Conference Review: SPAR 2006 New Ideas, New Product

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A slew of new products, a wealth of case studies and a slug of rich technical content were served up at SPAR 2006 in Sugar Land, Texas. Attendees from 20 countries representing organizations ranging from oil and gas, petrochemical, civil, transportation and building infrastructure to law enforcement, academic and research institutions and others came to exchange best practices and to challenge equipment manufacturers, software developers and service providers to advance the industry. The mood of conference participants reflected a newfound confidence in the value delivered by these technologies. Registrations topped 427, up a healthy 16% from 2005.

The market for capturing, documenting and managing existing conditions data with advanced dimensional control and 3D laser scanning solutions which is served by the SPAR conference is enjoyed 40% plus growth in 2005 according to Spar Point Research, the conference organizer. Keynote presentations from Marathon Oil Corporation (Norway), the U.S. Geological Survey, the FBI, Turner Construction and others addressed not only the cost, schedule, quality and safety values delivered by these new technologies but the often thorny issues of whether or not to outsource the work, the state of integration with CAD and GIS systems, new methods for survey control and data registration and emerging standards for evaluating system performance, data exchange and laser safety. The needs of construction companies for timely access to captured data to meet schedule imperatives were addressed by several presenters. Some industry experts see this as a high value application in the near future.

One of the conference highlights was a talk given by University of Calgary professor Dr. Matthew Tait on the current state of the science of point cloud data registration which was followed by an interactive clinic on principles and best practices for point cloud data registration and survey control. Tait is well regarded in the industry not only for his scientific contributions but because his research is ballasted by considerable field experience. Some of Tait’s students have gone on to establish successful laser scanning service businesses.

Tad Fry, Manager of Engineering, Engineering Services Group, Brewing Operations & Technology, AnheuserBusch, Inc., received the SPAR 2006 Distinguished Achievement award. Fry was recognized for his contributions to advancing the use of laser scanning and dimensional control technologies. Fry joins Jacobs Engineering Group’s Kirk Knorr on the roster of Spar Point Research’s Distinguished Achievement award winners.

Here’s a short summary of what the twenty exhibitors were showing:
FARO Technologies introduced its new LS 420 laser scanner priced at $64,900 with range of 20 meters, 120,000 points/second. LS 420 is a modular high-speed, phase-shift-based scanning device with a reported +/-3mm accuracy in averaging mode. Visitors to the FARO booth were also drawn to the company’s Laser ScanArm, an integrated laser scanner/ portable CMM. FARO also introduced six software applications targeted at the needs of the process industry, architecture, heritage preservation, forensic, tunneling and large product design. These applications, which will ship in early May, were developed with industry partners including ATS, BitWyse, Geomagic and INOVx. Models developed with INOVx’s 3-D PlantLINx software can be exported to AutoCAD and MicroStation as well as plant design applications from AVEVA and Intergraph. FARO provides binary file access to its scanner data to both INOVx and BitWyse for its process and power industry solutions.

I-SiTE, a first-time exhibitor headquartered in Australia with field offices in Denver, CO and elsewhere around the globe, has been supplying its long-range, time-of-flight scanners in the US for the past 18 months. Much of the company’s focus is on mining and other geotechnical applications. Peter Johnson, I-SiTE’s general manager who traveled from Australia to join the conference, reported the company’s 4400LR scanner was recently rated to 700m range at 80% reflectivity. John Dolan, business unit manager for North America, demonstrated I-SiTE software focused on forensic applications.

Leica Geosystems HDS announced the release of Leica CloudWorx 1.0 for AVEVA PDMS. This product allows users to use point cloud data within native PDMS and specifically supports PDMS measuring tools and clash detection. Priced at $3995 for a node-locked license (slightly more for a floating license), CloudWorx for PDMS is now shipping. Ken Mooyman, head of Leica’s laser scanning business unit, attended the conference we plan to interview him in the very near future to get his views on where the market is headed in general and Leica’s direction in particular. The company also demonstrated fieldDesigner and fieldPipe the total station-based solutions that operate inside AutoCAD. Alas and alack, no sign of COADE, on top of which fieldPipe works.

Riegl USA, headquartered in Orlando, FL, provides a suite of timeof-flight long-range scanner solutions. The LMS-Z420i has a rated range of 1 km (80% reflective target). Riegl USA champions dynamic scanning, i.e., scanning from moving platforms including boats, ground vehicles, and fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft combining multiple sensors including GPS, inertial measurement units (IMU) and digital photography.

Trimble, 20 years in the laser scanning business through its MENSI acquisition, demonstrated its GX time-of-flight scanner. The company aims squarely at delivering surveyor-friendly solutions with what is to our knowledge the industry’s only scanner with level compensation, and its RealWorks Survey software. The mission is to make laser scanning accessible to anyone who can conduct a total station survey. Trimble customer Olcun Tan, Atlantic Streamline, delivered a presentation on How and Why 3D Laser Scanning is Being Used in the Movie Industry.

Tom Greaves is Managing Partner of Spar Point Research LLC in Danvers, Massachusetts.

Laser Scanning Tech Showcase
All the manufacturers either announced the products below at the (SPAR) show or have since. The scanners below are some of the latest and greatest on the market, visit their website for more information:

Riegl LMS Z390
The Riegl LMS Z390 terrestrial laser scanning system consists of a highly accurate and fast 3D scanner, associated operating and processing software RiScan Pro and a calibrated and definitely oriented high resolution digital camera. The system provides data which lends itself to automatic or semi-automatic processing. The combination of the Scanner, Software and Camera results in: automatic generation of high resolution of textured meshes; photorealistic 3D construction; exact identification of details; automatic generation of 3D orthophotos; online position and distance measurements; online setting of any virtual point of view; and complete export to CAD packages.

Leica ScanStation
Leica Geosystems recently introduced the ScanStation, the first 3D laser scanner with four "core" total station features, offering easier operation, increased field & office productivity, and greater flexibility for as-built and topographical surveys. The ScanStation incorporates these four fundamental total station features ones that surveyors would never consider "doing without" in a total station – to define a new category of laser scanner: full field-of view (FOV); survey-grade dual-axis tilt compensation for traversing and re-sectioning; survey-grade accuracy for each measurement; and excellent useful measuring range.

I-Site 4400LR
The I-SiTE 4400LR continues I-SiTE’s tradition of innovation, combining all the benefits of our advanced multi-sensor laser scanners with the increased measurement range (up to 700m) required for the biggest scanning projects. I-SiTE scanners were the first surveyor friendly scanners, and this is extended in the latest model with the inclusion of our high precision alignment telescope, tilt compensator, and integration with standard survey work flow and external data such as GPS. The inclusion of a built-in high resolution (37Megapixel) panoramic digital camera makes the I-SiTE 4400LR a complete laser scanning imaging system. The high resolution image is automatically rendered over the 3D point cloud in I-SiTE Studio software, providing users with the added advantage of visualizing a scene in detail.

FARO Laser Scanner LS
The FARO Laser Scanner LS can capture more than 7 million points in under a minute. One scan has typically 28 million 3-D pixels. The 360 horizontal and 320 vertical LS has a 3 mm linearity error at 10 m. With a few setups, an entire 3-D image is created complete with a color overlay for true visualization. Other exclusive features include an internal CPU and hard drive that records scans without the need for an external computer or laptop. Also unique to the LS is a very accurate inclination sensor that simplifies the camera’s orientation in space. Fewer targets need to be surveyed and used in registration, which reduces cost and time by more than one third. The LS is completely modular, and a defective module can be quickly exchanged even on-site. The FARO Scene software is used to control the scanner operation, view, measure and analyze the scanned data. FARO Scene is also used to process the data, recognize objects and connect to a CAD system.

Trimble GX 3D
The Trimble GXTM 3D Scanner is the first of its kind to offer a true surveying workflow. Portable, versatile, userfriendly, and robust, the Trimble GX thinks like a surveyor. The Trimble GX adapts to each surveying job’s unique needs and can combine with Trimble GNSS and optical sensors as part of an Integrated Surveying solution. The complete Trimble 3D scanning solution increases your efficiency in traditional applications, and open doors to new business opportunities. Features include electronic leveling just like a total station, and setups that typically take less than five minutes.

A 1.334Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE