5 Misconceptions about 3D Laser Scanning

3D laser scanning is a powerful asset for the AEC industry. But the utilization is lower than it should be based on some common misconceptions rooted in out-of-date information. Technology is moving the AEC industry forward, and you may not be able to afford to ignore it in the future. If you’re not using scanning because you think it can’t work for your organization, read the common misconceptions about scanning below and learn about why they are no longer a factor.

1. It’s too expensive.

As technology continues to advance, the cost barrier to using laser scanning is getting smaller and smaller. While the cost of scanning has decreased, the most significant cost advantage of using scanning is the ability to reduce total expenses of a project. Using laser scanning helps cut down on rework and improves overall project accuracy. Depending on the needs of your organization, either outsourcing your scanning needs to a service provider or purchasing the equipment to keep scanning in-house may be more economical in the long-term.

2. It’s only suitable for large construction firms.

Scanning can be useful for projects and organizations of all sizes. As the costs associated with scanning projects decrease, it is becoming more accessible to smaller firms and more economical for smaller projects. While large firms may invest in a collection of high-end scanners to complete scans in-house on all projects, a smaller firm may invest in fewer or less-advanced scanners. They may also choose to engage a third-party service provider for scanning projects on a case-by-case basis. Either way, scanning can be very useful to smaller firms with smaller-scale projects.

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3. Every point cloud is the same, no matter how it is created.

The quality of the point cloud data is impacted by many factors—most obviously, the quality of the equipment used. Not all scanners are created equal, and better scanners can capture data more accurately. Additionally, an expert in 3D laser scanning will be able to determine what resolution should be used and how many scans to complete in a space to capture all the necessary data accurately.

4. An expensive model must be created for the scanned data to be useful.

Modeling costs can be high and even comprise a significant portion of the overall cost of a scanning project. High costs for modeling can be avoided in a couple of ways. First, when engaging a scanning project, your first instinct may be to have everything modeled. That is, however, often unnecessary and wasteful. For example, you may really only need certain areas or aspects modeled. Only modeling the parts of the point cloud that are needed can significantly decrease the time and money spent on a project. Second, you may be able to get all the data you need directly from the point cloud data with no modeling necessary.

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5. Laser scanning isn’t accurate enough for complex projects.

With the improvements made to laser scanning technology over time, the accuracy of scanning has actually surpassed traditional measurement methods. In an interview with Construction Dive, Andrew Graham, a Leo A Daly associate and architect, discussed a current project that replaced outdated utility and infrastructure components with a modern MEP system. What made this particular project difficult? The entire exterior and 90% of the interior of the building in question is listed on the National Historic Register. Graham said, “To be successful in meeting those needs, we can’t just go out there with measuring tapes and pencils. The level of error when you are laser scanning is incredibly minute over hundreds of feet and captures existing surfaces conditions to an incredible level of accuracy.”

Have you had any other misconceptions challenged during a scanning project? Tell us about what you’ve learned in the comments below.

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