PLM Persistent Content and Dynamic 3D PDF

When I posted about my Dream PLM Technologies for 2009 , one of them was  Persistent Content. In today’s word, I think that PDF is the most widely used format to keep information for a long period of time. Combined with 3D capabilities, 3D PDF is a very attractive option for users for this purpose.

Adding 3D to the latest capabilities of PDF have allowed 3D PDF to be dynamic make and even more exciting than before. Not only can you retain information, but your users can browse this information dynamically.

Now, let’s get back to Persistent Content. Dynamic 3D PDF allows the resolution of many issues related to the presentation of product information:  visualization, finding relationships using bookmarks, and browsing capabilities. From this standpoint, 3D PDF is a good candidate. So what’s missing from this option, you may ask? In my opinion the advantage of PDF as a widely accepted file format – is also its disadvantage! It’s still a file! So, if we continue to package product information into PDF files, we will end up with a huge amount of files to manage.

 I predict that the future will bring some enhancements that will allow us to manage information in multiple PDF files , but currently, this is still not something available out of the box. I have seen some examples of PDF usage for content storage. SolidWorks Labs released Presentation Studio for SolidWorks, allowing you to create 3D content in PDF format. 3DVIA Composer allows you to publish lots of content into PDF. Other PLM companies also provide capabilities for transferring content in PDF. Another interesting example I found is being able to keep non-traditional 3D Content (i.e. as a molecular structure) in dynamic 3D PDF files produced by companies in the life science domain. With the emerging PLM influence in this industry sector, I expect an increased customer interest in having 3D available for a long period of time.


 I believe that customers and companies have developed capabilities of larger content storage in PDF. If you have this experience I’d appreciate it if you share your comments and other thoughts on this topic.



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  • Billm

    I agree with your comment that it is still a file? Why not have this information available via a cloud infrastructure through a universal viewer? Files that live everywhere, on your desktop, memory sticks, etc. will eventually be viewed as clutter, like stacks of paper lying around in different piles 😉

  • Oleg,

    3D PDF, is like text PDF, a good way to archive information for refererence in the future. Like document pdf’s the idea is NOT to be able to change the content.
    But there might be a need for that also in the future.
    For this purpose it is required to retain data in a modifiable format. In my opinion that is still a challenge.

    Dick Terleth

  • Dick, I think analogy between warehouse and transaction systems is very appropriated in this case. Warehouse keep track for huge amount of historical released data and trasactional system works on operational side. PDF is good for persistent read-only info, this is keeps released data very well. But may have connection to modification of data. For example tools that work on tessellated geometry. – Oleg

  • Hi Bill, This is very possible scenario. What I mentioned as ability to manage data across PDF files can be really capabilities provided by cloud infrastructure. – Thanks for pointing this out. And yes, nice UI experience idea 🙂 – Oleg

  • Oleg,

    As it relates to offline, disconnected filebased containers, PDF is definitely a strong offering. But you hit the issue squarely on the head when you said, “It’s still a file! So, if we continue to package product information into PDF files, we will end up with a huge amount of files to manage.”

    When you need to send something to someone who is not in the same connected environment as you, a “file” is a way to share that data. However, in a connected world, such as we have with the web, then we need share content in a more direct, file-less, and dynamic way. I believe this is the promise of PLM 2.0, and the ability for interactive content to be deployed through this framework — and have it be tailored into the right representation/presentation format based on the user/role that is accessing the data.

    Once I send out a file, then I have to track it, secure it, recall it, re-issue it for updates, etc. Imagine surfing the internet by email! It would be impossible and never dynamic, and there would be incredible amounts of data duplication. We must bring the power of interconnected networks of people (ie: social media) to the realm of interconnected networks of product information. It may take some time, but most of the technology is there to be harnessed — but I am not clear that PDF is part of that interconnected environment (but perhaps merely an “offline” version/copy of what you need).

    What do you think?

  • Garth,
    My point, first of all, is not about offline content, but about persistent content. Persistent means available for very long period of time – years. Today PLM have very little focus on this. Most of the organization dump PDF files with drawings and don’t have much capabilities to keep track of product development information, change track etc. PLM by nature is mostly operational system as of today, but future will change it, since people will want to know more about their decisions in the past as well about what they did in the past. The need will be also highly pressured by regulation, e-Discovery and other legal aspects. PDF have very high level of adoption. If we can enhance PDF model it can be good candidate to be used for long-life storages.

    With regards to PLM 2.0, I think they aim first, improve collaboration and still don’t come to the point where concept of PLM IP management will be changed. PLM 2.0 make Product IP reliable and available for product development first. Long term persistent storages are still out of focus in PLM 2.0.

    Regards – Oleg

  • I love 3DVIA Composer!

  • Interesting discussion about archiving formats! But does anyone know what the legislation is with respect to the length of product data archiving? Is it 20 years (I’ve heard something like this)? And when do we start to count? After release to customer or after creation of data?

  • Samuel, I think solution you are looking for may exist in aerospace companies. And I’m sure this is special development they did. Some of them keep papers, PDF framed solutions, but more advanced customers will try to keep 3D data. This is trend in my view. The good opportunity to speak about it if you are in DS eco-system is COE conference next week in Seattle ( – Regards,Oleg.

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  • Dave Opsahl


    There may be statutory requirements, but what may trump them in many cases are the practical requirements.

    The Civil Aviation Board or the Federal Aviation Administration might require product data for aircraft to be kept for twenty years, but in reality what is more a concern for Boeing or Airbus is that as long as one aircraft of that type is still flying, the possibility of a lawsuit exists.

    So you keep the data until they all have achieved EOL status. Given that there are DC-3’s (circa 1940’s design) still in commercial operation, that gives you a potential archive period of almost 70 years…

    Now, for the iPhone….somewhat shorter.. 🙂

  • Dave, Samuel, I think there are two big questions: Physical Storage and Logical Format. With last development around cloud platforms, I’d expect physical storage problem to be resolved in the visible future. From standpoint of logical data access, I think situation is complex and to support 50 years operational lifecycle will be complicated task. Best, Oleg