3D PDF Generation

Question: I’d like to be able to generate a 3D pdf from a 3D visualisation I’ve built using 3D Analyst. As far as I can tell it’s not currently possible to export directly to 3D pdf, but is there a “good” way to complete this workflow? (even if it’s using third party software, such as SketchUp, or other tools?)

Answer: First, you need to get your data into ArcScene.  Once you’ve symbolised your data in ArcScene so the model is how you want it to appear you click File > Export Scene > 3D which will create a VRML format file.

You can then enact 3D PDF functionality in one of three ways (all require Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended Edition):

  1. Drag and drop the .VRML file into Adobe Acrobat Pro
  2. Embed a 3D PDF window into a Microsoft Word document
  3. Embed a 3D PDF window into an existing PDF document (e.g. a blank 2D PDF document)

Taking the last option as an example, if you open a blank PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro, choose Multimedia > 3D tool. Draw a bounding box in your PDf document. Browse to the .VRML file in the subsequent dialog box. The 3D model will appear in the embeded 3D window. You can then save the 3D PDF and distribute.

There are also Export to 3D PDF functions in the ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension so you can create 3D PDFs directly from ArcGIS.

Formerly a Mapping Center Ask a Cartographer  Q & A.

About the author

Dr. Aileen Buckley has been making maps since she was an undergraduate student. She has a Bachelors in Geography and Spanish from Valparaiso University, a Masters in Geography from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Geography from Oregon State University. She is a senior product engineer on the Living Atlas team, and her work focuses on determining and sharing best practices for mapping and analysis with modern GIS. She publishes and presents world-wide on many aspects of mapping and GIS. She is a co-author of Map Use: Reading, Analysis, Interpretation, and she is a co-editor for the Atlas of Oregon. Aileen is a former president of CaGIS (the U.S. cartographic association) and is actively involved with the International Cartographic Association in which she is the lead delegate for the United States.


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