3D Laser Scanning and Point Cloud Modelling - the New Era of Survey.

3D Laser Scanning and Point Cloud Modelling - the New Era of Survey.

When it comes to building survey and modelling, there are dozens of reasons to favour 3D laser scanning over more traditional survey methods like the use of Total Stations, Tapes and Laser Disto’s.

If we had to pick our favourite reason, aside from the fact that we get to play with lasers for a living, it would be that 3D laser scanning is significantly more efficient than traditional means of surveying while simultaneously enabling vast amounts of information to be recorded - up to one million data points a second. After the data is collected, just about anything can be achieved with it. For our clients, they like that we can transform photo-realistic point cloud models in to highly accurate Revit, CAD, Sketchup, … , etc models rapidly. This equates to enhanced work flow and highly detailed digital models to work from.

It’s amazing how dramatically technology is changing our role as professional land and building surveyors. With the way things are advancing, it’s a struggle to keep up. If it’s a struggle for those in industry, we know that it must be even more difficult for those that are removed from it, even slightly. Because we’re often asked about the benefits of choosing laser scanning technology over more familiar technologies, we thought that it would be useful to put one of our recent projects in the spotlight as a demonstration of what can be achieved in a short time with a laser scanner.

From Point Cloud to CAD Plans

Recently, we were appointed to produce elevations, floor plans and a full site plan (including the recording of dozens of trees) of this beautiful, yet complex, property in Scotland.

House.jpg

Traditionally, producing plans for the elevations alone would have involved hundreds of photographs and thousands of survey measurements that would have to have been captured manually. Even then, it’s unlikely that some of the more intricate features could be been recorded precisely. With 3D laser scanning technology, we had captured the elevations to an incredibly high level of detail and accuracy before lunch time.

 Elevation Model from 3D Scan Data

Elevation Model from 3D Scan Data

Once done, we took a lap with the Trimble TX8 around the garden to record the position of the trees and some of the more intricate ornaments and features. Again, leading to time saved on site.

Afterwards, we finished the day by scanning internally and returning to Edinburgh with a complete, highly detailed (and accurate) record of the entire property from which we could produce the suite of 2D CAD plans as requested by our client.

When in the office, our first protocol is always to carefully register each of the scans - in effect stitching them together to become a single entity - and to check for accuracy each time.

Once the scans have been unified, we then have the option to convert the point cloud surfaces in to planner ones so that the model can be used in CAD environments. As far as software goes, we favour Trimble Realworks which is an insanely powerful asset and we like that Trimble are working hard to perfect the process of point cloud classification, meaning that with each new update of the software, plane production is becoming increasingly more automated - great for a smooth transition from Realworks to software environments like Revit, ArchiCAD or Sketchup.

Alternately, our team can produce assets from the point cloud called “Ortho Images” - these are snapshots that can be taken at any point through the cloud and are automatically scaled to 1:1 and georeferenced when brought in to AutoCAD. From these, we can develop 2D deliverables like floor plans, sections and elevations. As with everything that we produce, we’re more than happy to share with our clients if they’re interested. We can even offer recommendations to a tonne of free software packages for viewing and editing. For example, feel free to check out CloudCompare: an open-source point cloud modeller.

 Floor plan : Point Cloud Slice

Floor plan : Point Cloud Slice

We’d like to end by showing a drawing that were produced from the point cloud model. For anonymity and protection, we’ve decided to not show floor plans.

 View on Elevation AA : Point Cloud Model

View on Elevation AA : Point Cloud Model

 Elevation AA : 2D AutoCAD Drawing

Elevation AA : 2D AutoCAD Drawing

Overall, we hope that you can get a sense of the power of 3D scanning and how it can support your next big building conversion, renovation or alteration project from an architectural or engineering design perspective.

Feel free to get in touch at any time to ask about our 3D Laser Scanning services.