The AutoCAD Point Cloud Tool Set

As the Operations Manager of a 3d imaging service provider (Precision 3d Scanning), a large amount of my time is spent figuring out the most efficient and effective deliverable for my clients. Most of the time there’s some level of a point cloud/model hybrid that fits the mold. Too often I find a technically advanced client who would love to use point clouds, but cant get the signoff for plug-in software that would enable usability in their native modeling package.

We have another challenge in the service provider world: our clients come in all shapes and sizes. When youre involved with such a diverse tool, you build a diverse client base. With a diverse client base you get an amazing array of software platforms that you need to take into consideration when finding that "efficient and effective" deliverable. Even though were looking at a veritable forest of target platforms, there is one common tree that makes up the lions share Autodesks AutoCAD. Not to say Bentley isnt doing amazing things natively, I just dont run into as wide a variety of clients using it.

This brings me to the point of the article; I want to share our experience using the latest version of ACADs point cloud tool set and leave you with the ability to empower your clients to get more from the cloud. Having a reasonable level of native capability wont make you a competitor in the service provider arena but it just might be what your client needs to make that cloud a must have on all their projects.

I surveyed some of my top performing technicians to get a rundown of their opinions, mixed it with feedback from our clients throughout the nation along with my own experience and came up with a quick list of take away points for using the ACAD 2013 tool set.


  • 2013 converts a wider variety of file formats into PCG (ACAD native); these include FLS, FWS, XYB, XYZ, TXT, ASC, LAS, PTG, PTS PTX CLR and CL3.
  • PCG conversion supports a batch process and runs in the background (doesnt tie up an expensive license during the process).
  • Heres a big one: point cloud clipping is now native.
  • Point cloud is now treated more like an X-ref; you can scale, move and load/unload it.

Limitations / Wish list:

  • Polyline clipping only works from a top down perspective, this limits its use.
  • Converting PCG backwards takes away intensity values.
  • Selection is difficult; it would be useful if there was an option to make the point cloud unelectable while leaving the clipping box selectable only.
  • A meshing function would be useful.
  • It would be nice if the livesection tool used for models would also work on the point cloud.
  • The ability to create a section of a defined thickness and move it along a user selected path.
  • What happened to the feature extraction from the Labs demo!?

You might think that ACAD has had the ability to bring in a PCG for a few years now. With a free add-on like Kubits importer you can bring just about any file type in, so whats the big deal? The biggest improvement, based on the feedback Ive received, is the sectioning ability. In previous versions you were limited to the cloud as is. This left us creating PCG files that were pre-cropped and pre-sectioned. In order to make a file that the client could use meant we also had to dig into technical details of their business. How much data can a typical setup at their office handle? Do we need to limit the PCG files to 50MB? Believe it or not, not everyone has the latest Intel i7 liquid cooled and paired with as much RAM as they can fit into the unit; dont even start on the graphics card and raid array hard drives! These ACAD tools simply let you focus on doing what you do best: performing high quality laser scans and processing complex deliverables that the clients wont even want to touch.

Keep in mind, everyones workflow is different and while these functions are useful they may need to be paired with a free viewer like FAROs SceneLT and Webshare or Leicas TrueView to really show the client that there is a huge benefit.

This article was based off of opinions gathered by users and wed love to hear yours. Please leave a comment if you have a different perspective!

About the Author

Ted Mort

Ted Mort: Operations Manager of Precision 3D Scanning, incorporates his diverse background in geomatics, computer science and construction to propel 3d imaging into the forefront of applied measurement in AEC. Mr. Mort has worked with renowned clients to successfully integrate advanced technology into their work flows.
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