How to Manage Views in a 3D PDF

After “Getting Started with 3D PDFs,” we explored “How to Consume 3D PMI in a 3D PDF.”In this article, let’s focus on views in 3D PDF, which is an important tool to organize and present model-based definition (MBD) data. As articulated by an engineer, views can help formulate a story line of how designers want the data to be consumed by downstream procedures. We will discuss some handy techniques to make MBD data more organized and consumable.

The first step is to customize a 3D PDF template according to industry or company standards. It’s very similar to customizing 2D drawing templates. In a 3D PDF template, you can insert as many 3D independent viewports as needed. These viewports are placeholders in a template and will be populated with specific views of your choosing later.

A thoughtful practice adopted by some manufacturers is to place multiple viewports on an early sheet to provide an upfront overview for data consumers, as shown in Figure 1. This way, anyone looking at the first page can quickly and easily obtain a rough idea of the design from multiple perspectives without having to flip a model back and forth repeatedly in one viewport.

image001Figure 1. Present multiple views on one page as a quick overview.

On the other hand, some regulations may require the first page of a technical document to declare certain statements such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). In this case, the first page may not be allowed to show any viewports or technical information. You can now customize the first page so that it doesn’t include any viewports using the MBD 2017 release as illustrated in this article, “What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: 3D PDF Template Editor.”

After the first several sheets, some companies recommend placing one big viewport per sheet to make a document friendlier to printers as shown in Figure 2.

image002Figure 2. Present one big viewport per sheet for easier printing and viewing on paper.

This is a very practical consideration because MBD doesn’t necessarily mean paperless processes, as explained in this blog post. Oftentimes, hard copies are still necessary and this template layout strategy can help ease downstream data consumption tremendously.

With a professional and practical template, we can now move on to the 3D PDF publishing step. One recommended practice here is to capture well-thought-out and organized 3D views before publishing. 3D views are very comprehensive and capable of representing a wide range of viewing factors, such as orientations, configurations, display states, annotation views, zooming scales and so on. These factors will also closely align with design expectations in a published 3D PDF. As a comparison, in my experience,predefined views or the current model view (circled in the red box in Figure 3) don’t behave as predictably as 3D views.

image003Figure 3. 3D views are recommended over predefined views and the current model view.

As suggested at the bottom in Figure 3, 3D views don’t have to capture models. They can also be used to capture 2D content such as bill-of-materials (BOM) tables, notes and statements. These elements can all be populated in independent viewports in a published 3D PDF. It’s also possible to take it one step further and assign these 2D elements to an annotated view in the 2D notes area so that they won’t rotate and will always stay flat to the screen for easier reading in both SOLIDWORKS and Adobe Reader. This article, “How to Present the MBD Data of a Gear Box Assembly,” explained further the annotated view in the 2D notes area.

Once a 3D PDF is published, a very noticeable tool is the view strip, as shown at the bottom in Figure 1. You can quickly browse through these views by clicking on a thumbnail; the corresponding independent viewport will be updated per your selection, in the same fashion as the 3D view strip in SOLIDWORKS as shown at the bottom in Figure 3.

Furthermore, Adobe Reader provides many tools to present and manage views. Figure 4 shows several expanded settings, such as the View Selection drop-down box, the Model Render mode, the lighting options, the viewport background color and the cross-section properties.

image004Figure 4. Adobe Reader viewing tools.

These Adobe Reader settings are self-explanatory. You can try them out and check out the results visually right away, so we don’t have to explain too much here. One point worth noting is the Illustration display mode as shown in Figure 4. Another mode is the Solid Outline display as shown in Figure 5. In many cases, engineers need to see the edge lines to best understand the boundaries of complex features, so these two modes are recommended for this need. As a comparison, Figure 6 showed the solid rendered mode where the edge lines are hidden, which doesn’t look as sharp as the displays in Figure 4 or 5.

image005Figure 5. Solid Outline display mode in Adobe Reader.

image006Figure 6. Solid display mode without edge lines in Adobe Reader.

Another setting is the view selection drop-down box as shown at the upper-left corner in Figure 4. You can pick which view to populate to an independent viewport from this drop-down list. One neat MBD 3D PDF feature that many people aren’t aware of is that once you populate a viewport with a specific view, you can actually save this selection back to a 3D PDF using Adobe Reader. A common perception is that Adobe Reader is just a viewer to display documents in read-only mode, but when it comes to the view selection, you can edit and save it. Whether you are scrolling up and down through multiple pages or reopening a 3D PDF, what you pick for the independent viewports will be remembered.

This provides greater flexibility in the view arrangement. For example, you can decide on the view presentation sequence even if you don’t have SOLIDWORKS MBD on your computer or don’t want to publish this 3D PDF again. It is especially handy when you want to print all the views in certain way from a 3D PDF inside Adobe Reader.

One last overlooked point is that when you add a 3D comment, Adobe Reader will automatically create a view as shown in Figure 7. So to retrieve a 3D comment, please remember to check the list of views on the left or in the drop-down box. Of course, you can save a 3D comment along with its view back to a 3D PDF using Adobe Reader.

image007Figure 7. 3D comments are saved as a separate view in Adobe Reader.

Now to learn more details about 3D PDF, please feel free to check out the video in this blog post, “How to Publish a 3D PDF with SOLIDWORKS MBD.”Another blog post video, “How to Use 3D PDFs,” will walk you through the basic tools available in Adobe Reader. Last but not least, you may also download several 3D PDF samples published by SOLIDWORKS MBD at this forum post. To learn more about how the software can help you with your MBD implementations, please visit its product page.

About the Author


Oboe Wu is a SOLIDWORKS MBD product manager with 20 years of experience in engineering and software. He is an advocate of model-based enterprise and smart manufacturing.

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