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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

PDF3D conversion and publishing software addresses merging GIS and CAD data from diverse sources

September 8th, 2014 by Susan Smith

PDF3D 3D PDF conversion and publishing software has released their latest version update with more features of their advanced PRC technology for GIS users. The development timeframe has been speeded up to bring this technology to market early.

LiDAR draped over hills

LiDAR draped over hills

PRC is becoming a popular feature-rich way of embedding 3D data and models into a PDF file and both PDF3D SDK and PDF3D ReportGen have been using the power of PRC technology for four years since the company’s inception.


The new format can compress CAD models with PRC at a much higher standard than before. In 2010, the PDF3D team introduced PRC into their products for PDF conversion to surpass the then-commonly used U3D method. AutoCAD users are especially happy to be able to convert large DWG files into interactive, animated 3D PDFs that can be shared with anyone.

The new version will allow the one-click conversion software to work in the background.

In an interview with Ian Curington of PDF3D, he talked about the new version of PDF3D:

Utah elevation model

Utah elevation model

GISCafe:What do users need in order to use your PDF3D product?

IC: All of the PDFs generated can be viewed and used with the free Adobe Reader. No other software, plugins or extensions are needed.

For converting CAD, survey, engineering, and geospatial models into 3D PDF, the PDF3D ReportGen desktop application is complete and stand-alone and does not depend on any other software to be installed. In particular it does not need Adobe Acrobat or any CAD or GIS software, only the model files. This makes it ideal to take out in the field on laptops for survey work, or for distributed teams without access to high-end workstation software.

Utah terrain surface TIN

Utah terrain surface TIN

The 3D PDF generation software available within the PDF3D suite runs on Windows, Apple Mac and Linux – covering most of the technical platforms in use by professionals today.

GISCafe: Is the compression of PRC similar to that used by TerraGo for their 3DPDF product?

IC: Good question – yes, the 3D PDF results from our geospatial generation also uses PRC, and we have found methods for using PRC for geospatial terrain grids that exceed all other systems for file compression.

PRC started life as a CAD manufacturing compressed representation format, however, we have successfully enhanced the use of PRC to include full geodetic and projected Geospatial coordinate systems in a PRC-based 3D PDF model.

This brings true production efficiency of small file size and accurate reporting for 3D geospatial PDF to the GIS professional community.

Our PRC implementation is completely our own – not based on any third party,  independent of Adobe or Adobe’s business partners.

GISCafe: Do users need to know any particular software or is it not necessary?

IC: No, PDF3D ReportGen end-users can simply drag & drop civil engineering models, terrain grids, GeoTIFFs, and point clouds, specify a suitable coordinate system and push convert – so very easy to learn and use without needing to know a complex application. This means that expensive modeling workstations are not tied up to create a 3D PDF report – and can be installed and used by more people, especially helpful in field survey environments. We have users taking geophysical survey measurements in rough jungle environments, producing 3D PDFs on a laptop, and marine survey crews hundreds of miles offshore without Internet connections.

Of course the PDF3D-SDK software development tool-kit (which sits underneath PDF3D ReportGen) includes a rich set of options for integration, configuration and server-based systems where internal knowledge of 3D Geospatial systems is helpful.

In contrast to other possible 3D Geospatial PDF paths involving several different software tools in a work-flow, the PDF3D ReportGen offers all this functionality in one place with one simple set of menus.

GISCafe: What functionality does your product offer once the user receives a PDF3D file? Viewing only, manipulation, etc.?

IC: Principally the 3D PDFs produced are considered as end-product technical reports, for collaboration, sharing, management review and project archive.

Once a user receives a 3D PDF produced by the PDF3D suite, navigation around the 3D virtual environment is available by direct mouse rotate pan and zoom, selection of region of interest areas, and snapping to geospatial view presets such a plan, North, South, East, West, South-West, etc… orientations, with the normal corner axes replaced by a north compass symbol.

For multi-layer models, and exploded view is available to pull the layers apart or hide layer visibility.

Mensuration menus on the PDF page (without any reader plugins) offer location, distance, grade and angle measurements to users in the original model geodetic, projected (UTM and MGRS) and geocentric coordinate systems. When generating the PDF all the industry accepted UTM zones and EPSG codes are available.

Z Scaling menus are very helpful to enhance the visibility of subtle elevation changes.

GISCafe: Is the product now on the market or when is its intended launch date?

IC: The PDF3D suite with 3D Geospatial PDF features is available now, with a very active and continuing enhancement roadmap. A preview of the next release will be shown at InterGeo, Berlin, October 7-9, B4.007, Hall  4.1.

GISCafe:: Are there any other salient points about the product that our GIS users should know?

IC: We are finding interest in 3D PDF as a direct representation and capture of point clouds, from terrestrial survey laser scanners and from aerial and satellite LiDAR sources. Due to the size of these data sets, the PDF3D system also includes reduction and simplification systems, so that visually representative versions of the data can be presented in interactive reports.

Further, where TIME is involved in a sequence of 3D models, animation playback can be specified in the 3D PDF page. This is proven useful for vehicle mounted LiDAR on the move, mining operation sequences, and geotechnical site remediation.

For both GIS and AEC, merging geospatial models and CAD models is often a practical requirement. PDF3D enables merging diverse sources such as point clouds, GIS terrain maps with 3D CAD models for site planning.

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Categories: 3D PDF, ArcGIS, Autodesk, cloud, conversion, data, field GIS, geospatial, Google, GPS, image-delivery software, lidar, mapping, PDF3D

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