PDF3D Adding 3D Labels

Adding 3D Label Annotations into a 3D PDF at Generation Time

How to add 3D Label annotations in a 3D PDF at generation time (GUIDE AND VIDEO)

Most 3D PDF generation tools do not provide part labels and annotation, and the majority of 3D model file formats don’t provide for 3D annotations either. Adding 3D labels is sometimes possible by hand placing and adding markup, but generating labels directly from an easy to use file format is rare. Including 3D part labels is important for training, reviewing and understanding complex 3D models, so having some facility to create them is much more important than a ‘nice to have’, which is why PDF3D have included the feature in ReportGen.

Even if a 3D model does not have any 3D label information, the details can be added by merging an additional extra file that contains labels. This way, the label format is totally independent from the original model format or data, and users can manage it directly with simple text editing or scripted automation.

Case Study

Here we look at a very typical example, which in this instance is a large multi-national manufacturer that creates industrial part catalogues. The products shown in each view have some major components which need labels, such as electrical connection points and mounting surfaces. This information is quite different from manufacturing PMI, which shows the dimensions and tolerances needed to make the part. These 3D PDF catalogues focus more on how the product will be used to give a potential buyer a snapshot of the configuration. However, these 3D labels did not exist anywhere and needed to be created in a catalogue generation system from file or spreadsheet-based data. In this case, merging a separate text-based format is ideal, as it avoids any integration issues with the 3D model format or authoring design system.

Live Demo

In the accompanying video, a simple model conversion is extended to include 3D part labels for each major component in the 3D PDF viewer. Watch the demo described here on the video gallery by selecting “Getting Started: Adding 3D Labels“.

To create a basic conversion of a 3D model into a 3D PDF file, you must first load a 3D model into PDF3D ReportGen and convert it into a new PDF. This results in the model being presented as a basic 3D PDF,  without annotation, where the model geometry and part assembly structure can be examined.

However, you can create much more value and aid understanding if you also include 3D part labels to annotate key features for the viewer.

A simple ASCII Text File can be used to specify the 3D Labels. In the format shown in the video, each label is defined on one line, with X,Y,Z 3D position followed by the label text message in double quotes. Any number of labels on separate lines can be defined. The source of the label information can be hand created, as in this demo, or come from any data source related to the 3D model file. You can choose from a range of options on how the labels can be defined. For example, as shown in the video demo, the Inventor V2.1 format is used where each label line looks like:

Separator { Translation { translation -50.0  23.3  23.0 } DEF Anno_001 Text2 { string "Coil Spring" } }

Once defined, the 3D label file is merged in parallel with the 3D model file name in the input file list in PDF3D ReportGen.

During conversion, both the 3D model and labels get merged into the same scene. Once opened in a suitable 3D PDF viewer such as the Adobe Reader, the labels float around, dynamically positioned to face the viewer and anchored to 3D points close to the associated key parts.

Selecting Label Locations

As a further side note, there are various ways to work out what to use for the X,Y,Z label anchor locations. Sometimes this information may be available in the system, or will come from the originating design system or a bill of materials database. However if not easily found, there is a simple way find it at PDF generation stage. In PDF3D ReportGen, on the  “PDF 3D View” tab, enable “Insert Controls for Mouse 3D Probe” and generate a provisional PDF output. Use the left mouse button to click onto the 3D part surface and watch the X,Y,Z values reported by the probe. Exactly the same values can be inserted into the label file or adjusted a little so they float close to the 3D part surface. Once configured, disable the Mouse 3D Probe and create the final PDF.

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