I don’t think anyone would argue with me that PDF is the primary method of electronically exchanging information…. but it’s 2016 and we’re not necessarily content with our fore-father’s 2D “flat” documents. We want more, we want 3D, we want interaction, we want collaboration, and we want the cake and we want to eat it too!
Back in January, I reviewed the Tetra4D Converter product. Tetra4D Converter is a plug-in for Adobe Acrobat (not Reader) that converts 3D model data and embeds it into a PDF. From within Acrobat, adding 3D content is as easy as using Create PDF from File menu or dragging-and-dropping the file into the Acrobat window. A big benefit with Converter is you don’t need the native CAD application to convert the model.
Creating the 3D Pdf is only one part of the solution. Tetra4D‘s Enrich product takes the imported content all the way to the next level by enabling the creation of interactive 3D PDFs. This is accomplished through a series of simple workflows, like drag-and-drop, and these workflows require no-to-very-little programming experience. Using Tetra4D Enrich you can insert 3D CAD models, the bill of materials, and an interactive view carousel.
“Tetra4D Enrich – The only solution that allows anyone to create data rich, interactive 3D PDFs without knowledge of programming.”
Tetra4D Converter In-the-Box
Tetra4D Enrich includes all the functionality of Converter. This means Enrich is able to convert 20+ CAD formats and neutral formats. Once converted it enables 3D measurements, markups, and different view types directly within Adobe Acrobat.
As I mentioned above, I’ve reviewed the Converter product before so if you’d like to learn more I highly suggest taking a look at that post. Here’s a shot of an Inventor model converted to a PDF using one of the included Tetra templates.
Building Interactive 3D PDF’s
I figured if I’m going to give this the proper review I might as well jump in with both feet and without a life jacket. I used PowerPoint to build a D&M template, which initially is “dumb” and contains no smart Enrich features
Now, the next step stumped me for a bit, but that’s what you get for not reading the help right? You need to enable the Tetra4D toolset on the Tools page of Acrobat. Then you can use them within your document. With the new PDF created from the template I built in PowerPoint, I insert the 3D model.
Now with the model inserted I add standard Acrobat buttons. I basically insert invisible buttons to make it appear that I’m clicking on the objects I inserted into PowerPoint…. a trick I learned when I first met the Tetra4D guys at AU. With the button added I now can add an Enrich Action to the button to perform certain functions. The first one I add two sequences, setting the Master view active and Fitting the visible geometry.
This works pretty slick in that I can add standard Adobe features but then add Actions managing aspects of the 3D view. With this added to my PDF template the button will be automatically defined to perform this action… set-it-and-forget-it!
[A suggestion I have for a future version of Enrich would be a combo option where the Adobe Button (with my configuration) and the Enrich Action are created at the same time…. would be a big time saver]
Adding actions to text fields is almost identical. In this scenario, I add an On 3D Part action so that the Part Description appears as a component is selected
Now let’s add a Carousel so that we can pick 3D views contained within the model visually. This is a slick feature, which is configurable, to allow for quick selection of the views within the model. I struggled a bit as the Inventor model I used had a grey colour applied and this resultant in Carousel views that were washed out and difficult to see. I couldn’t find an option within Enrich to deal with this.
And to round this into form a Parts List pulling in Bill of Materials data from the model. Tetra4D Enrich provides options for both a Flat (Parts Only) and Hierarchal (Structured) Parts List.
With the table inserted you can add columns, mapping the columns to any property. In my case, I adjusted the default Name column to be the Description instead. You also have some formatting options including adjusting the font, height, and column alignment.
This is one area that is a bit lacking, for example, I can not adjust the column heading formatting separately from the table rows. However, as a bonus, as you select a row in the table the associated part highlights in the 3D model… no extra steps required!
Why Tetra4D Enrich?
There are many PDF options out there, so what makes Tetra4D better than everyone else? Consider that Tetra4D are an exclusive provider of 3D PDF technology to Adobe, meaning much of what you use within Adobe Acrobat is based on Tetra4D tech.
The cost is $1,748/licensed copy, plus you’ll need Adobe Acrobat (not Reader)
Why use Tetra4D Enrich?
- Use the included Converter to add interactive 3D models to your PDFs. This includes incorporating multiple views, the ability to change render modes on the fly, and the options to display text and other information.
- Use templates (yours or the included ones) to quickly build “compelling” documents like assembly instructions, part catalogs, and other technical information-type documents.
- All information in one shareable document, stored in a format (PDF) accessible by just about anyone.
- Easily add view carousels, bill of materials and aggregate data from other systems
- Easy-to-learn, easy-to-use
- Works with many CAD and neutral file formats
- PDF viewable with just about any PDF viewer without any additional plug-ins
- Parts List / BOM formatting is limited
- Some options require duplicate effort
At less than $2000 it might be too much for the occational use, but for someone who creates a lot of technical documentation and / or manuals this will be a great addition to the toolset.