February 14, 2005
3D within PDF
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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    A weekly news magazine featuring important industry news profiles, a summary of recently published AEC product and company news, customer wins, and coming events. Brought to you by AECCafe.

    Welcome to AECWeekly! I spoke this week with Ray Bentley and Troy Carter of Bentley Systems about their newly released 3D within PDF. Bentley has been working closely with both Adobe and Intel to develop this capability, which is offered free inside the latest version of MicroStation. Intel's U3D is the underlying format. The 3D within PDF content is created by embedding U3D data within the PDF file. All you need to do to access these PDFs is to download Acrobat Reader 7, which is free on the Adobe website.

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    Industry News

    3D within PDF

    by Susan Smith

    I spoke this week with Ray Bentley and Troy Carter of Bentley Systems about their newly released 3D within PDF. Bentley has been working closely with both Adobe and Intel to develop this capability, which is offered free inside the latest version of MicroStation. Intel's U3D is the underlying format. The 3D within PDF content is created by embedding U3D data within the PDF file. All you need to do to access these PDFs is to download Acrobat Reader 7, which is free on the Adobe website.

    “This gives us an opportunity to take the 3D data and deliver it to a new class of people, people who never worked with engineering data at all, who aren't going to work with MicroStation or even use a 3D viewer,” explained Bentley. “3D content within PDF files can be used for design proposals, assembly manuals or any kind of technical document. Everyone from designers of complex process plants to people who are putting together their bikes could benefit.. You can convey so much more information in a 3D document than you can ever get in 2D engineering drawings.” Bentley clarified this by saying that you do need 2D drawings because they have the dimensions, but there
    are also times when a 2D drawing is not sufficient.

    After downloading Acrobat Reader, I could view the Bentley demo consisting of five construction examples. The first was a building model with various links embedded in text at the left of the 3D model. You could click on east or west to see different views. You could also click on walkthrough and it would walk you through the model. You could also click on pause and stop at any location in the walkthrough, then just by putting your cursor over the image, a menu of a set of tools would come up and you could choose various options such as rotate, or illustration, or scene shaded. Rotate will make the model spin interactively. (I had to right click on my mouse in order to bring up my menu.)

    The next example was a digital terrain model with no geometry, with an aerial photo draped over it, and an aircraft, creating a realistic looking 3D image. You could click “fly” and fly along with the aircraft using this bookmark. With this feature you can see a lot more than you could do with a photograph.

    “One thing we don't have yet, but hope to include is to put links right on the 3D model. I think that will be coming,” said Bentley.

    The next example featured a helicopter that could fly around a building, displaying its various facades and also the terrain and buildings around it. “You can post this on a website and someone can bring up the model and move with the navigation tools to where their home or office is and see where the site lines are going to be, and how the proposed construction will affect them,” Bentley said. “You can't do that with a movie because it's taken from a single vantage point. With 3D within PDF you can move around even as the animation is running, you can use the tools to stop the animation and look around, and while you're doing that any other animation can continue to run,
    so it's more valuable and compact than an AVI. This model is only 3 megabytes; an AVI of this would be a lot more than that.”

    The fourth example was a roadway animation to show what an interchange was going to look like and how it would affect views from a certain neighborhood. The base of this model was created the same way as the first example, with a DTM draped with an aerial photo. In this model, a set of buildings and streetlights and other features have been added. This was a proposal for a hospital . You can click on drive and drive through the model, so you get a sense of what it's like to be there. If you stop the animation and look at some of the saved views, you can click on and get an idea of what the hospital is going to look like. You can grab the walking icon that looks like a pair of feet and see
    what it will be like to walk around the neighborhood.

    “When architects see this, a lightbulb comes on for them, they know they can ship a design to a client and the client can really understand the design proposal,” said Bentley.

    The final example was a construction document that shows how to insert a tank into a water treatment plant and how to do a more complicated animation. In the plant model where the crane is being inserted, you can click on the transparent link and make the whole model transparent. If you click on the illustration link while that's playing you can use the rotation tool and see the inside of the plant. Dimensions, text, etc. can currently be exported and viewed with the 3D models - there is an option to do that when you print.

    You can move to a particular point in the animation and restart it. There are different ways to control how fast the animation plays. Having the 3D data actually in the document allows a lot of flexibility and power in the way you can do things.

    “We began work on this four or five months ago,” Bentley explained. “and got some software from Adobe and Intel. I've worked quite closely with both of their development teams as this has come together -I don't think anyone else has done the animation, and developed as rich models as we've done. We've put quite a bit of work into getting it to work on large models. Our customers are not designing strip malls and gas stations, but instead high rise office buildings and plants. A lot of work went into making the technology scale well.”

    One customer had ten megabytes of CAD data and it all condensed down to a nice 1 megabyte PDF document that you could send.

    Prior to developing 3D within PDF, Bentley was partnering with Adobe for two or three years on creating 2D documents and bringing them directly from MicroStation into PDF. With 3D within PDF, you can combine documents that have 2D standard engineering line drawings and 3D views within a single documents. For example, you can have a sheet with dimensions and then have one view where they can rotate the model.

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