More and more construction management companies are making digitization a priority. While the AEC industry has been slow to adopt new technology, the industry today is ripe for digital disruption. One of the ways to digitize a project is through reality capture. A digital strategy begins with reality modeling, which is the process of creating a digital context by capturing existing conditions of a site or asset in 3D. The workflow is not limited to any specific professional area and it can be used by designers, engineers, owners, contractors, and fabricators.
What is reality capture?
It is a photogrammetry software solution that helps with creating 3D models from photographs or laser scans to produce images or 3D point clouds. A point cloud is a set of data points in some coordinate system, containing X, Y, and Z coordinates and can also contain RGB (color) values for each point.
The point cloud data can be imported into photogrammetry software, such as Autodesk ReCap. ReCap allows users to create an accurate 3D model within a few minutes. It also has some time-saving features like automatically removing common but unnecessary analogous objects, such as people, vehicles, etc.
Autodesk ReCap or similar software can use scanned data from a variety of sources but is primarily implemented to process laser scan data and digital photographic data to create as-built 3D models that can be used in an authoring software, including Revit.
The scan data which will typically be in the file format native to the company that produces the scanner, like Leica or Faro, is imported into ReCap or similar software. These raw scan files can be imported with a variety of settings that can be altered such as noise, distance from the camera, intensity range which in turn alters the number of points that are imported. This process is also known as indexing. Indexing helps with organizing 3D scan data, turning regions on and off, choose from different color and lighting models to study surfaces, heights, reflectivity, etc. to get a realistic context of the 3D model.
State of the Industry
The cost for hardware has decreased and the software to process, view and share the data has become very powerful in the last few years. The cost of a good laser scanner has dropped to a level where the Return on Investment is just a few projects. The affordable cost is probably one of the key drivers as to why more and companies are investing in it. Reality capture adoption among AEC users is projected to increase specifically as the AEC market moves into cloud-based services which overcome the constraints and limitations of the local hardware and networks.
The software to process the point cloud and make the data consumable has become accessible for the common user. Many software companies in the AEC sector have invested highly in handling and managing laser scanning data. Autodesk has been one of these companies which has improved their point cloud capabilities throughout their software suite.
From a workflow standpoint, it will be important to think through what the end goal of scanning is. Is the end goal to use the point cloud for construction coordination or is the end goal to create 3D geometry from point cloud? There could also be more advanced workflow desired such as construction verification and scan-to-AR and scan-to-VR practices. It will be best to start with own requirements, understand the project needs and determine which workflow works best, be it laser scanning, UAV or photogrammetry.