Menu of Reality Capture options

February 1, 2021

Menu of Reality Capture options


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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 owners seeking 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 models in 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.

About the Author

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.

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