Here’s another way to make a 3D PDF, this time with all native Autodesk products.

  1. Use Virtual Agent to download Inventor Publisher 2015 trial
  2. Export a view from Revit (or 3dsMax, or AutoCAD, or Navisworks) as FBX that you would like to make into a 3D PDF
  3. Start Inventor Publisher
  4. New file
  5. Select the FBX
  6. Orient the imported FBX in the view and use the Viewcube to Set Current View as Front or Top as appropriate
  7. On the Home Ribbon under Publish, choose Adobe PDF
  8. Select 3D PDF
  9. Save the file

It makes very decent quality 3D PDFs, with good colour representation.

Idea via:

PDF is ubiquitous.  As great as DWF is, it just will never have the market saturation that PDF does.  That is why there is definitely a market for a good tool to make 3D PDFs from Revit.  As Revit users, we already have access to a nice looking 3D model with BIM data, but how do we transmit it or show it to key stakeholders (who may not be tech savvy)?  Sure, we can easily make a DWF, but then we have to educate people about using new viewing tools etc.  Let’s just make a 3D PDF and email it across for review 🙂

I have previously posted at least 4 ways to make a 3D PDF for free from Revit:

  1. Using the i-model plugin (also using Navisworks FBX to i-model)
  2. Converting a DWF
  3. Revit to OBJ to DAZ Studio to U3D to Adobe 3D PDF
  4. 3D PDF from Revit STL using Meshlab, MiKTeX and U3D-2-PDF

So here is the point of this post (in the words of 3DA Systems rep):
we’re hoping you can review 3D PDF Converter, particularly from the point of view of seeing how it exceeds the free options out there.

That is the question – does this paid tool exceed the free methods?  And if so, in what ways?

I’ll be the first to admit that the four free methods I have shown have various disadvantages, such as:

  • they require the use of a plethora of middle man tools
  • they may not include real BIM data from the model
  • in most cases, you don’t get realistic representation of materiality (perhaps just an approximation)
  • topography export is a bit unpredictable

In other words, they can be a pain to create, and don’t produce a great result.

After installation, I opened a project in Revit 2013.  Switching to the Add-ins Ribbon, I could see the following new commands:


I then switched to a perspective view, but guess what?  You can’t export from a perspective view.  This makes sense, because all my add-ins were greyed out in the Perspective view.  As I wanted to take all the view settings from that particular view (which was a render scene), I created a View Template from it and applied it to a orthogonal (Default) 3D View.  I also applied a Section Box.  Finally, I picked Create PDF

I was presented with dialog box that allows some very granular control of the resultant PDF.  Here is what it looks like:

I selected Shaded Illustration as the Visual Style, and then clicked OK.  Then – go and have a coffee… About 12 minutes later, I had my first 3D PDF.  A few things:

  • it did not respect the Section Box
  • it did not respect the Visibility show / hide settings of the source view

Basically, I had a 3D PDF (including BIM data) of “everything”.  It was highly detailed, but not visually appealing.  So, I figured I should try again – perhaps I missed something in the settings?

This time around, I noticed that I could export “selected” elements.  So I selected everything I could see in my Section Boxed view and triggered Create PDF again.  This time, I also tried CAD Optimized Lights.

The resulting file is lightweight and easily viewable.  However, you don’t get textured materiality – because 3D PDF itself doesn’t support that.

In short, you get what you pay for.  This is a mature, highly functional add-in that makes 3D PDF export simple and very easy to control.  It certainly exceeds the free methods, both in terms of ease-of-use and ability to customize the output.

So, how do you get it?  The download process is painless, just go to this link for a fully functional 30 day trial:

The main decision you will have to make is which version do you want to use?  What is the difference?

For the most current versions (2012/13 and 14), the only difference is the version of Revit they work with.

The difference between the 2014 release and the release from last year is that 2014 does not require Acrobat in order to create 3D models – it’s totally standalone (although you will still need Acrobat to create 2D models).
For me, this difference is a big deal.  I’m still happy to use CutePDF for 2D prints, so technically, I don’t need to purchase full Acrobat to use the 2014 version (that is, version 5).

For a comparison between the compression methods of DWF and 3D PDF, check out:
Comparison of VRML, DWF, U3D (used in 3D PDF), and Kaon Compression – Kaon Knowledge Base

Of the 4 free 3D PDF creation methods I have previously posted, this is the easiest and probably the best:

  1. Export an FBX file from Revit, Navisworks, or any other Autodesk application (File – Export – FBX)
  2. Open it in Bentley View and Print to PDF (tick the Print to 3D checkbox).

Done.  It is literally that easy.  For a slightly different step by step method specifically for Revit, go to this page.

Note: for direct, simple and customizable 3D PDF creation capability from Revit, check out the Revit to 3D PDF link in the sidebar.

The key difference between this and my previous post about using Bentley View to make 3D PDFs is the fact that it supports opening FBX natively (you don’t need special exporters) – and FBX is a format that Autodesk also supports extensively.  Bentley View can open lots of other formats too…check it out:

The good thing about this process is that you capture any colour overrides that you applied in an exported Navisworks view.  Keep in mind that you can also easily adjust the brightness of the 3D scene in Bentley View.
Also, did you know that Bentley View can open a Sketchup SKP file directly and print it to 3D PDF with ease?

Now, to those who cry “Nay, but a DWF is better…”

  • Yes, it is
  • It isn’t as widespread as PDF
  • Most people already have Adobe Reader installed
  • Some people won’t have the PC permissions necessary to install Design Review due to strict IT policies
  • For those Clients who want a quick, navigable 3D impression of their building – 3D PDF is going to be much more accessible and user friendly

Personally, I think the most limiting factor in the use of 3D PDF for visualization is that it doesn’t support textures (as per the limitations of U3D format in the notes at the end of this post).

Bentley View V8i (SELECTseries 3) update 2 has some key changes:

  • Autodesk® RealDWG™ 2014 support 
  • Support for the IFC and JT file formats 

Key updates are described at this link.

To easily deploy Bentley View easily, you will need two packages:

  •  Prerequisites for Bentley Desktop Applications Software v08.11.09.03
    Filename: pbda08110903en.exe
  • Bentley View V8i (SELECTseries 3) v08.11.09.459
    Filename: vw081109459en.exe

Ok, what if you are using an earlier version of Bentley View that can’t open FBX directly?

  1. Export FBX of desired view from Navisworks [160mb]
  2. Open FBX in FBX Review or FBX Converter and save as OBJ [169mb]
  3. Open the OBJ in Bentley View V8i and print to 3D PDF (you can use this method) [13mb]
Step 3 (opening the OBJ) took a long time, but it did work.  I performed this process with superseded Bentley View version (downloaded in 2011).
Download it at:

Some notes:
Limitations of U3D:
Texture mapping is currently limited to only a diffuse map per material…Okino’s Universal-3D (.u3d) 3D File Export Converter

Photoshop 3D capability:
In Photoshop CS5 and CS6, 3D functionality was part of Photoshop Extended. All features in Photoshop Extended are part of Photoshop CC. Photoshop CC does not have a separate Extended offering.

You need photoshop cs3 or later for 3d model importing. It will definitely import a .obj. As mentioned you need acrobat pro or acrobat X to import u3d files to use in a pdf. If you do not have access to cs3 or later there are other alternatives for viewing models. Do you specifically need to have a 3d pdf? If not you can download the .fbx plugin for quicktime, you can then export you scene or model as an fbx and open in quicktime and it will server a a 3d viewer. Thee are also numerous other obj viewers available on the net just look around. Wings 3d is a full modeling app that is free and very lite in size and should be able to open several types of 3d files.
CGTalk – How to covert the 3d model to .u3d and put in to PDF

Wings 3D can import FBX and export VRML / WRL:
Wings 3D – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Download at (2011 software)

The two step process is:

  1. Export STL from Revit
  2. Use U3D-2-PDF to turn the STL into a 3D PDF (a one click process).

This is the fourth free method I have posted on how to make 3D PDFs from Revit (go to end of post for the other three).  Pros for this method – quick and easy once you are set up.  Cons – can’t really get materials or colours to show (just geometry).

You will need to setup your environment first.  Here is what you need:
1) The STL Exporter (Revit 2013 version add-in here.)

2) Then, get U3D-2-PDF at:

It requires MeshLab and MiKTeX (see here).  You also need .NET Framework 4 (here if you don’t already have it).

You can get them from:

3) Meshlab software:
4) MiKTeX download at:

(yes to automatic package installs)

Once you have installed all 4 items, then:
Extract and Run U3D-2-PDF.exe.  You will need to specify some paths like:
“C:Program Files (x86)MiKTeX 2.9miktexbinpdflatex.exe”
“C:Program FilesVCGMeshLabmeshlabserver.exe”

Select a source STL or WRL, then an output PDF filename and click Start.  Once finished, click Open PDF.

If you want additional steps, you can go Suite Workflows to Max, then from there out to STL or WRML.
NOTE:  if you do go to Max first, then Topography WILL be included in the 3D PDF.  If you don’t go out to Max, then it won’t (because the Revit STL Exporter will not pick up topography properly.)

I got some clues from an explanatory PDF via download at:
Generate U3D files from STL models for making multilayer 3D PDF figures

Once a U3D file has been created, there are two basic options to convert the U3D files into PDF format. One requires the commercial Adobe Acrobat Pro software (versions 7, 8, 9, or X all include the required functionality), while the other option uses the free open-source LaTeX software package (MiKTeK and the movie15 package) to compile the final PDF. Both these options use a .U3D file of the model in order to generate the 3D figure. However, U3D files are not very easy to create directly.

Instead, an IDTF file must be created, and that is in turn converted into a Universal 3D (.U3D) file. Fortunately, the IDTF to U3D converter is freely available ( u3d). Unfortunately, the free software comes as a fairly large download (, 2007-01-16, 36.3 MB).  

Previous methods:

  1. Using the i-model plugin
  2. Converting a DWF,
  3. Revit to OBJ to DAZ Studio to U3D to Adobe 3D PDF
  4. The method described above

I couldn’t decide whether to call this “Yet Another Way to make a 3D PDF” or “Adobe Acrobat 11 and adding 3D objects“, so I went with a more descriptive title … here we go.

Almost none of our clients use DWF, almost all of them use PDF.  Its just a simple fact.

PDF inherently supports the embedding of 3D data.  I have previously posted two methods of going from Revit to a 3D PDF for free:

  1. Using the i-model plugin
  2. Converting a DWF,
    And now…
  3. The method below

Actually, the method below does require Acrobat … you can download a trial.

After going on a mission to find yet another way to make a 3D PDF from Revit for free, here is how I got there:
This post led me to DAZ Studio.  Failing to get an FBX import (exported from Revit or Max) to show materials in DAZ led me towards using the OBJ format.  Running up against brick walls when trying to get materials from Revit to Max to OBJ, led me to the OBJ exporter from The Building Coder, which doesn’t have materials, but it does have coloured approximations.

Ok, Luke, tell me how to do it!

First, let’s export a clean OBJ file from Revit:

  1. Setup a 3D view and put it on a sheet.  Make a View Template from it.
  2. Group and then Save out the elements you want in the 3D OBJ (untick Exclude options and do a Right-to-Left selection to get everything you want).  The reason we do this – the OBJ Exporter does not respect visibility settings related to Design Options.
  3. Transfer Project Standards (all, overwrite) to the Group
  4. Apply the View Template from step 1 to a 3D view.
  5. Download and then compile this add-in from The Building Coder.  Put the .add-in and other files (.dll and .pdb) in the appropriate add-in folders.  You basically just have to open the SLN (solution) file and then add the appropriate Revit 2013 Program directory to the referenced folders, and then Build.
  6. Restart Revit
  7. Run the OBJ export add-in
  8. This tool is blisteringly fast.  You will get a dialog like this:

  9. Then, download and install DAZ Studio.  Register and login to their site.  ‘Buy’ DAZ Studio Pro 4.5 for free from the site, checkout, and you will get the serial number under My Serials on the My Account page.  Open DAZ Studio and put your serial number in.
  10. File – Import.  You have a nice range to import from, see image below:

  11. Choose the OBJ you exported from Revit.  I used these XYZ settings to get things oriented properly:

  12. You will end up with something that looks like this:

  13. Now, you can using File – Export – Universal 3D (.U3D) file
  14. Then, Create a PDF in Acrobat IX Pro.  Select the U3D file you just exported from DAZ Studio 4.5
  15. These are some settings that I used:

  16. Finally, here is the 3D model in Acrobat, from Revit via OBJ then U3D:

You can also Add the 3D file to an existing document using the Interactive Objects tool pane in Acrobat:

I guess this is a ‘proof of concept’ that not a lot of people will choose to employ, but hey, I love a challenge!  Hope some of you found this interesting… there are some more links below if you want to keep reading.

There have been some recent posts about a 3D PDF converter add-in for Revit, such as:

More info:
What is PRC?

Trying to make an OBJ from Revit with materials?–3ds-max-design-2011/material-maps-onto-obj-model/

OBJ exporter:
Here is including the entire source code, Visual Studio solution and add-in manifest for the updated OBJ exporter version 3 including transparency support. 

FBX Converter

Transfer files from one file format to another quickly and easily with the FBX Converter. This utility enables you to convert OBJ, DXF™, DAE, and 3DS files to or from multiple versions of the FBX format. New tools are now available with the FBX Converter 2012.1. You can view FBX animation files in real time with the FBX Viewer, explore and compare FBX file contents with the FBX Explorer, and manage animation takes with the FBX Take Manager.

Mac *

FBX 2013.3 Converter for Mac (tgz – 35959Kb)

It “is an accurate, highly compressible 3D data format optimized to store, load, and display various 3D data, metadata, assembly structure, graphics information and Product Manufacturing Information (PMI).  The PRC file format can be viewed within the free Adobe Reader when encapsulated with the Protable Document Format (PDF).  It can be stored within PDF as either accurate BREP geometry or tessellated data. Because of this, it can be extracted from a PDF for use years later in CAD, CAM, CAE systems.”

Read more, including the history of PRC development, at:
The PRC File Format
The most recent publically available, free for access documentation on the PRC format can be found here. NOTE: This version is the version submitted to ISO, and is behind the ISO Draft International Standard currently in circulation; this must be purchased from ISO here. The Consortium does not have the rights to reproduce ISO documentation.

When Acrobat X was released, most of the powerful 3D functionality of Acrobat was removed and placed into 3rd party tools.

However, you can still download trial versions of Acrobat 8 and Acrobat 9 that include the enhanced 3D functionality.  Links are provided below:

Adobe Acrobat 3D Version 8 (includes Adobe Acrobat 3D Toolkit)

Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended

You may be interested in my previous posts:
Create Adobe 3D PDF directly from Autodesk 3D DWF

Create 3D PDF files from Autodesk Revit for free

It looks like 3D PDF technology is starting to ‘wake up’.  Another company, Intratech, plans to release a Revit 3D PDF export plugin in January 2012.

This will likely be in direct competition to the Tetra offering.

I have already described a free method of generating 3D PDFs from Revit, and a method that allows DWFs to be a converted to 3D PDFs.

Another commercial option is SimLab Composer.  From Revit, you export a FBX or DWG file, and then use SimLab Composer to turn the exported file into a 3D PDF.

Intratech 3D Consulting Corp. – EAGLE 3D PDF 익스포터
Google Translated link