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Adobe Acrobat enters third dimension

Acrobat 3D, which can display CAD images in PDF documents, is Adobe's first Acrobat product aimed at a specific industry. Images: Acrobat in 3D action

Adobe Systems has created a high-end version of Acrobat--aimed at boosting sales in the manufacturing industry--that displays three-dimensional images within PDF documents.

On Monday, the company is releasing Acrobat 3D, which allows a person to create a PDF (Portable Document Format) file with embedded images from computer-aided design (CAD) applications. Recipients of Acrobat 3D files need to upgrade to the latest version of Acrobat reader to view the documents, the company said.

Adobe developed the 3D product specifically for manufacturing customers who regularly exchange CAD files in the design process, said Rak Bhalla, senior marketing manager. Car manufacturers, for example, share their product descriptions and designs with their suppliers to get bids for component parts.

Typically, design engineers today create a two-dimensional image and send them via e-mail, Bhalla said. Having an embedded 3D image, which people can rotate to view and append with notes, will speed up the design collaboration process and reduce errors, he said.

"Acrobat 3D is the first vertical product in the family that is catering to a specific market," he said.

Acrobat 3D has security features that let people restrict copying of potentially valuable designs. It can display images from major CAD programs, he said.

Bhalla said that documents created with Acrobat 3D--which costs $995 per copy--will be used by many people other than the design engineers who use CAD programs. He estimated that about 30 others in supporting functions, such as product documentation or maintenance, will use each 3D document.

Other potential markets for Acrobat 3D are the architectural, engineering and construction fields, which regularly use blueprints and CAD software, he said.