D product image.
Publish3D-Document software incorporates myriad product applications:
- The Publish3D-Document On-Demand module lets designers batch publish from the CATIA V5, NX, CREO and JT systems into the 3D PDF format. In a similar way, Publish3D-Document Automated allows for high-volume batch publishing.
- Publish3D-Document Interactive publishes from within the native CAD system and uses the Save As function to create the 3D PDF.
- Publish3D-Document add-ons are the 3D PDF publishing tools for NX and JT translators which gives the original translated output alongside the 3D PDF.
Anyone with access to the free Adobe reader (on a PC, tablet, or phone) can access the 3D data. Users can view, mark up and interrogate the document. They can also annotate the 3D PDF and use it as a carrier file for additional data in the form of spreadsheets, AVI movies, and hyperlinks to create a richer source of information.
PDF files containing interactive 3D data safeguard Intellectually Property (IP) than CAD files with password protection. (Native CAD files can’t protect this way.) The security function works alongside data translated to a tessellated format, so users can view and manipulate 3D representation but can’t access native CAD data or reproduce it from the PDF alone. This functionality makes it safer to share sensitive information with partners and suppliers.
Other 3D PDF applications
Interoperability problems can appear across the entire supply chain, but one area of high risk is when people try to read data from one CAD system into another. To address this problem, the 3D PDF software lets purchasing departments create and share RFQ documents (and engineering-change documentation). The RFQ documents can include pre-populated forms and interactive 3D data published directly from native CAD data on PLM systems, including custom-built templates for purchasing-department procedures to pre-configure and automate RFQ processes.
The software also helps manufacturing get dimensions, tolerances, material type, finish and other annotation information. That eliminates the need to send separate drawings to the plant floor. The PDFs even support model-based definition (MBD) processes that more manufacturing companies are looking to implement.