How To Convert a PDF for Creo

Updated Sep 30, 2021
PDF file icon, Creo logo

About Creo

Creo is a set of apps focused on computer-aided design (CAD) specifically for the product design and manufacturing niches. The software suite is developed by PTC Inc., formerly known as the Parametric Technology Corporation, which is a computer services and software company based in Boston, Massachusetts. The different apps in the Creo suite each deliver a unique set of functionalities for different types of users. The apps primarily run on Microsoft Windows and can handle 3D CAD and modeling, 2D orthographic views, as well as product visualization and simulation.

Some of PTC Creo’s main competitors in the market are Solidworks, Solidedge, and CATIA. Users familiar with these pieces of software will have an idea of Creo’s capabilities. The software suite supports various operating languages that range from English, German, and French to Russian, Japanese, and Chinese just to name a few.

Image importing in Creo

Creo’s standard user interface

Creo’s standard user interface Source

Creo is typically used to draft up plans or to model a product or machine part. In those kinds of workflows, users will typically need to import 2D sketches or schematics of designs into a Creo drawing sheet for reference. These engineering drawings will typically contain information such as calculation and simulation results, visualization renders, or product dimensions.

Ever since the updated Creo 7 back in 2017, the process of importing these images has been made easier than ever. It’s similar in simplicity to inserting images into PowerPoint or Word files, but let’s first talk about the preliminary requirements of inserting images into Creo worksheets.

It is important to always choose suitable images to import into Creo. The cleaner and more high-definition an image is, the more suited it will be for use. Since users will be using these drawings as bases for model dimensions, making sure you get precise dimensions would be key.

Here are the basic steps to importing an image into Creo:

  1. The first step to importing a 2D image is to locate the ‘Images’ button in the Layout menu.
  2. After clicking on that, a dialogue box will open. Just browse through the folders and locate the image you want to import. When you’ve found it, just click on ‘Open’ and it should be inserted into the current view you are working on.
  3. From here on out, it’s just a simple matter of dragging and moving the inserted image to where it’s supposed to be and editing the scale, angular rotation, and the transparency of the image if need be.

If things are still a little unclear to you, here’s a video to help guide you through the process:

As for translating the information in the image into vector, PTC Creo is, unfortunately, not the type of CAD program that has an automatic tracing tool. If you’re looking for that kind of functionality, there are third party programs such as Scan2CAD  that can do that for you. But if you’re looking to do all the conversion in Creo, your only option is to trace over the reference image manually. This is why image quality is so important.

The sketch tools in Creo are pretty intuitive and easy to use especially if you’re familiar with the sketch tools in other CAD programs. They have the standard fare – straight lines, arcs, splines, polygons, and circles, among other geometry. Just choose the tools you want to use and get to tracing over the reference image.

This manual tracing process can be a little tedious, so if you’re looking to use the automatic tracing options discussed earlier, here’s a basic idea of how that workflow might work: We take your raster image and open it up on Scan2CAD, we convert the image into a workable vector file in the program, and then we open that file directly into Creo.

What we’ll be working with on Creo is a fully editable vector file that you no longer need to manually trace.

We’ll go into detail with the conversion processes discussed here shortly, but let’s discuss first the different file types and file formats that Creo and Scan2CAD can handle.

Raster vs. Vector

Raster and Vector Images

Raster and Vector Images Source

When dealing with images to import into Creo, you’ll mainly be noticing two types of them – raster images and vector images. Let’s take a moment to discuss the difference between these two main image types.

Raster images – or bitmap images, as they’re sometimes called – are images formed by clustered, colored pixels. The typical image files users will be familiar with such as JPEG, PNG, GIF, and BMP are all examples of raster images. A type of digital pointillism if you will, raster images will have varying quality depending on their resolution or file size which is dictated by how many pixels make up the image. So if you have images with small resolutions, they’ll most likely have pixelated or blurry elements in them. These are not suitable for importing into Creo since as we mentioned before, it’s important that we have high-quality images to maintain accuracy and precision when tracing over with Creo’s sketch tools.

In contrast, vector images are generally easier to work on in Creo since these are made up of editable geometric objects that can be loaded up and worked on in most CAD programs. Most files that you actually get from CAD software, Creo included, are vector files. So the typical DWG, DXF, and G-Code file formats are all vector files. The main difference between raster images and vector files is while raster images are made of pixels, vector files are made of specific geometric elements such as lines, fills, arcs, and splines. In general, image quality is not an issue with vectors, since the information in these files is not dictated by the number of pixels but by mathematical data that determine the attributes of the elements in the image, such as the line width, color, and length.

To illustrate the difference between raster and vector, let’s imagine a picture of a black circle. If this black circle were a raster image, the file would basically be a cluster of black pixels that are grouped together to create an image of a black circle. If it were a vector image, the file itself would actually be a group of entry data that dictates the size and color of the circle.

In general, we would prefer working with vector images on Creo than raster images since this helps us skip the step of tracing over the raster image with our sketch tools.

File formats for Solidworks

Creo supported file formats

Creo supported file formats Source

PTC’s Creo supports a lot of different export and import file formats. We’ve compiled them below:

For Import

3D/ 3D Model

– Creo View (.ol)

– IGES (.iges)

– STEP (.stp, .step)

– JT (.jt)

– Stereolithography (.stl, .sla)

– MicroStation (.dgn)

– PTC Visualizer (.gbf, .gaf)

– AutoCAD (.dxf, .dwg)

2D Drawing

– IGES (.igs)

– Stamp (.png)

Structure/ Compressed structure and geometry

– Creo View (.pvs, .ed, .pvz, .edz, .zip)

Parts and Assemblies

– Creo Parametric (.prt, .asm)

– VRML (.wrl, .vrml)

Creo Unite

– SolidWorks (.sldasm, .sldprt)

– CATIA V5 (.cgr, .CATPart, .CATProduct)

– NX (.prt)

For Export

Image files

– Bitmap (.bmp)

– GIF (.gif)

– JPEG (.jpg, .jpeg)

– PNG (.png)

– TARGA (.tga)

– TIFF (.tif, .tiff)

– 2D PDF (.pdf)

3D file

– IGES (.igs)

– 3D PDF (.pdf)

– U3D (.u3d)

– VRML (.wrl)

– STEP (.stp)

2D illustration file (from HLR render mode)

– ISO (.iso)

– CGM (.cgm)

– SVG (.svg)


Convert a PDF to Creo with Scan2CAD

View video transcript

Hi there. So today, I’m going be showing you guys how to convert your PDF into importable or editable vector files. So really, we’ll be working with mainly two types of PDF files. This first file has us working with the PDF that has vector objects in it. This is the easier option. So if there’s a way for you to get a vector copy of the PDF, then I suggest that you go for that. You can tell if it has raster or vector elements by cycling through these tabs. In this case, it only has a vector elements. Usually the default options are okay. So, let’s just click on okay here. And really, the only thing that we need to do with these vector elements, is just click on file, save as vector. And then just choose the file format, as well as the name that you what to set as and then just click on save. Simple as that. Now the harder version is if we’re using a PDF with raster elements. I’m going to be showing you that now. So click on raster, if we cycle through these tabs, you can see that the vector doesn’t have anything and raster does. As you can see, we can’t also edit any of the individual elements in the drawing, so we’re sure that it’s a raster image.

First thing we wanna do, is click on clean image and then click on threshold black and white. This will turn the image to black and white. If this option is grayed out, that means the object is already black and white and there’s no need for you to check it anyway. To clean the image, we have a couple of options here. We can choose or move speckles and holes for raster images that have some speckles and holes that we want to get rid of. In this case, this image copy is pretty clean, but I wanna show you what happens if we take it. We wanna be careful not to set these values too high or else they start taking out parts of image that we don’t want them to take out. As you can see, if you set this super high, the letters get taken out already. Just leave it at the default value of two. And same thing with the holes, if you set it too high, as you can see, these holes get filled in. We don’t want that as well. Just keep it at two. We have an option of using thicken lines and smooth as well. If there are lines that are too thin or there are lines that are too jagged that we want to smooth out. In this case, I’d rather not tick the thicken lines just because it kind of mucks up some of the details in the drawing, but I’m gonna keep smooth ticked. After we’re happy with this preview, we click on okay, just to execute all the changes.

From here we click on convert image. It’s a technical image, so let’s stick with this one. We don’t only want to vectorize the geometric elements in the lines in the drawing, we also want to use the OCR function. That means that we’re going to try and convert the raster textiles into editable texts. So we have to click on vectorize and OCR. If you notice, once you tick this, this OCR tab showed up. Let’s click there to set the settings right. For the maximum character size, let’s select from the image. I think the largest text object here, is this in the title bar. Just click and drag to set that as the maximum text size. As you can see, it changes automatically here. We do have some vertical elements in the drawing, so let’s tick that. We don’t have any angular ones, but if you do happen to have angular text, then I suggest that you tick this also. If we’re happy with the settings, we click on run to execute the conversion itself. As you can see, it’s a pretty big image. So if you’re confident that there aren’t any speckles that you left out, just say ignore and convert. This is the part that usually takes awhile. We have to wait for a while. So, it really depends on how complex or how simple your image is. The more complex, the more text that there is to convert, the longer this process is gonna take.

As you can see it’s done now. This is the final result. You can compare the two over here. In this case, some of the lines aren’t exactly where I want them to be. So, we can go to both, click on highlight vectors, just to see the overlay. As you can see, the lines are kind of within this black mass, so let’s click on line tolerance. Or in this case, object and finish another. You can set this line a bit higher. In this case, let’s just go with 50. Just to see if it helps with this gun run. Ignore and convert. It’s actually worse, so let’s set this lower. Let’s click on run. So a lot of this conversion or rather tweaking the settings of conversion, a lot of this is just trial and error, just to see what makes it a better conversion. And this seems to be better. Yes, it’s much better. So, once we’re happy with this, we click on okay, to execute the changes. You have manual editing tools here if you wanna create your own lines or if you wanna enter your own texts, like so. Once we’re happy with this, we click on file, save as vector, just as we did with the vector version of the PDF. Choose a format and choose a name, and then click on save. So that’s basically the process. I hope that this video was informative and it helped you guys understand how to convert your PDF using Scan2CAD.

  1. Take a raster image file or PDF that you want to use as a reference image on Creo and open it up on Scan2CAD first.
  2. If you’re dealing with a PDF file and the file is already made up of vector elements, just skip to the last step of this workflow. If you’re dealing with a raster image, you’ll have to clean up the image first and turn it monochromatic for a cleaner conversion.
  3. After cleaning up your raster image, you can go ahead with the conversion proper. We have plenty of tutorials that detail the different settings you can tweak depending on your image quality and type, but for the most part, schematic drawings will convert properly with the default ‘Technical’ Vectorization Method.
  4. After clicking on ‘Run’ to see a preview of the converted image, you can click on ‘OK’ to run the conversion process.
  5. With your newly converted vector file, just save the file using the file format that you want to use. Creo will readily open DWG or DXF files, so try to pick between those two.

We have plenty of tutorials on how to effectively use Scan2CAD here, so feel free to peruse our video tutorials if you want to find out more about our software.

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