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Castle Need Updating? Try 3D Long Range Scanning

It’s the 13th century.  You have to add more wings to your castle to accommodate the manufacture of swords, halberds, pikes and other weapons (the times were a little dicey).  You summon your royal master builder and his team and they begin measuring using a long rope with knots placed every meter, calipers, wooden right angles, long wooden poles, and other sundry devices.  You’re in a hurry.  But they say measuring will take months before construction can begin.

Fast-forward eight centuries.  You own a bunch of manufacturing facilities that badly need a new material-conveying system.  You don’t have months, you have weeks. Ropes with knots are not going to do the job.  And neither will today’s surveying techniques – a slow, labor-intensive process.

Luckily the 21st century comes complete with long range scanning technology.

This is a ground-based technique that uses laser technology to collect high-density, 3D geospatial data from complex environments such as castles, factories, landscapes, and any other big structure and locations.  It’s fast and it’s flexible.

To survey the manufacturing facilities that needed the new conveying system, the scanning was provided by GKS Services.  The company used its 3D laser scanning technology – in this case a FARO Focus 3D, which produces highly, detailed three-dimensional images of the target environment in only minutes.

The client, a southeastern U.S. company that provides a variety of design and building services for large commercial, industrial and institutional projects, was in a hurry.  The company had only three weeks to install the conveying systems in large existing structures in nine widely separated sites.  The modifications would equip the structures with new capabilities that had to work without interfering with existing systems. 

It was a formidable project: the buildings and systems involved were huge; the distance between locations great; and the time constraints challenging.

GKS engineers, toting the small, light FARO Focus device quickly began scanning existing structures and conveyer systems.  Capturing detailed geographic information as well as the structures was essential to make sure that interference with the new installs would not occur.

For each of the scanning locations, the GKS engineers chose the optimal four places to completely gather the requisite 3D information to create a 3D model.  The process, including set up and scanning, took about a half day at each location.  Traditional surveyors would have needed two days at each site to produce a 2D footprint of the general dimensions of the structures involved.

The long-range laser scanning data is used to view the target areas in a virtual world.  The scanner measures 360 degrees by 320 degrees to a range of 120 meters in any one setup.  Accuracy is plus or minus 2mm to a distance of 25 meters away.  Scans can be taken anywhere at any time – in broad daylight, the dark of night, inside and out of doors. The raw output of long-range scanning is “point-cloud” data, which GKS uses as a reference to create a fully parametric file in almost any native format.  Scan data can be rendered in color – each measured XYZ coordinate is assigned an RGB color value.

The results of the GKS scan provided the contracting company with the detailed geospatial information required to generate a CAD model for comparison and/or reconstruction of each site. 

Each of the large onsite scans took about a half day with some site    completed in as little as three hours.  The scan data was processed and refined using software from Geomagic, which provides tools focused on 3D software and technology for design and engineering.  This eliminated extraneous data from the surrounds and focused on the specific areas that would be impacted by the new construction.  GKS delivered AutoCAD files to the company.  

A project of this size typically involves a turnaround time from scanning to deliverable files of one to two weeks, a timesavings of 60 percent when compared to the data gathering and processing time of traditional methods.  However, this was a rush job.  Full turnaround time for some of the sites was accomplished in as little as three or four days, saving up to 75 percent in data gathering and processing time.

Not only was the use of long range scanning technology able to solve the time-crunch problem (conventional survey methods could have taken weeks at each site), but also the resulting traditional models would have been in 2D with much less structural information and detail.  Plus, human error inevitably would make those measurements less accurate.

So, if your castle or your factory needs a retrofit, you might do well to call a long-range laser scanning company.  But you may have other requirements for this technology. It can be used for high-definition surveying in a variety of locations including construction sites, bridges, roadways and buildings.  It also works well in difficult situations where manual measurements are either impossible or hard to obtains to say the least – think of surveying a huge oil rig or poorly lit mines or tunnels. 

Marine ships and hull modeling is another useful application of the technology, as is meeting the need for fast and inexpensive drawings of power plants and petrochemical facilities.  In fact, one company providing 3D laser scanning services, Creaform, digitized the world’s longest airplane, a Jumbo 747-8, in just 18 hours.  Another happy FARO user is 3D Engineering Solutions , which provide 3D data collection services in the aerospace, nuclear, automotive and industrial markets.

And when you’re bidding your next job, if anyone shows up with a knotted rope and some calipers, show them the door. Despite a certain retro charm, that solution is so 13th century.



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