EdgeWise Plant 2.0 Review

A 809Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

Having been an early adopter of 3D Laser Scanning (3DLS), it comes as a great relief when I see the increasing software options that are available today. In 2003 when I started performing laser scans with a Leica HDS 2500, the software options were minimal and the design industry was very slow to adopt this new technology. Anyone that has been utilizing 3DLS for more than five years can remember how cumbersome it could be to get the data from the point cloud into a CADD platform.

I think most laser scanning service providers would agree that the last five years have seen a major improvement in hardware, software and data-interoperability. The days of the one size fits all software has given way to a variety of options that are tailored to meet specific needs. These boutique software products have led to great improvements in production and deliverable options allowing 3DLS to evolve into a widely used tool instead of a specialty item.

EdgeWise Plant 2.0, produced by ClearEdge 3D, is software designed to automate the extraction of pipes from point clouds. It is the closest thing to that "push of a button" software that management is always looking for. Anyone who has ever manually modeled a plant has at many times thought, "Why can’t this be more automated" or my favorite, "How , come the two ends of this pipe don’t meet in the middle?" After spending a number of hours testing the software, I was amazed at how much it reduced the manual workload, and allowed my time to be focused on the finished product.

When I was asked to review this software for LiDAR News, I was really looking forward to its release. The team at ClearEdge had processed a point cloud for me a couple of years ago using their Building software. Having seen what that product could do, I had to give Plant a try; after all, there is a huge difference between flat surfaces and pipes running throughout a plant or facility.

The limited focus of Plant 2.0 is its strength. The developers have designed a simple straight forward user interface. This approach allows the user to focus on the task at hand without getting lost in a string of pull-down menus. The entire process of starting a project by importing the point cloud data is very direct and easy, drastically reducing any learning curve. This software allows for the importing of most of the common LiDAR formats on the market today, adding to its flexibility. The performance of the software during the import and classification processes seemed to on target with today’s point cloud engines.

I found the classification of the objects, points, ground surface and pipes to be very interesting. My first thought was why am I creating all of these separate files, it did not take long to appreciate their value. The separate models allow the software to optimize the available tools as well as the data that it has to query while performing an operation. While in the pipe model you only have access to the pipes and associated tools, which really simplifies the operation. While joining pipes, the software will only identify pipe objects. While working in a large plant database, the ability to focus on a single type of data leads to greatly reduced efforts by staff and increased accuracy in modeling.

Plant 2.0, being focused on piping is one of the most direct point and shoot software products that I have used to date. The ability to easily connect pipe runs is simple and efficient. The software allows you to select two pipes and connect them with intelligence. If the two objects are an exact match, they are connected, even if an elbow is required. I was especially impressed with the way the software could identify and place reducers, non-standard elbows and some other custom piping that other software will not do without a lot of manual manipulation. After the initial classification and connections are complete, the software will also allow you to normalize pipe sizes, helping to increase the accuracy of the modeled object. The algorithms behind plant 2.0 do a pretty amazing job sorting piping from other objects in the point cloud, I did not find any hangers, or other non-piping objects identified as pipes. In my test point cloud, the only problem occurred when the corrugated ceiling sections were interpreted, quite accurately I would note, as a series of small diameter pipes.

The overall user interface is very well designed, panning and moving throughout the point cloud was very smooth, although any outside noise in the point cloud needs to be cleaned prior to importing. I think the addition of some view tabs, top, right, left etc., would be a nice addition to the interface. I ran the demo version of Plant 2.0 at home on an average desktop computer and I did not experience any hardware related issues, leading to me to believe that the software is very computer friendly and will not require any major upgrades to run smoothly. In speaking with ClearEdge, I was also told about a couple of functions that were not available on the version that I had, the main one being a progress bar. The progress bar is a very important feature when working with large datasets, and I am sure will be a welcome addition to the software.

Plant 2.0 is able to export the final pipe models in most of the popular formats. I was able to use the data in Cyclone to complete the modeling work. As stated earlier, there is still modeling work to be done once in your final software platform, but this product was able to automate a lot of the heavy lifting up front. The reduction in man hours associated with the base modeling would definitely free up staff to work on other projects or tasks, allowing the focus to be on the final deliverable. From my experience with this dataset I would estimate that about 75% of the project was completed within Plant 2.0 (50% automated, 25% manual pipe connections), greatly reducing technician time on the overall project.

Jody Lounsbury, PLS is the 3D Laser Scanning Section Manager at CHA. He has been involved in all aspects of 3D Laser Scanning since 2003, and has completed a wide variety of projects utilizing both Phase Base and Time of flight laser scanners.

A 809Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE