Removing the Risk- How 3D PDF protects CAD data against IP theft

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4 mins

In the modern engineering climate, one company very rarely designs and manufactures a product from start to finish, especially when it comes to large and complex products such as cars or aeroplanes, and the network of designers, engineers and manufacturers who are involved can be spread out across the globe.

And at various points throughout the product’s lifecycle, all of those involved will have a need to access design or engineering data, such as 3D CAD data, from an external source.

A necessary risk

With the global nature of supply chains, and especially more so now with the shift to remote working meaning people can essentially work from wherever they like, sharing 3D CAD data is a necessary part of the product lifecycle- but doing so is not without risk…

Intellectual property theft is considered as one of the most serious cyber threats facing the manufacturing industry. Information that used to be kept inside the network security perimeter is being shared with external systems, so once the data has left your machine, you need to be sure that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

If targeted, those who get access may have the ability to manipulate or alter the data without even stealing it. It is also possible to change part dimensions in the CAD files or manufacturing process parameters which may result in damages to manufacturing machines and poor product quality further down the line.

It takes trust

Sharing CAD data internally across an organisation, or externally throughout the supply chain also brings up other access challenges which may also compromise the security and integrity of the data. Those who use different CAD systems to the source data, or those who have no access to (or understanding of) a CAD system may have to use other methods or programmes to access the data which could in turn put it at risk to them, and to you if data is returned.

The thought of trying to share CAD data without having to remove detail or break it down, but keeping a small file size, and allowing people to get as much information as they can, without giving too much away, sounds like a complicated undertaking. And while firewalls and VPNs do their best to protect you when sending the data, you can never wholly trust someone else’s connections or protections.

3D PDF- A simple solution

3D PDF products offer greater levels of Intellectual Property (IP) protection by allowing users to publish 3D CAD data directly to a PDF document, from within their design and visualization applications.

A 3D PDF can be:

  • Password protected
  • Encrypted
  • Watermarked
  • Time restrained (inaccessible after a certain time period)
  • Data Rights Management added
  • Restricted access for specific users with other applications such as LiveCycle, FileOpen etc.

PDF files containing interactive 3D data provide a higher level of Intellectually Property (IP) security than native CAD files by allowing the documents to be password protected.

Reduce the size but not the detail

When those with the CAD data need to collaborate with others, their CAD files are often​ too large for transfer which also puts CAD data at risk.

Native CAD files cannot be password protected, causing IP vulnerabilities when shared or accessed. Rarely do outside users need access to the full-fidelity CAD, so a secure ‘lightweight’ representation, such as that generated by a 3D PDF, is an ideal solution.

Using 3D PDF, the CAD data can be translated into a tessellated format, with content such as features, history and constraints being removed, so that the 3D representation can be viewed and manipulated, but the native CAD data cannot be accessed or reproduced from the PDF alone. 3D PDF can also take across 3D Annotations/PMI and Captures/Views which provides richer content to the 3D as it can show measurements, tolerances, specific angles and desired views of the model.

Additionally, 3D PDF cannot be altered without leaving an electronic footprint so changes made are fully traceable with a full audit trail left behind.

Securely accessible to everyone

3D PDF has the capability for the document to be annotated, and can also act as a ‘carrier’ file for additional data to be transported (such as spreadsheets, AVI Movies, hyperlinks, as well as native CAD data) and create a richer file and source of information, but still keep IP secure. The interactive documents are also lightweight enough to be shared via email.

And outside users don’t need specialist software to open and use a 3D PDF either. Anybody with access to the freely available Adobe reader (which is most people), either on a PC, tablet or phone can access interactive 3D data and are able to view, mark up and interrogate the data without the use of specialist CAD software.

3D PDF is opening up opportunities for securely sharing information within an organisation and up and down the supply/distribution chains. The simplicity of 3D PDF, low cost, and ease of use allows for the secure integration of departments, customers and suppliers into the product lifecycle process which in turn leads to reduced lead times, fewer mistakes and better products.

To find out more about 3D PDF, visit our CADPublish webpage or browse our Sample 3D PDF documents to try one out for yourself.