What is a STEP file?

STEP was developed to solve the age-old problem of sharing 3D model file data between different CAD systems.  STEP, which stands for Standard for the Exchange of Product Data, is essentially an exchange format, much like PDF, that can be recognized by various programs, thereby making it easier to send data to other CAD users.

STEP is used extensively across various industries such as Automotive, Aerospace, Building and Construction, Ship Building, Oil and Gas and Process Plants.  In general, the STEP file works well and is widely regarded. The files contain full 3D model definition and design information, and now also contain rich graphics. STEP is a cross-industry standard, published as ISO-10303. The most common 3D part definition used in conversions is AP214.

Why convert STEP into PDF?

There are, however, a few limits to STEP files, one of those being the size of the file the format generates.  .STP files can be large and complex, and whilst the uniformity of the format has been developed to aid sharing between CAD users, the size of many STEP files tend to hinder sharing over email, or slow down the download speed.  Converting to a compressed 3D PDF quickly overcomes this problem without losing data or image quality.

Compression rate illustration:

18x reduction, from 114 Mb STEP file to 6.2 Mb 3D PDF file.

Secondly, STEP only works for CAD/PLM systems.  Professionals who work with 3D models often need to share data with stakeholders who aren’t CAD users.  The beauty of a PDF file is that anyone can open and read the file.

Thirdly, using a tool such as PDF3D’s Reportgen, the original CAD file and/or STEP file can be greatly enhanced with features that can enrich the viewing experience.  With ReportGen, 3D PDF conversion turns the 3D model or image into a fully interactive file that can be zoomed, rotated or even animated to show timed sequences, assembly structure or changing views, which can be watched, paused or slowed down.  The interactive 3D image can also easily be inserted into a larger document, report, quote or engineering drawing page.

Fast, Straightforward Conversion in One Click

You can convert STEP to 3D PDF in seconds:

  1. Open PDF3D ReportGen (you can request a free trial here)
  2. Browse to a suitable STEP (.stp) file
  3. Set output PDF file name and location, or introduce an A3 page engineering drawing layout using the PDF template option.
  4. Click Convert
  5. Open the result with Adobe Reader.

This live demo shows STEP to 3D PDF conversion in practice.

Read more about what ReportGen can do, or view some example 3D PDFs.