3D Laser Scanning uses cutting edge technology to build “point clouds” to create digital representations oh physical assets. With these point clouds, we are able to extract surface data from an object to build its digital twin. Digital Twins can be built from a tangible object of any size, from a coffee machine to a 50,000-square-foot warehouse and everything in between. With today’s technology, there is no project too large or small; the possibilities are limitless.
How Does It Work?
There are many different types of Laser Scanning machines to choose from. However, they all operate using similar methods. First, a scanner uses a laser beam which is reflected off an object and back to the scanner, similar to sonar or echolocation in the animal kingdom. As a result, the distance can be measured down to the millimeter as the returning signals phase shift back to the machine
Simultaneously, a mirror deflects the laser beam at a vertical angle onto the same object. When using a tripod laser scanner, the scanner rotates 360° horizontally to record horizontal angles & distances. These angles are being recorded to also capture the distance between objects.
From wearable laser scanners, tripod scanners, or drone based scanners, each job can be very different. PMC uses a variety of these options to best suit the job at hand.
Why 3D Laser Scanning?
Point clouds are obtained using non-contact & non-destructive technology, so damage to your assets is virtually impossible. As a result, Digital Twins can be optimized for historical accuracy, inspection of surfaces, and reverse engineering & part scanning. 3D Laser Scanning is the best way to obtain highly detailed information with minimal intrusion. Additionally, there is no disruption to productivity while scanning is performed.
“Our partnership with PMC opens the door to the US market. PMC‘s many years of experience in simulations and the huge library of data for over 4 decades gives us the opportunity to create the perfect Digital Twin for our customers.” said CEO of Smiling Machines, Mr. George Koutsoudakis.
“Predictive maintenance services are one of the biggest bets in the 4.0 industry, something that Smiling Machines seems to be doing with remarkable results,” said Michigan Professor and CEO of PMC Dr. Onur Ulgen.
Smiling Machine is a Greek next generation technology company that provides Predictive Maintenance and Digital Twin services. It is one of the few companies in the world that manufactures its own AI fault detection sensors.
PMC is a leading provider of quality, engineering, manufacturing, training, operations productivity, metrology, terrestrial scanning, and building information modeling solutions. With proven track record spans four decades and includes more than 7,000 completed projects for 700-plus customers. in diverse industries such as automotive and transport, aerospace, defense, healthcare, high technology, architecture, engineering and construction.
3D Laser Scanning may seem like an intimidating undertaking for your business, but with PMC’s experienced team of laser scanning from buildings, to trains, ships, and everything in between, we can get the job down quickly, effectively, and precisely.
Are laser scanners safe?
Yes. Most modern scanners use infrared, class 1 lasers and are completely safe to use around people.
How much does laser scanning cost for manufacturing and industrial plants?
In this case size of scope has a significant effect on cost. Manufacturing scanning is almost always priced on a per square foot / square meter rate. This rate starts high for smaller jobs and rapidly drops as the scope becomes larger. For smaller projects, you could expect rates as high as $0.20/per square foot ($2/sq. m). For the largest projects rates can be as low as $0.07/per square foot ($0.70/sq. m).
In addition to the flat per square foot rates, some projects may have other cost factors such as limited access windows, specialized training requirements, remoteness of the site.
Can you scan while the plant is running?
Yes although it is not ideal. There will be areas that can not be captured due to safety or obstructions.
Can you scan with minimal lighting?
Yes. Scanners can scan in complete darkness. Scans will be in grayscale, color capture requires good lighting.
What will be captured on the scan?
Modern scanners are extremely high fidelity and what is captured will look like a photograph. Similar to a camera, they will capture whatever they see. Care can be taken to ensure that sensitive information is protected but these areas should be discussed before scanning is underway.
What are the tolerances/accuracy?
This is an extremely complex topic but in general you can assume that single scan accuracy can achieve +/-1mm and accuracy and degrades from there with each post processing step. A point cloud of many scans will have less accuracy than a single scan, and a model less than that. There are also other more complex concerns when you get into the modeling step of the process. As an example, do you want things modeled orthogonal to have nice looking layouts or do you want them placed as they really are.
How long does it take?
Tripod-based scanners have various run times that range from just under two minutes to up to ten for very high-resolution work. In general, you can expect each scan to take around five minutes and our team to move through space quickly. Overall project timing is a factor of resources deployed. For example, on large projects, we will deploy 10 scanners and run 24 hours a day.
Do you scan on weekends or holidays?
Yes. This is very common in our industry.
How does the scanning figure out things that are not in the “line of sight”?
We accomplish this by setting up multiple scan positions. It’s important to understand that all large area scanners are a line of sight. Although solutions like Ground Penetrating Radar serve a purpose they are nowhere near the fidelity of current-gen laser scanners.
How do you get a digital twin / 3D model / BIM from the scan?
Although there are tools that assist, modeling is still a manual process that can be very time consuming. For this reason PMC has built up an international team of more than 50 dedicated plant modelers.
What formats can you output, when you are done processing?
For scanning, we support all formats including RCS/RCP, POD, e57, several native formats, and several web formats. We also develop CAD models in all major platforms including AutoCAD, Autodesk Factory Design, FactoryCAD, Revit, and others.
How long does it take to turn scanning events, into CAD drawings?
This varies based on the scope of the project and the number of modelers assigned. In general, you can assume it will take 3 or 4 times longer than the scanning took.
How far away can you be, to still grab Laser Scans (how tall of a ceiling, or deep a Pit)?
Modern laser scanners have ranged in excess of 100m. Data captured at that range will not be dense or of the highest quality. In most cases interior scanning does not require ranges in excess of 25m. In fact, by default PMC excludes data captured at a distance grater than 25m in order to improve the overall quality of the point cloud. If you truly need long range data there are special techniques and equipment that can be used to capture long-range data but it requires advanced planning.
The ecosystem of technologies that capture 3D spatial data (Reality Capture) has changed drastically over the last several years. The data reality capture is often use to develop BIM design models or for construction coordination. One of the challenges for Architects, Contractors and ownersseeking the right value is the technology and planning to fit the scope and data use case. Often buildings with little or no existing data need the right type of reality capture defined to fit budget and usage scope. Requesting BIM to FM models or Digital Twin asset modelsin the current technology growth, can effect the capture and usage applications.
Perspectives will always change over time, and that’s especially true in the world of Reality Capture. I’ve been working in this realm now for 20 years and though reality capture is a relatively new term, in the past there wasn’t quite a defined description for this level of service. When I started, the only way to describe this type of work was in terms of a surveyor. As time went on and this laser scanning cat was let out of the bag, I’ve fulfilled roles as a mentioned surveyor, laser scanning tech, 3D Imagery Engineer, CAD drafter, scanning dude, VDC manager and probably and handful of other titles that all basically meant the same thing, and that was applying laser scanning technology to render out drawings CAD.
Now that laser scanning and Reality Capture are validated technologies and workflow methodologies have been refined well past the point of proof of concept, there is an array of options and deliverables that fall under this category. Not all construction projects require head to toe documentation with scanning, which may lead a project manager to consider different Reality Capture offerings. Here are some examples of the other facets of Reality Capture for Digital Transformation…
Project Coordination: Typically, the tool of this trade tends to be Navisworks. Imagine if there’s a baseline understanding of an interior space whether those dimensions have been acquired via laser scanning or tape measure only to be drafted or modeled out in Revit. Once that understanding of space has been acquired and all interior elements and obstacles are virtually visible in CAD, that’s when proposed design can be added, from any trade, fixture or element. That’s when the fun begins, as you’ll quickly be able to determine if the “mocked up design” will work or “clash” with design. It’s easy, you can see it!
Virtual Tours: Sometimes on the front end of a construction project, extensive mapping and understanding of the existing space may be required. However, in post construction the main benefit of a visualization may only be to look around, to confirm what’s been constructed, and to frankly show it off. That’s where Virtual Tours step in. It’s the ability to add somewhat of a Google Streetview to your project, to get people virtually moving within the space, because why not show off what’s been accomplished. It’s easy to use and lite as there’s no data to transfer, it’s web-based!
Static Laser Scanning: A more traditional form of laser scanning where the technology is tripod based and that scanner is moved through the scene to capture, and put laser scanning point cloud data on what’s important to the project and/or model.
Mobile Mapping: Similar to and based out of terrestrial or static scanning; mobile scanning is that same lidar technology on a moving platform. The standard benefit of applying this technology is gaining overall coverage on a project, though incremental accuracy may be the sacrifice, but that’s ok depending on the project need.
Digital Layout: By implementing laser scanning/reality capture, introducing benchmark targets onsite that are similarly located and placed in a Revit model, survey layout information can be utilized while onsite to directly related to and locate elements that exist in the model. By tying into targets and getting surveying equipment utilizing the same coordinate information that’s used in the model, it will enables the ability to “lay-out” or digitally locate elements that exist in the model, that need to be located and placed or built onsite.
Asset Management: Reality Capture and BIM work begins in producing the “As-built” conditions which are ultimately compared against proposed design, and then asset management steps into the process. This focus starts to add back all the pertinent information back into the model in regards to asset information such as in install date, manufacturer, record of an asset being serviced, and whatever other important information that needs to be linked back to that asset. Most standard BIM and Reality Capture efforts have certainly completed the interest of producing and similar 3d rendering models/representations, whereas asset management efforts put all of the necessary information back into that 3d model.
Establishing a consistent coordinate system: In Revit and in onsite: As multiple forms of spatial measurement technologies are introduced to a project site in enable and enhance building, they all need to be utilizing the same coordinate system to maintain an all together project accuracy. Laser scanners, total stations, distance meters, tape measures are all accurate measurement methodologies within their own relative need that they are supporting, but typically not as accurate when they are all used in conjunction together, on one project site. Reality Capture methodologies can help establish a consistent coordinate system that is seen and used in Revit and translated back onsite, where scan targets can be used as benchmarks that contain that same coordinate information that’s in Revit. By using these benchmarks, or creating co-similar Control Lines that are both onsite and in Revit, it make it much easier to “tie into” that same coordinate system that’s being referenced in Revit, despite whatever measurement tool your using everybody ties in the same way, using the same coordinates.
Scan-To-BIM Digital Transformation: When the scanning stops, that’ when the building begins so to speak. Whether the scanning is static or mobile, once it is brought into any number of 3D programs and the “points are turned into pipes” I always like to say; or wall, windows, doors or any other 3D elements, that’s when the rendered 3D model is produced from the point cloud, or hence the laser scanning data to a BIM deliverable.
Peter Abraham joined the team at PMC as of November 2020, bringing with him 20 years of focused experience in Reality Capture services in the AEC market, that range from data capture expertise and Virtual Design and Construction management.
Point clouds live somewhere in space, where they are in space are based on something called a coordinate system. In today’s post, we will keep the math to a minimum and approach coordinate systems from a practical, applied approach. In the world of CAD and point clouds, coordinate systems are defined by an X, Y, Z origin point, and a Z-axis rotation. When a point cloud is first registered, the origin and rotation are based on where the first scan was taken. This is seldom a good location as it is very arbitrary. To produce a useable point cloud, we need to put the point cloud on a rational coordinate system that the whole project team can use.
We assume that your building is relatively flat and level. If it is not, we need to talk. When we say relatively we mean that the main floors of the building would be flat within +/-1″ at any measured point.
How do you know what coordinate system to use? That is easy; PMC will ask a couple of questions to understand better what coordinate system is required for your project once scanning is complete. We do our best to break it down into a few simple questions.
Before we begin
Typically buildings will have some drawings or plans originating from construction. When there is existing CAD/BIM data of the building, it can be used as a reference for the point cloud data’s alignment. Generally, this is the preferred option for most teams. Aligning to your existing CAD/BIM data ensures that the existing data can be used without a need to shift it in the CAD/BIM environment.
If your building is ancient and there are no existing CAD/BIM drawings, no need to worry. We can work with that.
While AutoCAD and Microstation straightforwardly handle coordinates, Revit can have a Shared Coordinate added. If your Revit model is using Shared Coordinates, please let us know.
Have a survey file you want us to use? We should have already talked about that, oops. Please stop here and contact us.
It starts with a question
The first question you will be asked is, can you provide a CAD (DWG/DGN) or Revit model of the scope area? If you answer this yes, you will be almost done. We will have one more question for you. No worries though, even if you answer no, there are just a few more questions.
PDFs can not be used for alignment, only CAD/BIM data. If you don’t have a file, it’s not a problem. There are just a few more questions we’ll need to ask.
A simple Yes or No
If you chose yes to the first question, keep reading. If you chose no, skip to the next section.
You’ll be asked, do you want PMC to perform the best fit of the point cloud to the provided CAD or BIM file? What does that mean? It means that PMC will align your point cloud to the provided CAD or BIM file. Given the difference between the actual built environment and the assumed world of CAD, your point cloud will be centered within the CAD data and not aligned to any one benchmark. If you want to lock the point cloud to one specific point in the building, you need to pick no to this question. Some examples of this desire to have the origin be the center of a building column or a building corner.
You chose NO, now what?
You will be asked two additional questions to help define the origin and rotation of the point cloud. We’ll start by asking about the X/Y location then rotation. We provide the most common answers for you to pick from, but you can always choose to customize it. We know that every project of the built world is unique and will often require unique solutions.
Q: For the X and Y-axis origin (North and Easting), how do you want the point cloud aligned?
A: Here, we ask you what point within the point cloud do you want X=0 and Y=0 to be. Typically this is some logical point in the building, like a corner. Sometimes it can be a known benchmark point like the center of a fire hydrant.
Q: For rotation of the point cloud, please select what you would like.
A: In the first question, we locked in a 0,0 point, but we can rotate around that point. You likely don’t want your building to be rotated at 31.25 degrees, but what do you want it rotated too? The most common answer is to align the longest wall along the X-axis. You should consider how your project will fit your sheets and if having a project north or true north is important to you.
The Z-axis or Elevation?
We’re almost done here. We need to sort out elevation. What we need to know is, what do you want the elevation of the first floor you walk on when entering the front door to be? The most common answers are 0 and +100. Sometimes we are asked for sea level. We will take multiple measurements across that floor and average them to set the elevation.
If your building has multiple “main doors” to different floors or you think we may be confused by what the “front door” is, please reach out to us.
Wrapping it up
You’re done! We know how to align your data and it will be in your hands shortly! Have concerns still? Worried we don’t know what you mean? No problem, the form is not meant to replace talking to one of us. If you have any concerns at all we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out at any time to the team at PMC.
Enterprise Facility Integration (EFI) is a method my teammates and I at PMC have developed to help client’s phase into BIM to FM maturity so that value milestones are defined. Anyone who has held positions in BIM Management or as a VDC Project Manager in the last twenty years understands that corporations adopt BIM incrementally. Adopting BIM practices strategically results in incremental returns. The PMC AEC+O team has developed our process using experience we have gained through managing Architects, Engineers and Construction (AEC) teams migration with BIM tools and data. Using our knowledge, we have created a phased approach to data maturity and a foundation for Digital Twin and Industry 4.0 use cases. These can be used by owners and operators seeking BIM to FM and Digital Factory value. Two helpful tools PMC uses as we phase value for operations and facilities management BIM use cases are the data maturity wedge (Digital Twin flavor) and BIM value hierarchy.
Building a data standard for your highest value
PMC – Data Maturity Matrix
The data maturity wedge was introduced in the UK BIM standard as a key component in a path to iBIM (collaborative interoperable data). It has seen many flavors in different standards, articles, and slide talking points. The wedge is a common expression of an organization’s building data maturity. It represents enterprise record data and all available AEC supply chains. The four levels of information exchange represent data interoperability or lack of opportunities to standardized and exchange information between stakeholders in building life-cycles.
The PMC version of the wedge considers phase four as the integration to Digital Twin and Industry 4.0. The key reason is that all levels of data should consider the highest usage goals. What this means is that when a standard is considered for example, organizing asset documents, being indexed into level four becomes a value. The same can be said for all intermediate forms of data from Revit to CMMS. The unique difference from what the PMC maturity wedge is that it’s not just a high level BIM/VDC viewpoint. The PMC wedge is a search for interoperability beyond the AEC life-cycle. Finding common data value across AEC+O eliminates the biggest problem with digital building/plant floor life-cycles. A large percentage of design and construction data becomes throw-away rather than serve operations. As each form of building or plant floor data becomes interoperable to level four, (the foundation of data usage) the value hierarchy becomes a catalyst for return on investment.
BIM Value Hierarchy
Data Value Hierarchy
PMC’s BIM Value Hierarchy looks very similar to Mazlow’s for a reason. In the same sense a person can’t self-fulfill their needs without a foundation, Digital Twin/Industry 4.0 can’t return value without a foundation. That value needs to be informed by building the foundation from the bottom using standards.
When PMC first starts partnering with a client, one of our first goals is to define the standards base on the usage needs to be fulfilled. In this case our Hierarchy focuses on a high level of value. Since usage and value are at the top of the pyramid, each collection of data, from basic to rich, needs to be interoperable and integrated. There are at least five layers of integration we feel need consideration:
Digital Twin/Industry 4.0 usage – forecasting, big data analysis, etc.
A consideration for the visual of a fully shaded in pyramid is that would represent a completion of all levels. For a large enterprise, this takes many years in the commissioning of data alone. A phased approach means finding a way to leverage return along the migration of data.
Building a foundation
PMC Early EFI Value
Interoperable data can enable so many more value propositions than just big data forecasting. This is the reason EFI is able to phase return on investment. The iBIM goal, for example, from the UK standard, is a milestone of rich data collection that comes from construction and renovation projects. Integrated design workflows in facility construction have proven “SMARTER, CHEAPER, FASTER…” for owners, Architects, and Construction managers. The same can be said for digital factory. However, those value propositions often end in throw-away record data. That might be because they lack the higher value interoperability that facilities management (FM) and operations requires. Another possibility is that without people in stakeholder positions the data goes un-managed and becomes obsolete. A well-planned early phase should milestone for these possibilities and migrate people and data to implementation.
PMC will continue to digitize everything in our path as it has done for more than twenty five years. However, over the past several years we have made it a goal to not deliver throw-away data. The way we do that is to ask about a higher longer term value of interoperability. My team and I are also seeking to partner with our clients so that our foundational digital modeling services also deliver sustainable data. Over the last two years we have looked to consult on all barriers that prevent functional teams from operating and maintaining the data we deliver. This is why we have developed partnerships and services to compliment 3D data capture services. Here are a few we provide.
Site and Building Reality capture at all scales of precision
Certified Training solutions in the cloud and on-site