This week, FARO is holding its 3D Documentation Conference in Orlando, Fla. What is 3D documentation? Whether it is small objects, the insides of rooms or the façade of a building, 3D documentation refers to the planning, workflow and generation of documentation of things, completely, in 3D.

For many, 2D is just fine. Even in construction, many plans are generated with just 2.5D, i.e. 2D plans in reality but with enough data added to make it possible to construct a 3D object.

But thinking, planning, collecting and documenting in 3D is sometimes the only way to go. 3D point clouds may help provide the ability to see what something is really like. And when the fourth “D” of time is added, then the 3D documentation that is used to make those time-based observations possible becomes one of the best ways to analyze for, measure and report on changes. The precise shape of a car after an accident, the evolution of a structure as it is being constructed, the diurnal changes in a bridge as it flexes under the loads of its varying traffic patterns, the warming and cooling under the sun’s cycle and the lateral loads applied by winds are all examples of how 3D documentation supports data inquiries.

Of course, in FARO's case, 3D documentation involves data collection with laser scanning systems. The creation of dense point clouds requires mass collection devices that operate rapidly. Laser scanning, sonic scanning and aerial and terrestrial photogrammetry are all examples of how 3D data collection may be achieved. Surveyors using total stations or RTK GPS also measure point clouds, but these clouds are usually sparse, sampling points that the surveyor determines best represents the regeneration of the basic structure on paper or digital form. Those point clouds often cannot be used to do the types of analysis and representation that data from mass collection systems enable.

Working in 3D is not for everyone. But with today’s technology, anyone can enter the arena. Those who become experts at data management (collection, analysis, reporting) are the ones who stand to profit most.

For those looking to add another dimension to their professional services, 3D documentation—whether providing the documentation or providing support services for the creation of 3D documentation—can offer new opportunities.

Image: FARO 3D Documentation Conference website.