Adobe has upgraded its Adobe Acrobat 3D software for incorporating 3D CAD models in PDF files, adding the ability to mark up the images with product manufacturing information such as dimensions and tolerances. The update also allows the exporting of such data from the PDF file into formats, such as STEP and IGES, used by manufacturing tools.

The 3D capabilities, first added to Acrobat in February 2006, can be used by designers to share information and visualizations with colleagues and customers who lack 3D design software installed on their machines. However, the mark-up and export features in the latest version won't work with existing versions of the company's free PDF (Portable Document Format) reader software: users will have to wait until the release of Adobe Reader 8.1, planned next month, for that.

Adobe's attempt to further integrate Acrobat into the flow of 3D design information around the enterprise mirrors broader moves in the CAD (computer-aided design) or PLM (product lifecycle management) industry to make 3D models accessible to a wider range of workers.

French software developer Dassault Systèmes SA began working with Microsoft Corp. in November 2004 to integrate its 3D design tools Catia and SolidWorks with Microsoft's Office applications. In February, the companies demonstrated how Microsoft's Sharepoint Server and Dassault Systèmes' Catia V5 could be integrated as an Office Business Application. In the proof-of-concept system developed for an aircraft manufacturer, workers were able to rapidly access a 3D model of a malfunctioning product, identify the faulty component, and with a few mouse-clicks order spares for their customer, all from within Microsoft Office, the companies said.

Meanwhile UGS Corp., now part of Siemens AG, announced plans last November to use Microsoft Office running on Windows Vista as a front end for visualizing 3D data from its Teamcenter PLM software, enabling designers to exchange 3D models and manufacturing information with more of their colleagues. The companies have worked together since 2005 on integrating other aspects of Teamcenter and Office.

Acrobat 3D can convert 3D design data from these companies, and others such as Autodesk, into PDF files, or embed 3D graphics into Word, Excel or PowerPoint files and convert those into PDF files.

Adobe Acrobat 3D 8 is now available in English, French or German, while a Japanese version will go on sale in June. The software will sell for around US$995, with upgrades from earlier versions from US$295, Adobe said.