Eliminating Reverse Engineering from Scan-to-model Workflows

Very large point cloud models have for a long time died a slow death inside survey departments because the survey team wasnt quick to share the data and because the data was largely unusable within mainstream CAD applications without first reverse-engineering the points to generate new surface and solids geometry.

Thankfully, thats all changing for Southern California-based SPEC Services, Inc. a full-service engineering and project management firm due to their visionary approach to reusing point cloud data as-is. SPEC Services provides its clients with a full range of planning, engineering, design, and coordination services necessary to complete complex plant projects on time and on budget.

Historically, SPEC Services workflow for operations and maintenance would have required time to survey the environment with a 3D laser scanner. They required time to register the many scans and clean up the survey data and they required time to build a 3D model from the survey data for subsequent reuse. Ordinarily all of that time would cost money and someone would have to foot the bill. Either the client pays via increased fees and slower time-to-delivery or the consultant pays via reduced profits. Not an ideal situation for either party.

That was before SPEC Services discovered the high-performance point cloud software from Pointools. With Pointools installed on their PC desktops, high-value point cloud models can now be natively reused inside AutoCAD the same day the surveys are completed; lowering the time and cost barriers that previously restricted reuse.

By enabling engineers and owner operators to reuse the same point cloud model, the same day it was captured, inside any Pointools enabled application, SPEC Services wins on at least two levels:

First, reuse eliminates waste. Reverse engineering point cloud data into geometry for the sole purpose of reuse inside CAD applications wastes time and money. By reusing the native point cloud data via the Pointools Plug-in for AutoCAD, SPEC Services can deliver projects faster and cheaper.

Second, choice replaces compromise. Resourcing teams based on specialist software skills alone limits a firms ability to build the strongest team. By deploying Pointools software, SPEC Services can reuse point clouds inside the broadest range of CAD applications thus derestricting personnel and software choices.

For SPEC Services the gains are clear and are best explained through the images below. Image one shows a very detailed point cloud model of an existing plant. Take a look at this image. Look at the detail. Its not a photograph, its a point cloud captured by SPEC Services 3D Laser scanner.

This image perfectly reflects a type of project they regularly undertake for their clients. You see, SPEC Services does a lot of retrofit work on existing plant rooms. And there was a time not very long ago that they would scan the space, build a full 3D CAD model by reverse-engineering the point cloud, and then remove some of the new CAD model from view to clearly communicate the bits that need to be removed from the plant.

Only then would they model the new pipe runs per the design specification. Thats a whole lot of modelling to recreate the existing conditions that they dont get paid to do. And like any business, when they dont get paid to do something, the burden of cost eats away at their profits.

But with Pointools software installed their workflows has changed.

So now, using Pointools Edit, the team can very quickly select points representing the parts of the plant that will be removed (Image Two) and turn them off in view (Image Three). This immediately provides accurate, highly detailed context for modelling the new pipe runs.

Then using the Pointools Plug-in for AutoCAD, the SPEC Services team referenced the edited point cloud inside Plant 3D to model their new pipe runs accurately and quickly (Image Four).

Chris Todd, the Manager of the Mechanical Design Group at SPEC Services summed it up best Pointools has fundamentally changed the way we work. We can now complete projects faster and share the savings with our clients.

Thats when we know we have done our job well; when the whole project team benefits by compressing the schedule and reducing the costs without adversely affecting the various team members profits. Thats a win-win!