If you think laser scanning provides a substantial amount of value for aerial and terrestrial projects, just wait until you hear about the benefits of taking it here. Click here to check out Tate’s featured blog post on GeoDataPoint.com.
As 2012 winds down and we get ready to head to Las Vegas for the Autodesk University conference, I look back at the strides that have been made in the 3D world and all of the associated hardware and software in our industry.
Not only is there new technology being used and accepted, but the demand for more BIM products, users, and technologists has grown faster than ever. I have also watched with great interest the wave of corporate acceptance that was not there even three years ago.
There is still much ground to be broken, but wow – what a year!
Take software, for example. As I travel around America and talk to user groups and clients, the one thing I am always asked is when will it be easier to model point clouds into usable entities?
There is much research going on to solve this challenge. Though I have no commercial interest in this firm, I believe one of the ones to watch in this space is ClearEdge 3D. Their EdgeWise Plant software is pushing the barriers away for modeling point clouds.
Personally, I believe that within the next three years, this major barrier we face now will be a minor issue and point cloud use will continue to grow and expand.
The other great leap in technology is that most of the major software packages have updated their products to accept point clouds as a layer. This means that most of our clients in the architectural and MEP worlds can now import our point clouds into their design software and greatly enhance their designs.
Just three or four years ago, using point cloud data required modeling and this limited the market to mechanical and structural engineers and various contractors with specialty software.
Today, because all Revit users can import point cloud data, the need to model everything in a scan project has been greatly decreased. This is a big deal! Now, instead of having to pay for an expensive model, end users get all of the benefits of point cloud precision without the associated costs of modeling.
Not to be overlooked, there are still issues that will need to be ironed out in inserting point clouds into design software, but they will be overcome with time.
For example, if you are working in Inventor to model plant process data, it is best if the project is modeled from start to finish in Inventor. Similarly, if it is to be modeled in Revit, it is best that it be modeled from start to finish in Revit. There are no readily available universal translators to move from a model that was created in Cyclone to a model in Revit while keeping the full integrity of the original model.
Though the data itself is globally transferrable, the structure of the models, entities, families and libraries requires more work to be done in this area.
Last year, I predicted that the hardware in our industry was set and that most of the changes would come in the form of software. On this point, I was wrong.
Several changes have occurred that continue to advance the hardware. For example, The Faro Focus 3D has broken the price barrier. Prior to its release, most scanners started around $80,000 and went up to $200,000. The Focus was released at about $50,000 and has caused price adjustments throughout the industry.
I believe this trend will continue and prices will continue to go down. This is both a good and bad thing for the industry. As prices go down, more people with marginal training and experience will begin to use scanners and bad point clouds will become more of a problem.
There is a saying in our industry that “one bad point cloud kills a lot of clients.” Indeed, this is true. I have talked to clients who tried laser scanning nine years ago, had a bad experience, and will not use it again to this day. The problem is not that scanners are getting more affordable, but that there are still no national standards in the industry.
The upside is that with a lower cost competitor, vendors must consider what value their laser scanners bring that others do not.
Cool New Technology
Two things I am really interested in and know will change the playing field moving forward are aerial drones and augmented reality.
These two technologies are growing fast and have many great uses. A traditional helicopter used to map utilities and large areas generally costs about $25,000 per day. A one-meter drone quadripod, on the other hand, costs about $2,000 per day.
Though there are unique tasks that the smaller one-meter drones can do that the helicopter is currently doing, there are other tasks that the smaller drones can perform that traditional helicopters cannot do. For example, smaller drones can more effectively and safely map underground pipes, mines and tunnels.
Currently, to send two scanner technicians into a tunnel requires about six surface and sub-surface support staff. An unmanned drone with avoidance technology would be a great solution.
Augmented reality and the ability to project 3D images easily and to large groups is available and is changing the whole world of education. A small but growing company, ViziTech USA, is doing very creative and trendsetting work in this area.
This is where the science of 3D technology is repackaged so that the average person can use and understand it. This is a powerful tool and will lead to great changes in many industries and educational processes. For more on augmented reality, read our recent blog post here.
The design and construction of future projects will still require the same basic processes that are required today. But the use of precision data before, during and after construction – and the visual way the data can be viewed – will greatly reduce errors and downtime events.
Tate Jones has over 40 years of experience in land and aerial surveying and was one of the country’s earliest adopters of 3D laser scanning technology. A nationally recognized expert in the field of 3D data capture, he has worked with hundreds of clients in the engineering, architectural and construction industries. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.landairsurveying.com.
When we were asked to bring our booth and support the 2nd Annual Revit Technology Conference in Stone Mountain, Georgia, last week, I didn’t know what to expect. But I’m glad we went because we saw the future – and it’s very, very bright.
For BIM managers and designers, this conference was a look through the hourglass of the future at the world of design and one thing is for certain: gone are the days when firms could avoid BIM, 3D Cad modeling and laser scanning and still hope to be competitive.
What I saw were bright young innovators already pushing the technology of 3D design and high speed data capture to the limits.
It was very refreshing to attend a conference where presenters and attendees agreed that 3D laser scanning was the best tool to use in many design situations and were openly discussing how they currently used the technology in innovative ways.
The largest 3D scanning show I attend every year is SPAR. I had the same feeling at the Revit Technology Conference last week that I had at the third SPAR show back in 2005 when laser scanning was still a new and relatively untested technology.
The quality of what was being presented at the Revit conference – and how and who was presenting – was way up on the charts.
Around the showroom floor, there were the larger suppliers of the Revit technology, who were very knowledgeable about new improvements to the products, alongside many boutique firms that were selling all types of software to make the design process in Revit easier and more organized.
There were also other groups selling “cloud” technology that provided a new, more efficient vision of the cloud. While most of us already have data on our iPhones, it will be a short time before we will all have our data in the cloud and projects will be able to be worked on by anyone, anywhere with just a password and a computer.
On large mega-projects like new airports and major industrial facilities, multiple design teams in multiple cities will be able to work on the same cloud-based data at the same time. It will change the way we do things forever. Yes, there will still be security issues and priority issues, but ultimately that’s where we are headed.
Why have one computer process for one million seconds to solve a data set if you can have a million computers process for one second? It’s not quite that simple, but that’s the goal.
The speakers were great, too.
My favorite was Dick Morley. His opening presentation was in the form of a fireside chat with Brad Holtz serving as the interpreter. (I say interpreter because when the audience looked confused and a topic seemed to go over our heads, Brad would bring Dick back down to earth.)
Dick Morley invented the programmable logic controller, which pretty much controls all the electronic machinery in the world. To put it in prospective, that one device produces more revenue than all of Hollywood’s productions combined.
He also invented antilock braking technology, which revolutionized cars and greatly reduced accidents on the highway. (As a side note, he said that while the number of accidents decreased for many years, they slowly started going back up as drivers in America learned to drive closer using the antilock brakes. As the margin of error decreased, accidents increased.)
Dick also invented the cash register overlay that has pictures of food on it rather than numbers. This greatly reduced errors and increased production in the fast food industry.
Dick, who was trained in physics at MIT, had a clear message: “Look at where things are going and what needs to be solved and find the technology to solve it. Holding on to the way it has always been is just a reason to justify where you are – not a plan to move forward.”
I think this is true across the industry. The true leaders and innovators are not the ones who are really good at getting a piece of paper from the left side of their desks to the right, he said. The innovators ask, why paper?
Other interesting speakers shared new and innovative ways the power of 3D is being used across the spectrum. Kelly Cone with the Beck Group gave a very thorough presentation of using modeling in a major construction project and how the model was embraced and used by many of the subcontractors on the project.
They even built a “construction” roll-able computer workstation so the subs could walk over in real time, look at their section of the project in 3D, and understand the intent of the designer.
He also talked about how having access to quick laser scanning information helps designers and contractors come up with workarounds in tight spots.
The conference had attendees from most of the continents in the world and it was evident that critical mass has been reached and that the tipping point into 3D design technology is complete.
The transition away from 2D drawings and flat surveys is history and 3D models and clash detection and design testing prior to construction is now the new standard.
Tate Jones has over 40 years of experience in land and aerial surveying and was one of the country’s earliest adopters of 3D laser scanning technology. A nationally recognized expert in the field of 3D data capture, he has worked with hundreds of clients in the engineering, architectural and construction industries. Contact him at email@example.com, tjones@3DLaserSurveys.com or visit www.3DLaserSurveys.com.