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Using PDF for long-term archival storage of drawings


Using PDF for long-term archival storage of drawings

For many years, we have generated HPGL plot files of our Pro/E drawings and used these plot files as our long-term storage.
In addition to HPGL files, we also have a bunch of TIFF files and old Calcomp plot files (906/907 format I think).

Although this has worked adequately for us, we believe that now is the time to start using PDF instead.

Have any of you gone through this type of tranformation?
What issues did you encounter and how did you handle them?
For example, was the image quality what you expected?
Any file size concerns?

Did you mass-convert your old plot/image files to PDF?
If so, can you recommend a utility to do so?

Gerry Champoux
Williams International
Walled Lake, MI

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This is -oh so dangerous- if you do not vet the process very well.

PDF's have been known to simply go poof when an error is encountered. Line weights and other details can easily disappear if the settings are sloppy. There is little control of bit accuracy when converting good data to PDF. Don't do this on a whim!

Having posted the warnings 1st, I have worked for several organizations that keep their master document as PDF. Master meaning "shared with outside resources". The true masters are still the source files although they can easily be corrupted over time with parametric dependencies. The idea is that the PDF is actually an "archive" file. If the master data -did- get corrupted, you have something to go by to re-create it.

Then you have that excellent accuracy of the vector plot files (HPGL) or the bit-accurate TIFF files. No matter what, DO NOT LOOSE RESOLUTION! Your PDF's will need to be 1:1 (minimum) accurate with the drawing.

PDF line weights can obscure details easily recovered from the vector files (you can recover DXF from vector files easily); File compression in PDF can easily obscure TIFF resolution with a poorly chosen converter.

The last note: CONSULT AN EXPERT! ...not just a salesperson when pursuing this avenue.

By the way, I go back to the Microfiche era. I've seen a lot of yes-men make really dumb decisions with all the pretty promises.

It's not hard to extract vectors from PDFs. I use this when suppliers
have vector drawings in their brochures. Use Adobe Illustrator or
GhostScript to extract them from the PDFs into DXF/IGES. Once extracted,
they can be imported as curve features. The biggest loss in PDFs is the
lack of an arc primitive; bezier curves underly all curves, including
arcs and circles. In conversion from PostScript to PDF all curves are
converted to bezier curves, and so are not identifiable as arcs.

To the good, PDF allows attachments, so the original HPGL or TIFF file
can go along for the ride. Unlike HPGL, PDFs can be directly password
protected against copying or modification; can be annotated; and can
support worldwide DRM, allowing individual PDFs to expire. It's a nice
way to prevent suppliers from dragging the wrong one out for the new parts.

HPGL/2 can include line widths, a feature missing from HPGL, which
required users to either go with single thickness pens or swap pens/pen
carousel. Accurate line width conversion from HPGL/2 to PDF is at least

Trivia bit - TIFF was originally referred to as the tagged image file
format. It's a wimpier version of PDF in that it can contain multiple
images vs PDF's pages. It can also contain JPEG compressed images.
Alias: Thousands of Incompatible File Formats, because creators can add
their own components. Belongs to Adobe.