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By John Biggs
July 30, 2018
In the competitive construction world, time is money. Utilizing a 3D laser scanner at every stage of the construction process has numerous benefits, all of which contribute to efficiency and accuracy for all stakeholders involved, from architects and engineers to designers themselves.
The scanner works by putting out millions of lasers to create highly accurate 3D renderings of a space, whether it’s a building under construction or even during the preconstruction phase. The system’s sensor cameras measure things like how the laser angle or thickness changes as it moves around the objects in the space, and records the time it takes for the beams to bounce back to the scanner. Based on those data points, detailed calculations about the spatial relationships between objects as well as the dimensions of the space being measured can be made. This captures and creates millions of data points in just a few seconds that can be continually measured and compared against as the project progresses.
The sum total of these measurements comprise what is known as a “point cloud,” a dense group of 3D points that recreates a physical object in digital space. It’s at this point where a skilled human worker is needed to identify the different elements of the digital objects being created. Point clouds contain vastly more information about an object’s physical location, they also contain information about everything from color to reflectivity.
This is especially useful in a complex, unfinished interior structure with the work of multiple trades simultaneously underway, or in a job involving retrofits or refurbishment. It’s even effective in occupied structures. The laser scans can capture pinpoint accurate data throughout the interior, offering a higher level of accuracy in measurement than photographs, and do so considerably faster than manual measurements allow. The speed the system can measure saves labor hours on taking measurements by hand, and the end results are considerably more accurate, down to one or two millimeter accuracy. 3D laser scanning is so unobtrusive, in fact, it can even be completed in sensitive locations like hospitals or schools without the buildings needing to close in order for the measurement work to be completed.
Once a scan is complete, the resulting data is collected and processed for model generation. It’s particularly handy in creating BIM models, where every pipe, beam, outlet and fixture is measured and accounted for and continuously updated. Laser scanning can help contractors avoid conflicts between architectural features or systems, for example, ensuring water pipes don’t interfere with planned locations for electrical boxes or HVAC systems. This accuracy helps eliminate the need for costly rework down the line as potential issues are rooted out and addressed early in the process.
3D laser scanning frees up some proximity-based barriers to effective construction work. In the event an architect or engineer can’t be physically present at a job site, either due to dangerous conditions or geographic location. The data can be uploaded to the cloud, making it accessible by everyone who needs to see it, and accurate decisions and changes can be made based on that data and the resulting models.
The equipment required to perform 3D laser scanning isn’t cheap, but the return on that investment can come swiftly. Fewer workers are needed on site to measure by hand, which saves in worker wages. And according to Edoxx Engineering, laser scanning also decreases compensation for accidents because laser scanning is so hands off, and therefore safer. Time savings is also realized in determining the location of construction materials, and cutting down on redundant deliveries of those materials to a job site.
There are clear advantages to using a 3D laser scanning system, and the benefits are easy to see, even in an industry like construction that is slow to adopt new technologies and processes. But the argument against implementing new methods becomes harder to make when safety and efficiency gains are so readily apparent, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if 3D laser scanning became an industry standard in the near future.
3D laser scanning
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