By Mark Concannon, Executive Vice President, Hexagon Geosystems
Since it was first adopted, Building Information Modelling (BIM) has helped optimise construction processes, improve information management and pushed the industry from 2D towards generating accurate 3D replicas of any given site or space. These digital records, far from having one single use, can be leveraged to update existing floor plans, resolve structural issues or even design entire new spaces. Regardless of the objective, reality capture technology has always played an important role in the entire process.
Reality capture technology allows real-world locations to be instantly captured at an immense level of detail, making it visible to other team members as well as stored for future reference – including for the benefit of other third parties that will later be involved in the build life-cycle. Throughout the years BIM has always been supported by this geospatial technology – from GPS to photogrammetry – which has helped keep an accurate record of construction projects both large and small.
With the rapid growth of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) solutions, professionals were able to take the reality capture process one step further and create digital twins of spaces within minutes thanks to laser scanners, with millions of data points being recorded every second. However, in today’s landscape, LiDAR is far from a new technology.
The current true breakthrough comes from its integration into handheld mobile laser scanning devices and its combination with new innovations like Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), which provides spatial awareness and records where the device has been in order to accurately follow its user’s trajectory.
A growing demand for more accessible, mobile and time-effective solutions has led to the launch of devices capable of capturing instant 3D analytics while their user is in motion. A perfect example is the Leica BLK2GO imaging laser scanner which combines SLAM and the smallest dual axis LiDAR to be able to scan up to 700,000 points per second and provides real-time insights into any building or construction site. Its combination of dual axis LiDAR, multi-camera vision system and an inertial measurement unit which enables self-navigation, is what we’re now referring to as “Grand SLAM”.
At Leica Geosystems we’re championing a move towards autonomous solutions that can bring both onsite efficiency and productivity. The Leica RTC360 3D laser scanner is an example of this as a solution that’s already being used in the construction space. As with the BLK2GO, the RTC360 features edge computing which means positioning is kept up to date even when the scanner is moved between two points or different locations on a construction site. Scans can later be combined or stitched together in a highly autonomous way.
According to a 2016 report by McKinsey on construction’s digital future, LiDAR technology had already proven to be faster than other conventional measurement technologies by providing high-quality 3D images that could be integrated with project-planning tools, such as BIM. However, since then there has been a significant evolution with its integration with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and handheld platforms, which include handheld 3D laser scanners under 10 kg like the BLK2GO.
This leap has enabled today’s contractors to become fully mobile, deploy the latest digital-collaboration and field-mobility solutions, digitise entire spaces in minutes as well as acquire and process data using purpose-built registration applications. Despite these advancements, McKinsey also revealed the construction industry has only seen a 1% increase in productivity over the past two decades. It’s in this context that solutions that are capable of speeding-up the reality capture process, improving efficiency and helping bring teams together will immediately have an impact on how the entire industry moves forward in the decades to come.
Real-time insights captured by reality capture technology must translate into real-time actionable assets. Simple, user-specific software applications such as the Leica Cyclone FIELD 360 automatically registers scans in real-time, in the field while Leica Cyclone REGISTER 360 integrates the 3D data seamlessly into a given workflow.
Furthermore, by collecting this detailed 3D data during the construction phase, projects can capture comprehensive and accurate visual information of critical infrastructure such as hidden building services & piping systems. This key visualisation provides details on the state, location and positioning of the infrastructure, its related assets and can help when planning for routine maintenance as well as structural modifications in the future.
In the short and long-term, mobile handheld reality capture technology will greatly improve the construction industry’s efficiency. Reducing the time spent on site will inevitably help professionals be more purposeful in their daily tasks and ultimately elevate the end use and possibilities of BIM.