Conference Recap: SPAR 2010

March 1, 2010
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A scan of the hottest new products and the latest trends that captured the attention of attendees.



More than 775 people from 32 countries registered to attend SPAR 2010 in Houston, February 8-10. Despite a historic Mid-Atlantic snowstorm that snarled travel along the East Coast, conference organizers reported that attendance was up more than 20 percent compared to the previous year.

Anticipating the positive attendance figures, equipment manufacturers and software developers were eager to tout their latest partnerships and product offerings. AVEVA and Z+F announced a stronger technical and commercial partnership focused on delivering new levels of integration and productivity between laser scanning, detailed design and asset management. The two companies are working together to transform the efficiency of producing intelligent 3D CAD models from laser data so that the time and cost of producing intelligent AVEVA PDMS 3D models can be drastically reduced. They also aim to allow high-definition, photo-realistic laser images to be quickly and easily hot-spotted, linked to other plant data and accessed over the web in AVEVA’s asset information management solution AVEVA NET. “’As-is’ 3D models are becoming a popular method [of managing assets]; however for many this is still not viable due to the time and costs involved creating ’as-is’ 3D models,” said Derek Middlemas, group operations director of AVEVA. “Working with Z+F, AVEVA will offer a solution which significantly reduces the time and cost of producing ’as-is’ 3D models, making 3D models accessible to all asset management programs."

Montage of scan points (orange), EdgeWise polygons (white), and Revit Model (blue). Courtesy of GSA

ClearEdge3D announced the availability of a downloadable trial version of its EdgeWise software, which automatically extracts editable 3D CAD models from ground-based laser-scan (LIDAR) data, along with the upcoming release of a 64-bit version of EdgeWise later this month. The company also highlighted several noteworthy applications of the software during SPAR 2010, including the development of a Revit building information model (BIM) of the Chicago Federal Center by Ghafari Associates LLC. Ghafari’s laser scanning teams used a Leica 6000 phase-based scanner to collect 500 scans. As the scan data came in from the field, it was first registered using Leica Cyclone. Next, EdgeWise was used to automatically extract rectilinear, Revit-friendly .dxf polygons from the point clouds. These polygons were directly imported into Revit, skipping an entire manual modeling step that was traditionally one of the most time-consuming processes associated with scan-to-Revit modeling. Once these EdgeWise polygons were in Revit, the modelers could then either adjust their existing models (from the 2D plans) or build new features directly on top of the EdgeWise polygons. Finally, NavisWorks was used to validate the resulting Revit model against the point cloud. “EdgeWise allowed our team to significantly improve point cloud to Revit data and work flow efficiencies,” said Bob Mauck, Ghafari Associates. “The EdgeWise polygons from the 500 scans gave our team a quick way to create surfaces and model only what was needed-when it was needed-to support design-side delivery dates.”

Sonia Delgadillo, senior applications specialist at COADE, presented a technical seminar on how to easily build intelligent, specification-driven 3D plant models from laser scan data within the unified AutoCAD environment. The seminar addressed how the same 3D model can be used to automatically create deliverables such as fabrication isometrics, plans, sections, elevations and complete bills of material. Delgadillo also gave a a demonstration of the time-saving bidirectional link between CADWorx plant design and CAESAR II for pipe stress analysis along with CADWorx fieldpipe for Leica CloudWorx, which was developed for the back-office creation of accurate as-builts from point cloud data.

FARO Technologies Inc. announced the April 2010 release of FARO Scene 4.7, the latest version of its scan processing software for the FARO Laser Scanner. The new Scene 4.7 features more efficient point cloud handling and visualization due to the new 64-bit architecture, which extends the usable memory. The new version also incorporates “one-click” Web-share functionality. Scanned images can now be put on the Internet, thus enabling industries such as architecture, engineering and law enforcement to share scan information with customers, suppliers and partners without the need of additional software. The Web-share functionality is natively built into the FARO Scene 4.7 software, no additional software is required to publish the scan data on the web. The new software will be delivered with every FARO Laser Scanner, and current users of a 4.X version of the software will be provided with a free upgrade.

Leica Geosystems HDS and INOVx announced a partnership to jointly develop advanced software for converting laser scan data into intelligent plant models. Integrated products will be based on Leica Cyclone software and INOVx RealityLINx software. Availability of the first integrated products is planned for the second quarter of 2010.

3D Laser Mapping highlighted the portable version of its StreetMapper mobile mapping system, developed in conjunction with German guidance and navigation specialist IGI mbH and technology company Riegl, along with recent deliveries of the StreetMapper system in China and Lithuania. In China, the device has already been used for high precision mapping of the Peking University Campus, 3D modeling of road tunnels in Beijing and highway surveying for road construction and network planning. Operated by Tecdawn HT and its partner, Eastdawn IT, the StreetMapper system, was also used as part of a project to assess, analyze and manage public safety and security ahead of the 11th National Games of the Peoples Republic of China. In Lithuania, the State Enterprise Transport and Road Research Institute’s Road Survey Division is using the system to help evaluate the condition of the road network, plan road repair and reconstruction projects and provide additional information for economic justification of proposed works.

Topcon’s IP-S2 mobile mapping system coupled with the Velodyne HDL-64E S2 high-definition LiDAR scanner.

Mobile mapping was a major attraction during the conference, with numerous systems on display outside the convention center. Among these was Topcon’s IP-S2 mobile mapping system coupled with the Velodyne HDL-64E S2 high-definition LiDAR scanner. This combination offers dual-frequency GPS and Glonass tracking; a high-performance, six-axis MEMs-based IMU; vehicle odometry and tracking information from dual external wheel encoders; a 360-degree horizontal field of view and 26.8-degree vertical field of view; a user-selectable 5 to 20 Hz scan rate; the ability to generate more than 1.3 million points per second of high-accuracy, high-density information; and up to 120 meters of range.

Riegl's VMX-250 mobile scanning system offers high performance in a compact design.

In addition, Riegl showcased its VMX-250 mobile scanning system. First introduced at the INTERGEO Exhibition in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2009, the VMX-250 has now entered commercial production and is available to be shipped worldwide. The system consists of two Riegl VQ-250 “full circle” laser scanners, which combined can achieve 600,000 measurements per second, enabling an extremely fast, efficient and highly accurate 3D mapping of highways, streets, railroads and other areas. The system configuration includes the latest modular IMU/GPS unit for an extremely lightweight, compact design. (The unit at SPAR was installed on a small car.) The technology’s echo signal digitization and online waveform analysis capabilities reportedly provide excellent multi-target detection, even of 3D data of objects that are obscured by fences or vegetation. According to Jim Van Rens, president of Riegl USA, the technology is the first all-digital scanner on the market. "The integrated data acquisition, calibration, and processing and georeferencing software combined with the completeness of information provided by the system offers substantial time savings in post processing," Van Rens said, indicating that a 1:1 field/office time ratio is achievable.

While the mobile mapping equipment was impressive, attendees noted that software development in general continues to lag. “It appears that the focus is primarily on modeling and surfacing instead of on analysis and processing, which is where development is needed,” said Clay Wygant of WHPacific, one of the early adopters of mobile mapping technology. “I know of some firms that are piecing together 11 or 12 different programs to produce their deliverables, but it really shouldn’t be that complicated. There are still a lot of opportunities for improvement.”

John Russo, AIA, president and CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based Architectural Resource Consultants, said that he noticed a substantial amount of lingering skepticism about mobile scanning in general. However, both Wygant and Russo believe that additional success stories will help spur technology improvements and open new markets.

The Scan to BIM track with its focus on real applications was one of the most talked-about sessions of the conference. The GSA is driving many BIM laser scanning projects, but a number of architecture, engineering and design firms are also paving the way. Other areas of interest included scanning for transportation and infrastructure, historic preservation, and industrial applications.

"The technology is advancing so fast, yet it is never fast enough,” noted Russo. “The consensus seems to be that more needs to happen to automate the post processing of scan data.”


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