Busted! 5 Myths About Working With Point Cloud Data

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I hear a lot of myths when talking to people about working with point cloud data. Most of the time they come from people that have never used point cloud data at all or have only used it once. While nearly all are understandable, most are not true. So here are some myths busted for your enjoyment.

But first, allow me to provide a little personal background which should assuage some concerns about the difficulty and learning curve involved in getting immersed in point clouds.

Starting out from High School as an Apprentice Sheetmetal worker I completed my apprenticeship in 2002 and, after a little over 12 months, moved on to the new challenge of running Laser Cutters. At the time, that required a move to Brisbane/Gold Coast, which lasted a little over 12 months. When I was offered the opportunity to take on a leading hand position by my previous employers I took it with both hands. Unfortunately the draw of the big city was too strong and I chose to move back to Brisbane to pursue a career in CAD/ CAM Programming. I quickly realised my real passion lay in the CAD side of the CAD/CAM Process and soon moved on to being a full time drafter. I completed my cert 3 in computer aided drafting in 2008 while working for an engineering consultancy. I was offered the opportunity to follow my true dream of working for myself, in the form of being a contract drafter on a mine site in 2012, an offer I couldn’t pass up.

For the last few years I have been working on a mine site in the Northern Territory as a permanent contractor in a FIFO role. In this time I have implemented CAD configurations and procedures to take full advantage of the software suite on site. As a result the drafting and modelling times have been reduced by approximately 75%. However with the site now moving from the Upgrade to the Production phase of their process the work began to slow down. So I made the decision to get on the front foot, get involved with the leading edge of upcoming technology and take the opportunity to grow my company by purchasing a Leica P30 High Definition Terrestrial Laser Scanner for reality capture and working with point clouds. Now, allow me to dispel some myths about working with point clouds.

Point cloud files are HUGE and unmanageable.
While the typical point cloud file from a terrestrial laser scanner is quite large in comparison to a word document, it is possible to get the file sizes down to very manageable sizes depending on what has been scanned and your requirements. Most of the software that works with point clouds has been optimised to work with the large files and as a result they are typically no worse to work with than any other large 3D model. In fact I have worked with some large 3D models that are FAR worse than working with large scan data sets.

You need a super computer to work with them.
While a fast computer helps when dealing with any kind of drafting and design work, this is really not true. We have had a medium size point cloud file working on an 8 year old, very low spec laptop before without issues. It is all about what you need and how the data is delivered to you. It can sometimes take a few goes to get the best results for your specific computer, but your scan service provider should work with you to achieve that.

You need expensive or special software to work with them.
If you are already working in drafting and design, in 99% of cases you are already working with software that will handle point cloud data. You may need to update the software to the latest version, but most major software companies incorporate point cloud data use natively already. Just talk to your service provider about getting the scan data in a format you can use. In the case that you don’t have software that works natively with point cloud data, it is possible to get some free viewers that will allow you to manipulate the data so you can view, take screen shots and take measurements.

Point clouds require a lot of training to get used to working with them.
While there is a small learning curve, it is quite sharp and not that painful. When we supply point cloud data to our clients we usually spend a few hours, to a day maximum, with them to show them the ropes and in most cases there isn’t even a requirement for a follow up phone call. Admittedly if you were left to your own devices to work it out it could take some time, but if you are in need of assistance in working with your scan data, give us a call and we can talk about organising a day training for you or your staff.

They are expensive to get done.
In most cases the majority of the jobs we do come in under $2000. And that will get you quite a large chunk of a facility scanned in very high detail. We did this Porsche scan the other day and it cost less than $300 to deliver the point cloud.

So I hope that dispels some of the myths about working with scan data for you. If you have any questions or other myths you have heard about working with scan data, please feel free to ask in the comments below or get in touch to discuss working out your point cloud problems.

For more information on 3D scanning services we provide have a look at our website and don’t forget to check the FAQ page. Also follow our Complete 3D Concepts LinkedIn page to keep up to date with what’s happening.

Josh Killalea, Director, Complete 3D Concepts, Email: josh@c3dc.net.au, Mobile: 0413 810 933

A 1.592Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE