3D Laser Scanning: The Next Step Toward Greater Accuracy, Productivity and Profitability

Today’s 3D laser scanners are easy to use, provide visibility into site conditions and as-builts, increase safety, reduce downtime, enable collaboration and coordination, and connect field to office.
By David Burczyk
August 14, 2020

Whether working on a new build or a renovation, the ability to understand site conditions and existing as-built structures is key to a project’s success. Having access to complete and accurate project information can eliminate the risk of costly rework and schedule and budget overruns. In addition, the ability to recognize and resolve potential issues before construction begins is even more critical.

The use of 3D laser scanning can help address many of these issues, however many traditional scanning solutions weren’t designed for the specific challenges faced every day in construction. Instead, traditional scanning solutions were developed for long-range or geospatial projects, making them more expensive than required for many common construction applications. Scanners designed for surveyors can also be more complicated to use, which means either outsourcing the work to service providers or adding a specialized technician to the construction team.

No matter whether it’s a service provider or technician that does the scanning, it can be difficult to schedule their time or to ensure that they’re getting all of the data needed the first time. If any rescans are required, it can cause delays in the schedule. In fact, sometimes teams will budget extra time for remeasuring because they just assume that they’ll need it.

Fortunately, modern 3D laser scanning technology provides increased value by informing construction plans and providing valuable as-built data before, during and after projects. With today’s computers offering incredible storage and processing speed, along with unprecedented mobility at a very low price point, the modern commercial grade professional 3D laser scanners used in the construction industry today offer scan detail and options that were unheard of just a few years ago.

These 3D scanning tools simplify workflows and can instantly and accurately collect comprehensive measurement data for construction jobsite measurement and pre-construction processes, making it easy for professionals with little or no scanning experience to capture precise 3D scanning data that can be easily consumed by project teams and project owners.

There are several benefits of using modern 3D laser scanners.

Open up scanning to a range of users and workflows

New 3D scanners and scanning software are simple and intuitive enough to learn and use, with only minimal training. This allows a range of stakeholders and specialty contractors to take advantage of 3D scanning and incorporate it into their workflows. Because the learning curve isn’t a burden, they can also cross-train more of their current workforce to do scanning, helping them get the most out of their workers and improve productivity.

Gain visibility into existing site conditions and as-builts

Scan, model and layout data can be viewed together and compared in real time. Scan data can be incorporated with other building information modeling (BIM) software to enable quick, on-the-spot decision making and problem solving. Having access to thorough, reliable, accurate data about site conditions reduces the chance of costly rework. In addition, scanning the work that has been done and documenting exactly where electrical wires and plumbing is before drywall covers it up, can be useful information for future reference.

Increased safety

Using a 3D laser scanner helps users collect exact measurements remotely and unobtrusively so that they don't need to climb ladders or block busy corridors. It also allows them to capture data in areas that may be potentially hazardous for contractors to navigate.

Reduce downtime and maintenance concerns

Auto-calibration not only ensures greater data accuracy, it also eliminates downtime and reduces the need for lengthy maintenance. When the scanner can be used more often for more projects, it ends up lowering the total cost of ownership while boosting productivity as well.

Enable greater collaboration

It’s easier for stakeholders to collaborate and coordinate efforts when everyone can access and view the same site conditions and as-built information. Scanning lets users call attention to potential concerns before they turn into problems and work together to address them.

Connect the field to the office

After the scan is complete, the worker can leave the jobsite with a registered composite point cloud so they know they’ve captured all of the data needed, eliminating the need to rescan or cause disruptions to the schedule. Features like in-field referencing tie collected scan data to real-world coordinates in the field, providing greater visibility to off-site teams.

To realize the full benefits of 3D laser scanning for construction, it needs to be available and accessible to a wide variety of project teams to enable accurate data collection, faster decision making, and better collaboration.

As hardware continues to improve, 3D laser scanning will become faster, more accurate and more affordable. The adoption of modern 3D laser scanners, along with the hardware and software supporting them, will continue to grow as lower prices and market growth uncover new and exciting ways to use this powerful technology.

by David Burczyk

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