January 30, 2006
Adobe Introduces Acrobat 3D
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Adobe Systems Incorporated announced the immediate availability of Adobe Acrobat 3D, new desktop software that helps extend document-based 3D design collaboration capabilities to virtually anyone across and beyond global organizations. Using Acrobat 3D and harnessing the reach of Adobe Reader, extended project teams can more quickly, securely and cost-effectively drive to completion critical communication processes that require 3D visualization.

With Acrobat 3D, design engineering, technical publishing and creative professionals in manufacturing industries such as automotive, aerospace and industrial machinery, as well as the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market, can easily convert 3D models from a wide variety of major computer-aided design (CAD) formats and embed them into Adobe PDF files -- regardless of whether they have CAD software.

The capabilities of Acrobat 3D go much further, enabling users to enhance the interactivity of 3D objects in PDF documents by editing lighting, adding textures and materials, and creating animations such as assembly and disassembly instructions. Acrobat 3D users can then enable suppliers, partners and customers to participate in a more efficient document review process simply using Adobe Reader. When enabled by Acrobat 3D, Adobe Reader users have the ability to view product structure and leverage commenting, measurement and cross-section tools directly on 3D objects in Adobe PDF files.

Organizations including Renault group, Honda Racing F1 Team, Eaton Corporation, Bradrock Industries, and Atrus Incorporated are among those testing Acrobat 3D for document-based collaboration processes that require visualization of 3D CAD models. ITT Industries, Inc., a global engineering and manufacturing company with annual sales of more than US$6 billion, is also testing the software. ITT uses CAD software to create 3D design models then integrates static, 2D images into product documentation, marketing materials, and maintenance and repair guides.

"Today, we capture screen shots of materials from our CAD software for use in various documents, but 2D views don't completely convey all the details of our designs," said Chris Thomson, product engineering manager, ITT Industries. "Acrobat 3D could allow us to integrate 3D models into our marketing and product maintenance documentation, enabling readers to more easily understand how components work together. The ability to more securely communicate CAD data in Adobe PDF -- through the free and essentially universal Adobe Reader -- should help democratize 3D."

Harnessing Acrobat 3D, engineering professionals can now quickly share 3D CAD data with project team members, without the need for recipients to have CAD viewers or applications. This helps reduce the costs of slower and often error-prone methods of communication, including screen shots and paper-based processes. In addition, technical publishing and creative professionals can use Acrobat 3D to help increase their productivity by inserting 3D models into Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. They can then publish them as more secure and intelligent Adobe PDF documents. As a result, they can bring service, operations and training manuals, Web-based brochures, and catalogues to life
with rich, intuitive 3D content, helping provide a better user experience for their clients.

"In a global environment of fierce competition, outsourcing and time-to-market pressure, manufacturing organizations continually seek tools to help them deliver better products faster," said Marc Halpern, research director for Manufacturing at Gartner Inc. "Technology based on widely accepted standards that helps extend 3D visualization, communication and collaboration across geographically dispersed organizations and fits well in diverse computing environments will be of great value and can help organizations sustain a competitive advantage."

Acrobat 3D joins the Acrobat family that includes Acrobat 7.0 Professional, Acrobat 7.0 Standard and Acrobat 7.0 Elements. Acrobat 3D is the most comprehensive software in the product line, including all of the functionality of Acrobat 7.0 Professional, and much more.

Acrobat 3D is available in English, French and German language versions. The Japanese language version is expected to be available in February 2006. The product has an estimated street price of US$995. Registered users of Acrobat 7.0 Professional and Acrobat 6.0 Professional can upgrade to Acrobat 3D for estimated street prices of US$545 and US$699, respectively. The product is available for Microsoft Windows 2000 (with Service Pack 2), Windows XP Professional, Home and Tablet PC Editions, and IBM AIX 5.2, HP UX 11.0, SGI IRIX 6.5, and Sun Solaris 2.8 (for Acrobat 3D Capture utility).

This announcement by Adobe is not too surprising, as the company has been leaning in a 3D direction for a while now, but does reinforce the importance that the company places on the CAD market and its potential. Acrobat 3D is actually a further development and extension of Acrobat 7.0, and is one of the first products to be released since Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia. Some of Macromedia’s more popular and well-known products include Dreamweaver, Flash, and Fireworks – all heavy hitters in the arena of Web development. The announcement that Adobe made focuses on 3D CAD users and actually expands the Acrobat family into the 3D realm with Acrobat 3D and 3D

The UI for Acrobat 3D is similar to Acrobat 7, but now has capabilities for handling 3D objects, such as measurement, rotation, changing the appearance of or hiding parts, and dynamic cross-sectioning. With Acrobat Reader 7, 3D CAD images could be displayed, but required a third-party translator for importing. Acrobat 3D now contains the translators necessary for importing 3D CAD files and converting them to PDFs. Adobe includes translators for Dassaults's CATIA V4, V5, and SolidWorks; UGS NX, I-DEAS, Solid Edge, and JT Open; Autodesk's Inventor and AutoCAD; Pro/ENGINEER; and STEP. This is an impressive array of file formats, and won't hurt Acrobat 3D's adoption rate.

The 3D Toolkit is a nice additional asset because with it you can animate, add textures, change lighting, and create exploded views of CAD objects. Once you have applied the effects, you can save the resulting creation as a 2D image or a 3D object.

I would be surprised if some of the vendors competing in the visualization and collaboration space weren't just a bit nervous based on this announcement. If nothing else, the ubiquitous nature of the Acrobat Reader should instill a high level of concern. Why? Because I'm sure that Acrobat Reader gets more download requests in a day than most visualization/collaboration viewers have had requested in their histories of years. Although Adobe claims to not be competing with other technologies, like eDrawings, you can't help but wonder, why would you need both? Like other versions of Acrobat, I expect to see Acrobat 3D find a home in workplaces that wouldn't have otherwise had a 3D tool

Acrobat 3D is one to watch and one that could have significant influence on getting 3D to the masses, just as the PDF did for the proliferation of universally distributed documents. When the shipping version is available, we will be taking a closer look at the ins and outs of Acrobat 3D, because the implications and impact that it might have are potentially quite large.

The Week's Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Dassault Systemes rolled out a new PLM concept that will make key business processes available to customers of all sizes. The new products, known as Business Process Content (BPC), are flexible software assets, enabling customers to implement and adapt products to meet their specific needs, without the cost of tailor-made software. DS develops BPCs by identifying customers' specific needs, and associated industrial processes. Its engineers then check if a preconfigured solution could be reused by multiple customers from the same industry or sharing the same processes. How does it work? Traditional preconfigured solutions are usually the result of a sizeable investment in time and money.
Customers can sometimes leverage this investment by reusing a product, but this is often problematic, because the products have been customized to specific requirements. It can also be difficult to use only the part of the product, because of interdependencies between components or data models. The first delivery of BPCs includes ten V5R15 certified BPCs built on SMARTEAM and CATIA.

PTC announced a cooperative marketing agreement with IBM. The companies' activities under the agreement will focus primarily on the emerging PLM market in China, as well as a targeted account strategy in growth industries such as electronics, consumer packaged goods, and life sciences in Europe and the US. With this agreement, PTC and IBM will offer customers an end-to-end enterprise PLM solution that can be integrated with other enterprise applications such as ERP, SCM, and CRM. Customer business challenges including managing data from multiple CAD systems, environmental compliance, intellectual property protection, geographically dispersed
design collaboration as well as global product development can be handled through this collaboration.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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