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Editor’s Pick: Create 3D PDF Interactive Spreadsheets with Embedded 3D Models

SCDear Desktop Engineering Reader:

It’s almost passé to say that collaboration is the name of the game. You know that. What is somewhat heretical to say about collaboration is that the mechanisms to achieve it can be laborious. Heavens forefend, I am not referring to YAMs (yet another meeting) with that knucklehead you can’t stand. Rather, some of the technologies are not as smooth as others. Today’s Pick of the Week, however, is about a collaboration technology as smooth as they come.

Lattice Technology recently released version 7.1 of its Lattice3D Reporter plug-in for Microsoft Excel. It has been enhanced with 3D PDF functionality. But let’s start before version 7.1: Lattice3D Reporter works from inside of Excel. It lets you create Excel spreadsheets with embedded interactive 3D XVL models. XVL technology, developed by Lattice, has the algorithms that let you compress 3D models from pretty much any CAD system into a highly accurate yet lightweight 3D file.

Lightweight is not quite the right image to give you. XVL-compressed files average 0.5% of their original size, according to Lattice. That’s tiny overhead, and that gets you a couple of things. First, the embedded graphics have a negligible effect on file size, so files should load as quickly as your system can handle the job. Second, you can make thumbnail-sized alternate images of your part to provide recipients different perspectives or assembly relationships.

Spreadsheets with embedded XVL models are still XLS files, BTW, so you can share XVL-enhanced spreadsheets for viewing throughout your outfit. All that your collaborators need are Excel and the Lattice3D Reporter Viewer, a complimentary download.

OK, now Version 7.1 and its new 3D PDF functionality. The short of it is that this means you can create 3D interactive PDFs of your XVL-extended spreadsheets that can be viewed and used by anyone with Adobe Reader. And because it likely means everybody in your enterprise as well as in your design, manufacturing and supply chains has Adobe, you have just made Excel, arguably the most widely used engineering application, an interactive collaborator.

Now couple that thought with your IT infrastructure. Lattice3D Reporter can be integrated into your ERP (enterprise resource planning) and PLM (product lifecycle management) systems. So, your 3D Excel PDF can be crammed with work instructions, animated instructions, parts lists, BOMs (bill of materials), stuff from your ERP system as well as interactive images. Lattice3D Reporter 7.1’s 3D PDF is ISO-approved. In short, your legendary spreadsheets with all those multiple worksheets and garish colors you’re into will jump up to a new level.

The interactivity part leveraged by people receiving your 3D PDF is pretty neat. They can zoom in and out on the image or pan it around. The model’s geometry is bidirectionally associated with a part name, process steps and snapshots. That means, for example, people can click on a part name, and the part gets highlighted. Or they can click on a part and the geometry lights up.

Lattice3D Reporter can also work as a stand-alone system in addition to integrating with your ERP and PLM systems. And Lattice says that even non-CAD users can use 7.1 to create 3D PDFs with interactive 3D models.

The best way to learn more about Lattice3D Reporter v7.1 besides reading today’s Pick of the Week write-up is to take a gander at an interactive 3D PDF it creates. You can download at a pair of them from a link at the end of the main write-up. You have all the features of 3D PDF, so make sure to play around with these files to see what you can do and how it could map to your workflows.

I’ll spare you the concluding riffs about how Lattice3D Reporter enhances collaboration by letting you share 3D CAD product data in Excel spreadsheets across the enterprise, including your cohorts in other departments like marketing, sales and documentation as well as your supply chain. Um, I guess I just did, but you know what I mean. Instead, I’ll leave you with this: Teaming up Excel and Lattice3D Reporter v7.1 might just make you the coolest kid on the block. Hit today’s link to learn more.

Thanks, Pal. — Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood

Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

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About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Desktop Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@deskeng.com.