by Evan H. Shu, FAIA
In the past, various 3D formats (such VRML, 3DS, 3DMF, and o2c) have been touted as "the 3D PDF" (portable document format). But their opportunity to become the de facto standard may have passed. In January 2006, Adobe unveiled its own 3D format software, called Adobe Acrobat 3D, which actually uses the latest PDF file format. As with those other formats, a free viewer is available.
When Adobe Reader 7.0 (or higher) opens a PDF file including 3D PDF model data, it displays the 3D model and allows you to manipulate it in space and view it in different styles, such as shaded, wireframe, in parts, or in a cut section. As with other 3D viewers, you cannot further edit the model. If you send a 3D PDF file to someone using a older copy of Adobe Reader, they will be prompted to update it.
Adobe's 3D PDF is not a new format but uses the Universal 3D File (U3D) file format from Ecma International, with an open specification developed with participation from companies including Intel, Adobe, Bentley Systems, Boeing, HP, and Right Hemisphere.
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A 3D Model of the Sydney Opera House, being viewed interactively in Adobe Reader.
Image: David Owen, ArchitectureWeek. Sydney Opera House 3D model courtesy of GreatBuildings.com.
Controlling light sources within the model.
Image: David Owen, ArchitectureWeek
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