If you mean extruded 3D text, in which each character has depth, then there are a few ways.
Maltaannon has a video tutorial on this, too. His tutorial takes a rather long time to get to the point---which is that you can use a shape layer with a Repeater to get a more elegant version of the duplicate-layer solution.
There are other ways, all of which involve one clever workaround or another---or additional plug-ins. You can explore these options using this After Effects Community Help search.
You can also use 3rd party plugins like Invigorator Pro from Zaxwerks.
Thank you Todd for the links and answers, and yes I did research before posting. I was just hoping there was a more simple or direct method, perhaps Illustrator as I tried. Thank you also Sebastien for your help. I checked it out, but seemed a little pricey. I had better start saving my pennies .
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Unfortunately, Illustrator (which borrows for its' 3D effects from a legacy application called "Adobe Dimensions") doesn't generate an actual 3D mesh that could be used as an exchange framework.
I agree that creating 3D text and other simple 3D shapes should be easier. The techniques described above can be used as a workaround, for now.
Thanks Adolfo for the reply and info. Glad to have it confirmed, so I don't feel like I was missing something . My guess is AE will address it at a later date in a newer version for more sales . Thanks again.