Written by Ben Noebels

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In today’s print market, the odds of receiving a set of plans or specs in PDF format are a given. PDF, which stands for Portable Document Format, has become the primary file format used in the AEC market.

PDFs are used to distribute, view and print information. Commercial printers see PDF files every day, and are expected to be able to print exactly what the file shows. Despite this, the printer only has about a 50/50 chance the PDF will print the same as it appears on screen. Because all PDF files are not created equally, this creates a lot of problems for both the printer and the client.

Adobe Acrobat, arguably the most popular PDF platform, came out in the early 1990s. Over the course of its lifetime, there have been numerous revisions to the software, mainly to increase its capability. The increased capabilities of these updates include PDF hyperlinks, color, video, bookmarks, and much more. Because of the popularity of PDF files, many software companies have created their own version of PDF files. There are many differences between these third party generated PDF files and those created by Acrobat or a licensed version of Acrobat.

In general, we tend to take PDFs for granted — until we go to print, that is. When we’re in print, the PDF file tends to sit with a dialog box open that says “flattening lines”. This process usually feels like it takes forever to accomplish. Why does this happen? It views just fine; why won’t it print? Or if it does print, why won’t it print correctly?

Chances are, the problem is related to the PDF file using transparency or lines merge. According to Adobe Acrobat, if a document has transparent objects (as most CAD files do), Acrobat flattens the document before printing. Flattening removes the transparency information and converts the image to a format that the printer can interpret, thus printing the image correctly.

A commercial printer uses Adobe Acrobat to process PDF files as well as other PDF conversion programs so we are able to correctly print the files as they were intended to be printed, ensuring that our clients only get quality work on time and on spec.

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