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As Technology Changes, the Construction Industry Must Follow Suit

As technology changes and we, as a society, become more aware of our environmental impact, the construction industry is quickly evolving to keep up with the changing landscape. 

Matt Wheelis

Building Construction Segment Manager – NAFTA Region, Leica Geosystems, Part of Hexagon

In your opinion, why is 3D imaging laser scanning noted to be the number one technology to have the an impact on the construction industry in the coming year? 

Construction is a dynamic environment: multiple crews are working at the same time, materials are being delivered and stored, and the jobsite conditions change daily. The ability to capture conditions at a given point in time accurately in 3D enables you to maximize productivity by giving you accurate data for measuring, making decisions, designing and validating work without physically being on the site. Reality capture with 3D laser scanning is a proven way to keep projects on schedule, reduce rework and increase safety. Until recently, 3D laser scanning was used only in special circumstances because of its perceived cost and complexity. However, with the democratization of 3D laser scanning technology through both hardware and software advances, the ability to capture point clouds with 3D laser scanning is now accessible to everyone.

From your own experience, what is the most significant benefit of using 3D imaging laser scanning for construction endeavors?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, an accurate point cloud from a 3D laser scan is worth a thousand pictures. The depth of understanding that comes from the 3D experience is invaluable. For example, Maxwell Construction Co. recently took a quick 30 minutes to scan the plumbing pipes in a restaurant construction project. When they overlaid those scans on the drawings, they were easily able to see that some of the pipes were in the wrong place and correct the problem before it affected the construction schedule. This is a workflow that in the past would have been reserved for only large, complex projects; the democratization of 3D laser scanning technology has made these benefits accessible to projects of every scale.

The point cloud data from a high-quality laser scanner is so comprehensive that it provides the team with details all the way down to the bolt patterns on steel pipe fittings. It provides the opportunity to create a virtual walkthrough with the ability to measure from the point cloud. The point cloud can also be used to create paths with the correct clearances to bring prefabricated assemblies into the site or to remove large equipment from the site once construction is complete. The information is invaluable.

What is the biggest obstacle holding the industry back from implementing this technology on every construction project?  

Until recently, 3D laser scanning was perceived as too complex and/or too costly to use in most construction projects. However, technology advances combined with an increasing demand for accurate point clouds are driving new levels of adoption among general contractors and construction firms.

What can the industry do to overcome this industry challenge?

Remaining successful in today’s dynamic construction industry requires staying informed about the latest technology advances, evaluating technology based on real-world performance and making wise investments in solutions that keep data digital throughout the process, so you can streamline operations. It’s imperative to choose the right solution for the task at hand. Working closely with a technology provider that has a solid reputation along with knowledgeable experts on staff can help guide decisions and support successful outcomes.

What is one question that every construction professional should be asking their provider of 3D imaging laser scanning solutions before investing in this technology?

“Will this solution provide the level of accuracy I need in real-world projects along with an easy field-to-finish workflow and reliable, knowledgeable support?”

With the vast array of options available on the market for 3D laser scanning, choosing the right solution can be challenging. You need to make sure that your personnel will be able to operate the technology and extract value. Working with a trusted solutions provider that has an extensive history of innovation and support can help you move forward with confidence and maximize your success.

What advice would you give to construction professionals looking to get the most out of their 3D imaging laser scanning solutions?

Solutions are available to fit every company and project, from compact instruments that provide simple one-button reality capture and integrate seamlessly with AEC software, to professional-grade scanners that capture high quality data and HDR imaging at a range of more than 1 kilometer, and everything in between. Be sure to spend the time up front to understand your requirements and project needs. Do you primarily work indoors or outdoors? Do you need to capture at a distance, or are you primarily working at close range? Do you need to capture data in an area where extreme heat or cold or other weather conditions could be a factor? Do you need a solution that is fully integrated with CAD/BIM, or a standalone? The answers to these questions will help guide you toward the right solution

Can you describe the correlation between 3D imaging laser scanning solutions and the exciting career opportunities within the construction industry?

The digital transformation occurring in the construction industry is creating a host of new opportunities for individuals who are willing to push the boundaries of technology and explore new applications. As more construction firms use building information modeling, or BIM, to identify problems before they happen and facilitate more complete building systems integration, they require accurate and complete documentation to connect the real world with the digital world. As a result, new roles are also being created for professionals at all levels who can understand and work with point clouds and create and manipulate 3D environments, including virtual and augmented reality. As the industry adopts 3D laser scanning and applies it in innovative ways, new opportunities will continue to emerge.

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