A sales chart for the FARO Focus3D laser scanner looks a bit like a sketch of Mount Everest: two years of dynamic growth, with the peak out of sight somewhere up in the clouds.
In 2012, FARO expanded its reach in the surveying market by establishing strategic partnerships with Trimble (evidenced with the launch of Trimble’s TX5 laser scanner) and Topcon Europe Positioning. The company also improved the Focus3D hardware by adding features such as additional sensors, a height meter and a compass for increased automation and improved orientation, as well as a WiFi connection that allows users to control the instrument from a distance.
“Users want to push a button and have all of the scans automatically oriented and registered with floor plans,” explained Dr. Bernd Becker, FARO’s chief technology strategist. “We want to reduce the post processing effort to zero.”
To that end, the company has also been working on software. SCENE 5.1, released in November, cuts processing time by as much as half through advanced feature recognition and easier registration. It also allows users to create orthophotos from scan data for easier viewing and manipulation of the resulting point clouds.
Although these features are impressive, FARO acknowledges that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. “(With laser scanning), you can scan literally everything that’s around you,” said Oliver Bürkler, technical product manager. “The challenge is that you then need appropriate software to create the deliverables that the client can use, and there the range is infinite. So we rely on third-party providers to deliver additional software tools for our data. Beginning with SCENE 5.0, software developers now even have the ability to write plug-ins that can run inside the SCENE software, so they don’t have to deal with the data management or visualization of 3D point cloud data; they can focus on developing solutions for specific applications.”
The FARO 3D App Center, launched in December, is a logical extension of this initiative. Current offerings include the stand-alone SCENECT app, which provides the ability to create point clouds with inexpensive Microsoft Kinect or ASUS Xtion Pro Live hardware, as well as plug-ins for area measurement and registration reporting. Bürkler expects the list to grow as new software solutions are developed. “Our aim is to provide affordable, simple 3D use tools that do exactly the job the user needs,” he said. “The App Center is a channel, and we want to give people an easy way to extend their range of solutions.”
Is FARO working on new technology disruptions for 2013? Becker and Bürkler wouldn’t say. Becker did note, however, that the company is continually focused on increasing the range, accuracy and productivity of its tools. With 3D Documentation user meetings scheduled for Singapore in April 2013, Strasbourg (France) in June and the U.S. in the fall, FARO is almost certain to have some new development around the corner.
“We want to continue improving our product as much as possible and give value to our customers,” Becker said.