3D Laser Scanning FAQ’s

April 9, 2021

3D Laser Scanning FAQ’s


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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.


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