When Aaron Morris, Ph.D., founder and president of Pittsburgh-based Allpoint Systems, launched Scan-time data collection and registration software in April 2012, his goal was to change the workflow of laser scanning. Instead of the traditional and time-consuming method of setting up targets and creating baselines to register multiple scans, Morris, through Scan-time, sought to enable registration that relies on existing features in the environment.
“When you’re documenting as-built conditions in buildings, for example, you need something that allows you to treat the scanning equipment like a photograph—you walk around and just start snapping away,” he says. “There’s no real setup, and if people walk by it’s not a big deal. It’s pivotal to create workflows that enable people to show up at the site and just start working.”
Scan-time exceeded his expectations. Firms that implemented the software reported a substantial time savings—often completing projects in half the time or even less compared to their previous target-based workflows. The software’s ability to merge multiple, independently collected datasets into the same project without any additional surveying or target setup further streamlined workflows.
But as Morris listened to the feedback on the software, he also heard something else. Firms using Scan-time wanted to be able to see any data collection problems, such as a lack of feature overlap, in real time in the field. “Scan-time is a tool that is only as good as the data that’s collected,” Morris says. “The software tells you when a registration is not good quality, so someone who is doing the registration can see as soon as the scan is in place that it wasn’t a good scan. But you have to be using it in the field if you want to take immediate benefit from that.”
Although the software debuted with a robotic platform that simultaneously scans and assesses the registration of the model as it’s being built, Morris wanted to make the process even easier. Using some of the technology from the robot, he created a smaller, portable package that can be used with any laser scanner to control the entire workflow at the touch of a button. The new solution, called FastTrack, is launching this week at SPAR Europe.
“The real advantage is that it’s reporting to the user how they’re doing with their collect,” Morris says. “It’s downloading, registering and assessing the quality of the model as data collection occurs.”
The cylindrical device comes with a platform base and clamp that can be attached to a dolly holding the laser scanner tripod. A laptop computer running Scan-time software is secured to the platform and connected to the FastTrack device, which uses a low-cost LiDAR system to track the position of the tripod as the scan technician moves it around on the jobsite. This location information initializes targetless registration of the data collected by the 3D scanner.
The FastTrack system weighs less than 10 pounds and includes a one-year subscription license to Scan-time. Although Morris wasn't ready to disclose the price of the system, he did say that he expects it to provide a rapid return on investment, particularly in BIM applications. In a demo at the Factory for Advanced Manufacturing Education Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, a FARO Focus3D scanner was used with Scan-time and FastTrack to collect and register 66 scan positions with more than 7 million XYZ RGB points in each scan. The entire process, from the first scan to final registration, took nine hours.
While the automation and speed are impressive, Morris emphasizes that the real benefit of the new system is much simpler. “That live feedback, the instruction that tells people how they’re doing, is something that is fundamentally missing from most laser scanning toolsets,” he says. “By providing that feedback, FastTrack allows an entry-level service provider to do a high-quality scan.”