How To Embed 3D PDF Into A Blog Post

I received a few comments to my post titled “How To Embed A 3D VIA Model Into A Blog Post“. One reader left a comment stating that he could not get the 3D VIA Player to show my model on his Mac. Later he posted an update stating that the player does not work on the latest 64 bit Mac OSX. Another reader lamented on the need to download yet another player. Well, since the 3D XML format is far from open, a proprietary player will always be required. Yet another user commented that the 3D VIA Player did not support Firefox 3.5 on ubuntu. Finally another reader started bitching about how the user had to be logged in as administrator before installing the player, which most users are not.

That was it. I knew there was something seriously wrong with this 3D VIA approach. The point of embedding 3D models into my blog posts, or for that matter any web page, was to make things easy for readers, not frustrate them. Instead of stopping at bitching, the last commenter went ahead and suggested that I use 3D PDF instead of  3D XML since just about everyone has the free Adobe Reader installed on their computers and which happens to work on just about every operating system (see the extensive list here). I thought this was a great idea and went about trying to figure out exactly how I could embed a 3D PDF into a WordPress blog post.

As it turns out, I needed a WordPress plug-in to embed objects into a blog post. I found one aptly titled Embed Object and it worked just fine. You should see my rose model inside a 400×300 Adobe Reader window immediately after this line.

[embeded: src="http://www.deelip.com/models/2010-05-01-Rose.pdf#toolbar=0&scrollbar=0&navpanes=0" width="400" height="300"]

If you don’t see it, please leave a comment and let me know which operating system and browser you are using.

All that you need to do is specify the URL of the PDF file and the width and height of the window that you want the Adobe Reader to squeeze itself into. The tag that you need to add to the text of your post is of the form:

[ embedded: src width height]

Note: You will need to remove the space between ‘[‘ and ‘embedded’.

However, there is something else that needs mentioning here. When the Adobe Reader is embedded into a web page it also comes with the toolbar, scroll bars and navigation pane. This takes up a lot of real estate and leaves hardly any space for the 3D model to display itself. There is a solution to this problem. The Adobe Reader accepts command line parameters which can be used to control how it behaves and looks. For example, if I want to open a PDF file in the Adobe Reader with the toolbar turned off I can type the following at the command prompt:

AcroRd32.exe /A “toolbar=0″ C:\Rose.pdf

where AcroRd32.exe is the name of the Adobe Reader executable and the string (in quotes) after /A contains the command line parameters. In the case above I set toolbar to zero, which has the effect of turning off the toolbar when the Reader starts up. Similarly, you can set up the Reader’s parameters when embedding it into a web page as well. This is done by supplying the parameters in the URL of the PDF file. So in order to hide the toolbar, scroll bar and navigation pane I use the following URL:

http://www.deelip.com/models/2010-05-01-Rose.pdf#toolbar=0&scrollbar=0&navpanes=0

If you want to know more about Adobe Reader’s parameters you can read this document published by Adobe way back in 2005 for Adobe Acrobat 7.0, but which is still valid today.

The only drawback I see with this approach is that you need to come up with a 3D PDF file to begin with, for which you need Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended which is priced at $699 or some other 3D PDF authoring software. I am not aware of any free 3D PDF creation software. If you know of any, please leave a comment. I will update this post with your information. The cheapest software I know what lets you create 3D PDF files from solid models is the $197 Alibre Design Standard.

  • joe

    Doesn't work for me on OSX 10.6.3 using Safari 4.0.5

    This should be a good exercise to show you there is no universal anything on the internet before you jump to conclusions about what is seriously wrong with someone else's software.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    You are right. The list of supported OS's that I pointed to has 10.6.0 as the last supported version of Mac OS.

    Careful. I didn't say that there was something seriously wrong with the 3D VIA software itself. You seem to be jumping to conclusions regarding what I said. I said that there was something seriously wrong with the approach. I am trying to find the least painful approach here, not the best software or file format.

  • http://twitter.com/VEKTORRUM Randall Newton

    Can't see the rose. Ubuntu 10.x, Google Chrome browser

  • http://twitter.com/VEKTORRUM Randall Newton

    I can see it if I switch to the Firefox browser. Still running Ubuntu 10.x

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    joe,

    Something just struck me. If Adobe claims that their Reader works with Mac OS 10.6.0, shouldn't it also work on 10.6.3? I mean, isn't the Mac backward compatible to the same minor version? After all, you are just using a different build of 10.6, right?

    Or maybe the problem likes with Safari. If possible, try a different browser and let me know.

    Stay safe. Use Windows. ;-)

  • Alessandro

    Hi Deelip,
    I'm using Firefox 3.6.3 on windows XP HE SP3 32bit.

    I have foxit reader as default for pdf files, and of course Firefox use it to show your rose. Foxit does not support 3d visualization.

    If I say to both Firefox and Windows to use Acrobat Reader as default, it shows a blank window instead of the rose.

  • Alessandro

    About 3d pdf printer, Solidworks has a built-it one. BTW, I use Alibre Design to create them.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Correct. Foxit does not have the Adobe 3D PDFD Library (A3DLib.dll) and hence will not show 3D PDF's. You will need the Adobe Reader.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Are you sure? I thought the SolidWorks PDF output was basically a 2D screenshot of the current graphics window.

  • Alessandro

    Yes.

    I haven't SWX, just Solid Edge and Alibre so I can't be more accurate, but when you go to “save as” and choose pdf format, you will find a checkbox “save as 3d pdf” that will allow you to create a 3d pdf file.

  • Alessandro

    Actually I have Adobe Reader, but I think there is something broken in my firefox setup because it doesn't recognize the instruction to use Adobe as default reader.

    Thank you for answering.

  • Alessandro

    I don't know if it was already commented, but have a look at this page, it does'nt require any plugin:

    http://freewheel.labs.autodesk.com/index.aspx

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Yes, SolidWorks does have a 3D PDF export option.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Maybe if you set up Adobe Reader as the default application to open PDF files, then Firefox will fire it up as well.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Freewheel is interesting. I had a look at it a while ago. It is a service actually, not a software. Moreover, it’s a labs project. So you really don’t know which direction it's headed. I mean whether it will be free or not once it graduates from Labs.

  • Alessandro

    It works with Mandriva Linux 2010 64 bit. Firefox 3.6.3 and Adobe Reader Rel.8.

    Very nice!

    Regards.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    There you go. ;-)

  • Alessandro

    I was studying Salome (http://www.salome-platform.org) that runs natively on linux, even if there is a beta version for windows. In the meanwhile I worked a few on the operating system to have the reader working.

    In order to have pdf adobe plugin working on a 64-bit linux, it is necessary to have nsplugiwrapper installed, and activate it with this command:

    nspluginwrapper -i /opt/Adobe/Reader8/Browser/intellinux/nppdf.so

  • http://twitter.com/CADkid Marijn

    [Bitchmode] I need to download an adobe plugin and since the pdf reader is bloathware I don't want any Adobe plugins slowing down my browser so I can watch once in a week a 3d model.[/bitchmode]

  • http://www.lordvan.com Thomas Raschbacher

    I do have Solid Edge ST3 MP2 and i cannot find anything regarding 3d pdf export just a screenshot of the current display for me. where did you find that checkbox? (Options is greyed out here)

  • http://www.lordvan.com Thomas Raschbacher

    I do have Solid Edge ST3 MP2 and i cannot find anything regarding 3d pdf export just a screenshot of the current display for me. where did you find that checkbox? (Options is greyed out here)

  • murray

    It’s possible to create 3D pdf using free tools. There was a method described on the David-laserscanner site here. That method uses Daz Studio, free software for modeling characters, to produce a U3D file, and latex to format the embedding into pdf. The MeshLab freeware also claims to produce U3D, although I tried it a couple of years ago unsuccessfully. I haven’t tried it with recent versions, though. I gotta admit, I wimped out and bought Alibre 11.2 to smooth my path. There’s another low-cost convertor, Strata3D Go Live, USD 99, which I haven’t tried yet, but it claims to be able to apply more sophisticated materials and lighting capability than other methods.

  • http://www.lordvan.com Thomas Raschbacher

    never mind the Solid Edge 3d pdf export it works if you export as STL (without protocol file ticked in options – that seems to not work) and then follow the procedures on http://www.goermezer.de/content/view/486/616/ to use Meshlab and miktex/texlive on linux to make your own free U3D pdfs — with a bit of latex knowledge this can result in some quite nice pdfs with more than ‘just’ the 3d object

  • Jones Miller

    Adobe Reader work very good  work. But it latest verson work is very good,
    ============================
    Converting PDF to Word

  • Hsibber

    You have no idea how long I’ve been looking for this type of simple, mostly universal solution…  Much better than either 3dVia or the ViewPoint Option for 3D Content Central!  Funny that it’s been around for so long and it’s hardly ever used.  I agree that Adobe Acrobat is a awful memory hog, but I can’t make it more than a week on a fresh install before I need to read a PDF, so this seems much less intrusive than any other reader option!

  • Nick

    Nice post…I have tried to do it myself but for some reason I can not get the 3d tools to appear at start of the page on my embedd pdf, I have to right click and then they do appear. Any help on putting them as default?
    (also my object is already active, while in your post I saw that it has to be clicked, how do you do that?)
    Many thanks
    Nick

  • SolidEdgeSmart

    First version of Solid Edge to implement 3D PDF export is ST5, which came out in 2012. The 3D PDF works very well, is easiest way to send full 3D files to people to view that do not have 3D CAD installed on their computer.




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