The value of 3D modeling is only increasing with time in the construction industry. While laser scanning technology was available for the past two decades, it’s now accessible and cost-effective with more advantages like advanced deliverables and more utility. Its evolution over the years has now granted construction teams a significant rise in efficiency.
Learning more about laser scanning in construction, point cloud processing and 3D capture technology will help you integrate all three into your operations.
Jump To Sections:
- What Is 3D Laser Scanning?
- How 3D Laser Scanning Is Used in Construction
- 3D Laser Scanning in the Construction Field
- 3D Laser Scanning in the Office
- Benefits of Laser Scanning in Construction
- 3D Laser Scanning Sales and Services From BuildingPoint West
- Request a Demo of 3D Laser Scanning Solutions From BuildingPoint West
What Is 3D Laser Scanning?
Laser scanning is a land surveying method. It’s a form of technology that uses a laser to scan and map an area to create a detailed 3D image, with its value lying in the ability to capture detailed information in seconds. You might also see laser scanning referred to as reality capture or high-definition surveying (HDS).
On a global scale, the 3D scanning market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4% between 2019 and 2025 from its 2018 value of $4.5 billion.
Laser scanning is a form of advanced technology that uses sensors, lasers, GPS, photodetectors, receiver electronics and inertial measurement units (IMU). By combining all these components at once, the scanners calculate the coordinates of the various structures and surfaces within a given area.
But how does laser scanning work? There are two methods to the laser scanning process.
The first process begins with electronic distance measurements (EDM) or “time of flight” measurements, where the system sets off light waves. These light waves bounce off surfaces, then reflect back to the scanner’s sensor, which calculates how far away each surface is. The distance measured is determined by the amount of time it takes for the light beams to make a complete journey back to the sensor. Laser scanning happens within seconds as the system collects millions of 3D coordinates of each surface.
The second process is “phase shift,” which measures the wavelength return. At alternating frequencies, a laser light measures the difference between reflected and emitted signals. The resulting measurement is the distance of an object. Phase shift scanners are faster, although they have a maximum range that equals a phase delay of a complete wave.
With millions of coordinates measured and calculated, the scanner will then process the point clouds into a digital representation, which includes both the spatial and dimensional relationships between the structures and the topography.
In short, 3D laser scanners allow you to collect detailed information, data and measurements, then create a virtual model and make changes before development begins.
How 3D Laser Scanning Is Used in Construction
When it comes to construction sites, 3D laser scanning applications are most commonly used for quality assurance and control, as-built verification and progress reports. 3D laser scanning in construction captures data, such as:
- Surface measurements
Scanners can also conduct spatial scanning, road surveying and urban topography.
From here, a point cloud is created. Point cloud processing software is a database that connects points of an area in a 3D system using millions of coordinates at a time. Each coordinate has an X, Y and Z value for an exact measurement that can be used to georeference the point cloud in relation to the real environment. It’s a digital record and spatial relationship of space and the objects within it like floors, piping, walls and ductwork.
Other uses of cloud point data include:
- Building expansions
- Design upgrades
- Historical preservations
- Virtual construction
Consider these uses a map of the exact shape and size of different objects and landscapes in your zone.
3D Laser Scanning in the Construction Field
In the field, laser scanning technology can support an entire project from start to finish. It’s involved in the design, construction and renovation processes in the following ways:
1. Design Stage
As a starting point in site design, laser scanning can often come before the building information modeling (BIM) method. You can use a scan-to-BIM technique that captures site information and transfers it to the computer program.
When you begin any construction project, laser scanner technology can help you understand the space of your site in context to its surroundings. This understanding is even more advantageous for work zones that are in dangerous locations, are surrounded by historical buildings and protected land or are in the process of completing renovations.
Scanners can also validate your plan of design execution for quality assurance. With 3D virtual models, it’s easy to fabricate physical 3D prototypes to help you and other stakeholders understand and collaborate on the design.
2. Construction Stage
Laser scanning is a tool that can benefit all the contractors and stakeholders involved in a project to help avoid conflicts between systems like electrical, HVAC, structural steel, concrete and plumbing. You can share data among all parties involved.
Uses of 3D laser scanning in the construction stage allow you to measure and evaluate your progress from beginning to end. When you use point cloud information throughout the project’s lifespan, you have accurate records of each construction phase, including aspects like the ceilings, walls and everything in between. These records give your closeout package extensive value.
You can scan your area to see updated conditions and then compare these details to the as-design drawings for more accuracy. You can even color-code your model to see various degrees of deviations and understand what needs fixing.
3. Renovation Stage
By capturing extraneous details, scanners can create an as-built record to help with construction operations, renovations, additions and demolitions.
For renovation projects, you must know the as-built drawings to formulate a new design. But as-built records aren’t always accurate or available. This is where laser scanning comes into play. You can conduct a site survey to verify the area’s conditions and capture details of the original design, along with the construction plans. 3D laser scanners also help you to see any design issues beforehand.
3D Laser Scanning in the Office
3D laser scanning in the office is where everything takes place. You or a surveyor can document the current infrastructures and landscapes with more accuracy and at a faster rate. Before leaving the job site, you can scan the area, compare the measurements with the model, gather information about what needs to be done and send everything straight to the office.
When you have the right laser scanning equipment, the next most important thing to have is the appropriate point cloud processing software. Choose one that’s modular and permits you to add different capabilities as your project grows and adapts to changes. Point cloud software should be an automated and simple process.
The best point cloud systems have complex algorithms, reducing the need for constant human involvement — you can trust that the cloud-based tech knows what it’s doing,
After the 3D laser scanner and point cloud technology, there is a third aspect that relates to the office setting. Laser scanner technology links to BIM technology in the office, which is also a cloud-based integration. You and other contractors can access the same plans that show any changes you make in real time.
With the right software in the office connected to your scanner, you can:
- Compare virtual models to 3D models
- Create models from point cloud
- Generate deliverables
- Import and export data formats
- Refine and classify data
- Share point cloud information with stakeholders
Segmenting the plethora of data you receive forms more usable sections of material that can simplify the workflow of a project. With more digestible pieces of data, stakeholders can better process the details. When it’s time to generate deliverables like ductwork and floor flatness, BIM software can support the quality of your most complex projects.
Benefits of Laser Scanning in Construction
The advantages of 3D laser scanning compared to traditional land surveying methods are astronomical and include:
Elite accuracy from a 3D scanner helps your team and other stakeholders plan, detail and construct. With complete measurements, point cloud and BIM, you can see site data on a much larger scale, helping to prevent errors. Using advanced scanning solutions can even determine measurement discrepancies compared to what’s already listed on the design.
Some scanners also have embedded sensors that show the performance and progress of the site by collecting information from every angle with high precision. It then translates it to point cloud via exact measurements and dimensions.
Immediately Available Information
Using laser scanners that collect millions of data points in several seconds is the fastest way to survey an area. You gain access to immediate information to help you improve your operations through less rework, preventable delays and streamlined productivity. You also experience quicker turnaround times because you need fewer human resources. When you partner with BuildingPoint West, you gain immediate field deliverables compared to waiting for results in the office, keeping you one step ahead at all times.
Because you can scan an entire construction area within minutes and provide more details than before, you save time and money. Those benefits of 3D laser scanning help your bottom line, which relates to an increase in profits, as well.
Less Manual Labor
Laser scanning is a one-off process that gives you details for an entire job. Instead of relying on manual labor that’s prone to errors, 3D construction laser scanning is accurate enough to ensure contractors only have to make one trip to the site to verify the plans. The technology can also collect data from risky locations, keeping your crew safe while maximizing efficiency with limited to no errors.
Nothing’s better than having a focused and streamlined collaboration process on a job site. Through cloud integration, scanning and modeling technology grants everyone remote access, which limits the number of trips each party has to take to the job site while still allowing everyone to work together.
Laser scanning provides details that help each party make more informed decisions. With better coordination and collaboration, the process bolsters team relationships, curates smooth communication and supports the end goal of your project.
Laser scanners are not the end-all solution. They work with other platforms and forms of technology like BIM. “Scan to BIM” is a common term that refers to the scanning and uploading of data to the BIM system directly from the laser scanners. This compatibility lets you compare each stage of your development with the final design.
Documentation of Project Achievements and Errors
Keeping track of both your job’s achievements and errors is another benefit of 3D laser scanning. Cross-checking helps you find flaws in the design. If this happens, you can make redesign requests to create an improved layout. Making immediate changes reduces field time and costs and ensures everything is running on time.
Depending on your industry and project, there may come a time when you need to survey vast landscapes. You can mount laser scanners onto vehicles and other structures like aircraft and drones for those more intense assignments. You can then collect point cloud data from otherwise inaccessible areas because 3D laser scanners are a non-contact system.
The payoff of implementing laser scanners into your business is high, but it also comes with a few considerations. If you choose to pay upfront, it can be a high investment, although it can lower project costs over time. In other cases, you can opt for one of our purchase options that accommodates your budget and timeline. Working with laser scanning technology is also a skill that requires training for the utmost accuracy.
3D Laser Scanning Sales and Services From BuildingPoint West
When it comes down to it, you will either need to train your workers, hire a surveyor or partner with a company that has both the technology and expert know-how. Think about working with a professional team that uses modern laser scanner technology and integrates it with software like BIM or CAD. This partnership will help create efficiencies and improvements for your operations.
Trimble 3D laser scanners deliver incredible benefits like quick and accurate measurements along with advanced diagnostics that can catch conflicts and flaws in your original design. You can compensate for minor and major issues with real-time changes that help you save money on a project.
Trimble’s goal is to make the surveying and scanning processes faster, more accurate and more productive. From their features and functions to software components, everything boosts field and office efficiencies. Several components of Trimble 3D scanners include:
- Civil infrastructure
- Industrial zones
- Urban areas
Through BuildingPoint West, Trimble’s advanced software and accurate scanning solutions capture, analyze, model and deliver.
For the best results, start implementing laser scanning equipment into your sites early on. Once you understand the value of scanners and their high return on investment (ROI), you can consider financing a system of your own to improve your bottom line and skyrocket your company’s efficiency levels.
Request a Demo of 3D Laser Scanning Solutions From BuildingPoint West
BuildingPoint West is here for you from beginning to end — if you’re struggling with it, we have solved it. We have an inventory of Trimble 3Dlaser scanning technologies and an experienced and certified support staff to help with survey training. We work to help you undergo a smooth transition into using new Trimble software and equipment. With over six decades of boots-on-the-ground experience, BuildingPoint West brings construction project management solutions to construction professionals.
Request a demo of our 3D laser scanning solutions or give us a call at (888) 434-8014 for additional information on how we can support your construction operations.