The Business of Laser Scanning: The Hell You Can’t

A 258Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

All too often I come in contact with someone in the 3D imaging business who is overly excited about some new hardware or software technology that’s the next greatest thing. They proclaim that the new product is going to "revolutionize our industry," or make obsolete whatever it is you’re currently using. But when I ask them how they plan on making money with the latest/greatest invention I either get a blank stare, or "…not sure, but we’ll figure it out."

It seems there are a lot of people who see themselves as visionaries, or even (one of my favorite) "technologists," in our space, but who can’t figure out how to make money with existing technology, yet they are always ready to jump to the next new thing.

In my experience as someone who’s not a visionary, or technologist, but I am a businessman, I’d suggest that if you’re not making a minimum of 15% profit against revenue the only person you can blame is the person in the mirror. The fact is there’s profit opportunity out there in so many vertical markets it would be a challenge to list them all. You can make money. There is profit. You can be successful.

How do I know? Because at its fundamental core, the 3d imaging business is based upon these simple facts:
1. 3d imaging is about measurement and accurate visual communication, not technology
2. 3d imaging remains a highly underpenetrated market
3. It works. The data capture–if/when done correctly–really does work

For those of you who think you’re in the laser scanning business, or photogrammetric data capture business, I would argue that’s simply not the case. I would suggest that you are in the measurement, visual communication, or digitizing business…and it’s the tools you use to complete the mission that leverage ongoing developments in technology. It’s those tools that are adding efficiency to your client’s current workflows.

I challenge you at your next client meeting to not talk about scanning or modeling at all, but instead talk about how great you are at measurement. Get crazy and talk about how much money you saved someone on another job that’s similar to the one you’re looking at. Then ask your client how they measure `stuff’ and once you peel back how much it costs them to complete that mission, you now have someone listening to your story. And, yes, maybe hiring you for the job.

Market Penetration
If you take all the opportunity in just one market–I’ll choose BIM for this example–we’re still under a 10% market usage of 3d imaging. Unfortunately we choose to all attack the same piece of opportunity because we’re told by the guy who sold us the scanner or one of the software vendors that we should play in that space. So we look at websites, usually our competitors, and seek out ideas on how we can go after the same opportunities while convincing ourselves that we can do it better.

We need to wake up and realize how many other markets exist out there for 3d measurement! Then we need to build a plan (which most reading this don’t have) on how to penetrate that market(s).

By definition, the lack of existing market penetration creates an opportunity for you to become an expert in one or two spaces where you can hold margins…and make money. 3d imaging has years to progress before it becomes commoditized.

It’s the Indian, not the Arrow
Laser scanning, photogrammetry, 3d printing, structured light, etc. all work…and work very well in a variety of applications. Furthermore, many software companies have helped us by providing the integration of 3d data with their platforms. If you know what you’re doing, and don’t promise something you can’t produce, you’re in fantastic shape.

Most of the businesses that bought into 3d imaging technology are screwing it up. You have an exceptional opportunity to set yourself apart from your competition if you use the right approach when marketing and selling your services.

Ken Smerz is the President of President/ CEO of Eco3d ( a service provider that travels throughout the nation working with A/E/C and forensic clients. He can be reached at with any questions or comments you might have.

A 258Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE