File Sharing/Publishing

Adobe Acrobat 3D v8 (Cadalyst Labs Review)

1 Sep, 2007 By: Ron LaFon

New version incorporates features designed specifically for engineering, CAD, and manufacturing.

Adobe has released the newest version of its Acrobat family, Adobe Acrobat 3D version 8, which is the second release of the company's design collaboration and communication application. Acrobat 3D has all of the features found in Acrobat 8 Professional, as well as a variety of features designed specifically for engineering, CAD, and manufacturing users.

To Share and Protect

To the feature set found in Acrobat 8 Professional, Acrobat 3D adds the ability to convert 3D designs from major CAD applications to PDF, as well as create rich documents that can include exploded views, animations, lighting, materials, textures, and color (figures 1–3). It also can export precise geometry from PDF to STEP, IGES, and Parasolid to enable downstream use in CAD, CAM, and CAE applications. As with Acrobat Professional, users can grant access for comment and review through Adobe Reader. Users can initiate collaborative reviews as well. Acrobat 3D allows users to control document security in several ways to protect intellectual property.

Figure 1. With Adobe Acrobat 3D, you can create a variety of views of a model, complete with lighting and textures.
Figure 1. With Adobe Acrobat 3D, you can create a variety of views of a model, complete with lighting and textures.

Any time your design data leaves an organization, security becomes an obvious concern. Users can place password protection on their 3D PDF files to restrict access to documents or assign permissions to control printing, saving, copying, or modifying the document. Different passwords can enable different views within the document to ensure that the appropriate persons see the data (figure 4). In AutoCAD, for example, users can turn layers off entirely in creating the 3D PDF, or they can enable certain layers when a specific password is entered. Users also can permanently delete sensitive information, including specific text or illustrations, with redaction tools. Other security options include the LifeCycle Rights Management ES server software for larger installations.

Figure 2. In Adobe Acrobat 3D, model views can include transparency, making communication easy and providing numerous training options.
Figure 2. In Adobe Acrobat 3D, model views can include transparency, making communication easy and providing numerous training options.

Part of the Workflow

Adobe Acrobat 3D can be used in sourcing, procurement, and supply-chain processes and it can be a component in assuring standards compliance. Users can manage and share documentation pertaining to compliance and regulatory requirements, including control and audit data, as part of an organization's workflow.

Figure 3. Cross sections can be created in Adobe Acrobat 3D to more clearly define and communicate how an assembly functions.
Figure 3. Cross sections can be created in Adobe Acrobat 3D to more clearly define and communicate how an assembly functions.

Users can create fill-in PDF forms from scanned paper, existing PDF documents, Microsoft Word documents, or Excel spreadsheets. Form fields on static PDF documents are recognized automatically and converted to interactive files that can be filled by anyone using Adobe Reader software.

Figure 4. Adobe Acrobat 3D allows you to create callouts for communication across a workgroup or design team.
Figure 4. Adobe Acrobat 3D allows you to create callouts for communication across a workgroup or design team.

From within both Adobe Acrobat 3D and Adobe Reader, users can link into online conferencing using Adobe Connect Professional, which uses the Flash format and the free Adobe Flash Player found on most computers. With the fee-based Acrobat Connect Professional, you have instantly available and customizable meeting, training, and presentation tools. This capability is valuable both as a training tool for e-learning courseware and as a convenient collaboration tool for workgroups spread across large geographic areas.


Adobe has continued to forge alliances with major players in the CAD and engineering software community, and new announcements appear regularly. As a result of these alliances and technology acquisitions, Adobe Acrobat 3D works with a broad array of industry-standard software, including CATIA V5 R17, UGS NX4, Pro/E Wildfire 3, I-deas 12 NX series, and SolidWorks 2007. Adobe Acrobat 3D is regularly updated to include support for the latest versions of CAD file formats.

New in this release of Adobe Acrobat 3D is the ability to display product manufacturing information (PMI) directly on the geometry and the assembly tree, which allows users to easily distribute 3D designs with dimensions, tolerances, and other annotations directly on the 3D model. Adobe PDF files now may be as much as 150 times smaller than the original CAD files, and users can export their converted CAD files in PDF to STEP and IGES. Acrobat 3D operations, such as converting large CAD assemblies and opening PDF documents, are faster, and CAD file-format support has been updated to reflect the latest versions of several applications.

Users still can capture their CAD designs instantly in an Acrobat 3D PDF file from OpenGL-based applications running on both Microsoft Windows and UNIX systems. This feat is accomplished by capturing the 3D information from the system's graphics card driver, which captures data from applications and file formats that might not be supported directly.

Plug-In Architecture

One of the great strengths of Adobe products is their plug-in architecture, and Adobe Acrobat 3D is no exception. By installing plug-ins, users can extend the functionality of the base product or automate processes that might otherwise take numerous time-consuming steps. In addition to providing the opportunity for third-party vendors to create plug-ins for standard operations, this capability also opens the door for vertical special-purpose applications related to automation and manufacturing.

Adobe Acrobat 3D provides great feature depth right out of the box, but by opening the architecture for plug-ins, Adobe has created a much more flexible and malleable tool that can address numerous needs for both individuals and organizations. Some organizations are using Acrobat 3D for file conversions and for getting their design files into neutral file formats that can be used for various purposes.

System Requirements

The minimum system requirements for Adobe Acrobat 3D v8 for Windows are a PC based on an Intel Pentium III processor or equivalent running Microsoft Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4, Windows XP Professional, Home Edition, or Tablet PC Edition with Service Pack 2. Windows XP Professional x64 Edition also is supported, as is Windows Vista (32- and 64-bit) Ultimate, Enterprise, Business, Home Premium, and Home Basic.

Adobe Acrobat 3D v8
Adobe Acrobat 3D v8

You'll need Microsoft Internet Explorer v6 or later and at least 512 MB of RAM — although 1 GB is recommended. The requirement for available hard disk space is 1.6 GB, which includes cache for optional installation files. An NVIDIA or ATI graphics card with pixel shader support and DirectX 8.1 or 9 are required for video hardware acceleration, which is recommended for the best performance. The graphics card will need to provide at least 1,024 x 768 resolution. Finally, you'll need a DVD-ROM drive and an Internet or telephone connection for product activation.

Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, Office 2003, or Office 2007 is required for 3D OCX and PDFMaker. Adobe Acrobat 3D is currently available in English, French, German, and Japanese.

Adobe Acrobat 3D v8 is available either as a boxed product or via an electronic download (692 MB) and is priced at $995 for new purchases; upgrades start at $295, depending on which version of Acrobat you're upgrading. The latest version of the free Adobe Reader is available for a wide range of platforms and supports the features, including mark up of 3D objects, enabled by this new release. You can get the Adobe Reader and find out more about Adobe Acrobat 3D by visiting the Adobe Web site at There you can download a number of 3D PDF files that can be opened in Adobe Reader to show many of the capabilities of Adobe Acrobat 3D. You'll need at least Adobe Reader v8.1 to show all the features of Acrobat 3D v8.

Power and Depth

This latest release of Adobe Acrobat 3D builds on the foundation of its predecessor. It's a major design and collaboration tool with a lot of depth. Based on the ubiquitous and user-friendly PDF file format, Acrobat 3D provides tools for industry that are both powerful and easy to use. Highly Recommended.

Ron LaFon, a contributing editor for Cadalyst, is a writer, editor, and computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a principal at 3Bear Productions in Atlanta.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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