Faster, Better, Cheaper

April 27, 2011
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Tom Greaves (left) presents Dr. Bernd Becker, director of marketing and product management for FARO Technologies Inc., with the SPAR 2011 Distinguished Achievement Award. Becker’s team launched the Focus3D scanner (next picture) in 2010.


More than 800 attendees converged on the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, in March for the eighth annual SPAR International conference. The focus of the conference was all things 3D, from laser scanning and imaging to modeling, data management and a broad spectrum of applications. During his welcome address, Tom Greaves, managing director of SPAR Point Group, noted, “By sharing ideas, the faster, better and cheaper we can all do our work.” This theme was evident throughout the conference, both on the exhibit floor and in the many presentations and panels.

Greaves highlighted several examples of how technology is becoming faster, better and cheaper. He pointed out that the Trimble Indoor Mapping Solution (TIMMS) from Applanix was used to create a map of the entire conference hotel interior in just three hours. Additionally, mobile mapping went from mere speculation three years ago to 10 demo vehicle systems in 2011. And consumer-driven technologies like Kinect have had a huge impact on both the demand for 3D and ideas for how 3D imagery can be generated. Greaves honored Dr. Bernd Dietmar-Becker, director of marketing and product management for FARO Technologies Inc., with the SPAR 2011 Distinguished Achievement Award for his work advancing engineering and construction technology with the launch of the Focus3D scanner in 2010. This single development marked a 60 percent price drop in scanning technology in one year, Greaves said.

Brian Mathews, vice president of Autodesk Labs, said that the continued cost reductions in technology are leading to “democratization,” which will allow more firms to participate in the 3D realm. He also pointed out the related convergence of technology, such as the ability to create 3D models from 2D photographs. He identified five key trends in the 3D world: reality capture, cloud data, infinite computing, simulation and digital to analog. He invited the audience to imagine a time when computing and complexity will both be free--a time he says is rapidly approaching.

David Lafferty, a senior consultant with BP’s Information Technology and Services Chief Technology Office, noted that data is moving from silos to enterprise--another common theme that was evident throughout the conference. Providing easy access to data throughout an organization streamlines operations and substantially reduces rework. He said the demand for 3D in the industrial plant environment is increasing as more workers are exposed to the benefits.

Robert L. Green, PLS, a geodetic consultant with Vectors Inc. and a third-generation surveyor, highlighted a project in which he and his crew used spatial imaging (the Trimble VX Spatial Station) to conduct a geodetic and 3D scanning survey of a drug smuggling tunnel along the U.S.-Mexico border. “Innovation takes outside the box thinking,” he said. “Be innovative.”

The keynote session concluded with an informative presentation by Ruth Parsons, chief executive of Historic Scotland, who pointed out that laser scanning provides a wealth of information on how to conserve and manage historic properties. She said that highlighting practical applications--such as the ability to help buildings reduce emissions or help students learn about history--is key when dealing with budget restrictions.

Technical sessions were divided into a number of parallel tracks focused on industrial applications, new applications and technologies, mobile surveying, security planning and law enforcement, risk management, scan to BIM, the creation of national standards for infrastructure surveying, underwater measurement and other topics. One of the most practical sessions was a panel in which John M. Russo of Architectural Resource Consultants, Travis Reinke of SmartGeoMetrics and Carlos Velazquez of Epic Scan discussed using 3D as a marketing and recruitment tool. “Education is everything in our industry right now,” Velazquez said. “We need to share information with as many people as we can so that we can continue to develop the industry as a whole.”

The next SPAR International will take place April 15-18, 2012, at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott. For more information, visit www.sparpointgroup.com.

View a slideshow of photos from SPAR International 2011.

New Product Launches at SPAR international 2011

AVEVA launched AVEVA Laser Modeller, a software tool that rapidly and cost-effectively transforms laser scan data into intelligent, as-built 3D plant models. The software automates most aspects of the modeling process, producing a fully intelligent 3D model at a fraction of the time and cost of existing techniques. The software can accept scan data from any of the leading laser scanning vendors and directly generates 3D models to feed into a visual asset management strategy. For Brownfield projects using native PDMS component catalogues, the software delivers a fully intelligent PDMS model. (www.aveva.com)

ClearEdge3D released Edgewise Plant, a new software tool that automates the extraction of complex CAD geometry from 3D point cloud data and substantially reduces the amount of time required to create accurate as-built 3D plant models. The software uses smart algorithms to identify essential surfaces in a point cloud, discarding irrelevant data and extracting solid, accurate feature geometry. It eliminates the need to manually trace pipes, walls, joins, and other features, and can automatically process and extract hundreds of pipes (including centerlines), walls, structures, and other complex plant geometry in minutes. The extracted geometry can be exported via DXF into any CAD package for final modeling. Initial beta testers report that they have cut pipe modeling times by 50 to 90 percent using the software. (www.clearedge3d.com)

FODIS introduced FODIS Measure3D, a fast, high-resolution 360-degree panorama camera combined with innovative software packages that allows rapid, accurate and direct 3D measurement from RGB images. Measurements are provided as 3D point coordinates and 3D distances that are exported as text or .dxf files. The camera is engineered for maximum precision and reliability to provide a highly accurate pixel registration. Combined with advanced methods of camera calibration and new software algorithms, the system achieves an accuracy of 1 mm in 10 meters on average. (www.fodis.com).

IMAGINiT Technologies unveiled its Scan to BIM 2012 software for the Autodesk Revit 2012 platform. This new downloadable version is re-engineered specifically to support the new point cloud engine in Autodesk Revit 2012. Highly sought-after features such as the ability to create Revit geometry from the point cloud and analyze any differences between the user’s model and the point cloud provide users with improved productivity and quality assurance. Users can import point clouds directly into Revit, visualize them directly in Revit, and interact directly in Revit with automated recognition and placement of walls and openings, as well as pipes and ducts. (www.imaginit.com)

kubit launched PointSense Plant, an industry-specific solution for piping, plant and industrial facility design in AutoCAD. The software allows users involved in industrial facility design to use enormous data sets efficiently in CAD, use kubit tools for pattern recognizing assets from the cloud, and move directly into familiar AutoCAD based piping design programs (Plant 3D, MEP, CADWorx, AutoPlant, etc.). New features include a “Walk the Run” tool, which guides a user through a pipe run while recognizing accurate tie-in points for pipes, elbows and inline fittings. Users can import kubit’s provided catalogs, import their own or create custom objects from the cloud data for pattern recognition. Clash detection routines between the cloud data and the newly proposed design are also available without modeling. (www.kubitusa.com)

Velodyne LiDAR Inc. displayed its HDL-32E sensor technology. The HDL-32E is a small, lightweight and rugged sensor designed to meet the demand for 3D mapping applications and autonomous navigation. It features 32 lasers across a 40-degree vertical field of view (FOV) and generates 800,000 distance points per second. It measures 5.68 inches high by 3.4 inches wide and weighs 2.4 pounds. (www.velodynelidar.com)

Z+F UK Ltd. released LFM Server 4.0. The software allows users to access and work with pre-registered 3D scan data from a range of laser scanners and interfaces with CAD packages from Autodesk, AVEVA, Bentley, Intergraph and VR Context. New features include a ribbon-style interface that offers a new design, easy drag-and-drop features, and a new grid view that allows users to see up to four views simultaneously; an enhanced volume manager that allows complex regions in the 3D space to be selected for clear viewing; and BubbleView enhancements, including neighboring scan site maps, enhanced color support, inter-BubbleView measurement, point-plane measurement and a “quick detach” function. The CAD interface has been further enhanced to allow users to interface with the latest Revit for BIM applications. (www.lfm-software.com)

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