U.S. Navy Sees Big Savings From 3D Laser Scanning

US Navy Photo Illustration

The U.S. Navy is making a big commitment to the latest in 3D technology including laser scanning and virtual/augmented reality. In a recent article in USNI News a detailed recap of some of the latest technology and its application documents how in one case a $50,000 investment in 3D laser scanning equipment saved the Navy almost $2 million during the planning an refueling of the USS George Washington. A small team replaced the usual 20-person survey team.

If you have ever been lucky enough to be on a working Navy ship (I was on a fast attack nuclear submarine and a guided missile frigate) then you know that every cubic inch of space has some function. The ability of laser scanning to capture an accurate 3D model of the as-is conditions has tremendous value.

Capt. John Markowicz, the in-service carrier program manager said, “Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility are beginning to embrace this technology, which could spread to the other two public shipyards to support submarine maintenance activities too, and Newport News Shipbuilding is “all in” on the private sector side.”

Siemens PLM Illustration

Combine this with the use of  AR/VR and the opportunities for the young people in the Navy are tremendous. It is great to see it being applied by the military.

At Newport News Shipbuilding VR goggles were used while laying pipes and cables which cut the required man-hours in half. They are also using tablets that can use VR to show where something should be installed.

Click here for more details.


Posted in 3D Modeling, artifical perception, artificial intelligence, Augmented reality, computer vision, Construction, Government, Indoor Mapping, Inspection, military, Quality, Research, virtual reality | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

3D Scanning a Roller Coaster

Roller coaster installation and maintenance is serious business. Borrowing from The Perfectionists tolerances are tight especially when you take into account the speed of travel and the forces involved.

For the past 35 years, Dr. Masoud Sanayei, a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University, has conducted research on structural health monitoring of bridges and other structures. By using instruments such as strain gauges, accelerometers, tiltmeters, thermocouples, optical sensors, and various data acquisition systems, he is able to collect, measure, and process information that enables him to comprehensively evaluate the condition of these structures.

In order to perform his finite element analysis on the roller coaster Dr. Sanayei needed a detailed 3D model of the structure. Since the CAD model did not exist East Coast Metrology was called in to perform a detailed as-found survey of the structure. All of the components from the foundation up were documented. In addition a FARO Edge Portable CMM Arm was used to more accurately capture high stress areas.

A complete 3D solid model was created including the point clouds and images. The preliminary analysis indicates that the stresses are far below those that would indicate any kind of problem.

For additional information click here.


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Happy 4th of July!

For those of us who celebrate Independence Day – Happy 4th of July.

They are using a combination of laser scanning and structure from motion to monitor rock falls in Yosemite where these are a daily occurrence and people lose their lives in the worst case scenarios.

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The History of Precision

If you are in the measurement business, as most of us are, then you are going to want to carve out some time to read The Perfectionists – How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World, by Simon Winchester. It will take some persistence in places as the author can be very detailed about the mechanics, or the physics, but each time you will be rewarded by a following section, like the inside history of the development of GPS. This has to be the authoritative source on the development of precision throughout the annals of history.

Unfortunately there is no mention of lidar, but I think that is because lidar was not about advancing the state of the art in precision manufacturing.

There were a number of situations where the inventor came up with the breakthrough idea, such as the chronometer, but the technology, particularly in terms of the required precision of parts fitting together was just not possible to achieve. In some cases the manufacturing process itself had to be invented along with the machines and the tools required to make the parts.

The incredible genius and creativity of the inventors who refused to take no for answer is on display throughout the book. I think this still exists in the medical industry, but I am not sure about manufacturing. In the case of semiconductors we are literally down to a single atom in some cases – Moore’s Law may have a few more years, but that is likely to be the end.

It was the steam engine that Winchester credits with the main catalyst of the precision race – getting the main piston to stop leaking required tight tolerances, not so much accuracy in the early days. But as the automobile industry grew the need for standards of measurement became increasingly important.

No more so than in the case of the jet engine which took more than ten years to develop. With only one moving part you would think it would be simple to build, but the temperatures required incredibly creative cooling methods and tolerances.

In the end it turns out that time becomes the most important quantity. Today, it is used as the standard for all the other units of measure because physical objects cannot be trusted – only the frequency of molecules. The meter, after a tortuous ordeal is now defined by frequency, the inverse of time.

You will have a much deeper appreciation for precision and accuracy after reading this book.

Posted in Education, Government, Metrology, Quality, Research, Standards, Technology, The Industry | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

New Apple Maps

Apple is investing heavily in developing their own map database. They will eventually phase out their use of third party data providers. In the process they intend to create the best map app in the world.

“Since we introduced this six years ago — we won’t rehash all the issues we’ve had when we introduced it — we’ve done a huge investment in getting the map up to par,” says Apple SVP Eddy Cue, who now owns Apple Maps, in an interview last week. “When we launched, a lot of it was all about directions and getting to a certain place. Finding the place and getting directions to that place. We’ve done a huge investment of making millions of changes, adding millions of locations, updating the map and changing the map more frequently. All of those things over the past six years.”

Apple has built their own data collection vans. They are combining high resolution image data from the vans and satellites with 3D point clouds as well as panoramic images. They are using semantic segmentation and Lambertian Networks to analyze all of the data.

Apple is also building a toolkit so that human editors can make those final changes that can only be done in person. The editor’s suite will allow the human editors to make Apple Maps smarter about the last 50 feet of the journey.

The first release will be a preview of the San Francisco area in the next week.

Click here for more details.

Posted in 3D Modeling, artifical perception, artificial intelligence, computer vision, Consumer, Data, Mapping, Mobile LiDAR, smart cities | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Automating A Highway Sign Inventory with Mobile Lidar

Before we get started today, I have a favor to ask. Could you please take 1 minute to take this one question survey ranking your preferred information sources. Click here and thank you. Stay tuned for the results.


In the spring of 2018, TREKK Design Group, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, documented signs along 94 interstate miles and 41 miles of ramps and cross streets using mobile LiDAR with the use of semi-automated sign identification methods coupled with HD images for FHWA/MUTCD compliance. The sign inventory documented the location, reference point (mile station), survey date, designation (MUTCD Code), type (flat or reinforced Panel), description, size, post type and spacing, height from roadway, distance from roadway and shoulder width.

“GIS has been an excellent tool to check the data in the inventory we are creating with developing semi-automated processing,” explained TREKK Transportation Engineer, Allison Bruner. “Because everything is geo-linked, GIS allows us to look at the data fields, location, and nearest collected photo to verify that the software classified the sign correctly.”

Since 2002, TREKK has been helping clients inventory their assets, determine their current condition, identify failure modes, rate risk levels, prioritize and establish maintenance plans and develop long-term funding strategies through GIS. A more complete data base with mobile LiDAR capture leads to efficient municipal and government spending and accountability with a safer workflow.

“It’s exciting to see how machine learning technology, when partnered with LiDAR, can expedite inventory processes,“ said TREKK Project Coordinator Kristen Wenzel, who is responsible for GIS quality control and analysis. We have been able to extract and process 5177 signs with information pertaining to each sign, as well as a 360-degree photo attachment that will help the client plan sign removals, anticipate monetary budget, and develop a systematic approach to inventory the sign.”

To learn more click here.

Posted in 3D Modeling, AI, artificial intelligence, computer vision, Data, GIS, Government, machine learning, Mapping, Mobile LiDAR, Quality, remote sensing, Research, smart cities, Software, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

2D Scanning vs. 3D Scanning

When did people start scanning the floor plans of buildings? If you said the early 2,000’s then you are at about 10 years too late. Wait, how is that possible? The first Cyrax was released in the late 1,990’s. Well, I did say “scanning the floor plans.”

You have to work with me here a little bit, but the scanning I am referring to in the question is 2D document scanning. Actually the first image scanner was announced in 1957. It could scan a total of 5 square centimeters. It was in the early 1990’s that flatbed scanners became widely available for the scanning of paper plans and blueprints.

It’s ironic that the same term has come into use for two completely different technologies that are being used to essentially solve the same problem. Namely to create a digital record of the facility, albeit in the case of 2D document scanning it’s a raster image while in laser scanning it’s a 3D point cloud.

Document scanning was a breakthrough, but it was just a digital picture of a 2D plan. Laser scanning sparked a revolution in that it captured the real world in 3D

I was doing some work on the early days of computer aided facilities management – CAFM or the shorter version, FM this week when it hit me that we started using scanning in the early 1990’s to build the 2D CAFM databases. It was the only option, unless you wanted to measure the entire building. In fact scanning was an important driver of the adoption of FM, but in general it never really caught on in part because it was 2D and it was so expensive to capture the as-found conditions.

Enter building information modeling, or BIM with its intelligent database of 3D objects and laser scanning with its ability to capture in high detail the 3D as-found conditions and although there seems to be from some quick searches an FM industry out there, I think it is fair to say that the future is BIM for operations and maintenance.


Posted in BIM, Technology | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

3DEP Program Moving to LAZ

In support of ongoing efforts to provide efficient, cloud ready, open data formats for the use of lidar data, the USGS National Geospatial Program and its associated 3D Elevation Program is transitioning all of its lidar data distribution files to LAZ format by September 30, 2018.

The USGS is making this change because LAZ is an open source, directly accessible, ready-to-use format that also provides significant compression. By switching to LAZ, USGS will reduce costs associated with production, storage, and distribution. Because it allows processing directly in the cloud, the LAZ format also supports the USGS future direction to provide access to 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) lidar data in the Amazon S3 Cloud. Further, LAZ files can be loaded directly into many commonly used GIS software packages without the need to decompress the files. The binary files and source code for LAZ are open source and freely available to the public.

Currently, the NGP serves all lidar point clouds in the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing “LASer” (LAS) format… After the transition is complete, all duplicate LAS data will be removed from distribution in fiscal year 2019.

Note that some users will need to decompress LAZ files to LAS files if their software does not support LAZ format. This process is comparable to decompressing ZIP to LAS. Decompression can be done using the free laszip software, located at laszip.org.

The goal of the USGS 3D Elevation Program is to systematically collect three-dimensional (3D) elevation data in the form of high-quality light detection and ranging (lidar) data for the conterminous United States, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories; and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IfSAR) data for Alaska, where cloud cover and remote terrain limit lidar acquisition.

Lidar Data Access

USGS 3DEP lidar data access is provided through the National Map Data Download and Visualization Services web page. This web page helps users easily find the variety of resources available to get maps, download GIS data, visualize and analyze data on the web, or access developer tools, such as APIs and map services.

Questions or feedback regarding any of these changes can be submitted to tnm_help@usgs.gov

Posted in 3D Modeling, airborne LiDAR, Cloud, Data, Government, Mapping, Orgs, Software, Standards | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geospatial Data Visualization at West Point

If you want to learn about a real world application of augmented/virtual reality be sure you check out the full article by the same title on Lidar News. Matt O’Banion and his team of West Point researchers are working on an advanced visualization workspace that facilitates the immersive evaluation and exploitation of three-dimensional (3D) geospatial data. Currently, the workspace provides both an Augmented Reality Sandtable (ARES) and a Geospatial Virtually Immersive Evaluation Workstation (GeoVIEW 3D).

Matt also referred me to an interesting website – Potree which is a free open-source WebGL based point cloud renderer for large point clouds, developed at the Institute of Computer Graphics and Algorithms, TU Wien.

He sent me this example – Use Chrome or Firefox


Congrats to Matt and his team for putting this all together in the relatively short amount of time that he has been there. I am making a trip there in the next few months to see all of this in person and will provide an update.


Posted in 3D Modeling, Augmented reality, computer vision, Mapping, military, remote sensing, Research, Software, Surveying Engineering, virtual reality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laser Scanning Solves Piping Problems

From the FARO 3D Blog

Rodney Roebuck, CEO of Roebuck Contracting, has been in the industry for 27 years and got his start in the HVAC and piping industry. In that time, he’s seen numerous innovations come to light — including building automation, CAD, and BIM — and more traditional methods of work fall by the wayside.

Roebuck Contracting’s most recent project is the installation of an air-cooled chiller and the replacement of several 20-year-old air handling units and pad-mounted condensers at a training facility campus just outside of Atlanta. Made up of numerous buildings, the campus already has one building being serviced by an air-cooled chiller.

The goal of the new chiller installation is to configure the pipe and valve arrangements so as to offer a level of redundancy to the existing air-cooled machine, as well as replace the low SEER-rated equipment with a higher efficiency method of cooling two other buildings.

Roebuck was directed to design the chilled water system and route the piping in the most economical and aesthetically-pleasing way possible. However, Roebuck’s client for the project didn’t have an accurate up-to-date set of drawings for the two buildings.

That’s when the FARO FocusM 70 Laser Scanner came into play.
“The scanner has been used as the first boots-on-the-ground for this modeling project,” Roebuck says. “The inside and outside of the buildings have been scanned, including ceiling plenums. The processing and registration of the scans have been completed, and the Autodesk® ReCapTM; file is linked into the Revit® project.”

Roebuck used the PointSense software to create the topography for the Revit® Site Plan. He then moves the point cloud to match elevations if he didn’t scan with the GPS on. Once the elevation is correct, other levels such as tops of walls, slab heights, and roofs are set, and he then rotates the cloud to the “Project North” that he wants to draw in. After enough PointSense Construction Points are created to suit the project, he lets PointSense build the topography with its Topo Surface command.

One of the biggest challenges of the project was the routing of chilled water lines from where the new chiller was located to the new chilled water air handlers, which were located just a few hundred feet away.

Roebuck’s initial discussions with his customer had the piping going through the plenums of both buildings to be served by the chiller. However, once the site was scanned and the plenum spaces were assessed, they realized that the piping would have to run externally to the building. The biggest problem being that there were I-beams and ducts that would have made the pipe runs both difficult and expensive.

Not only did the laser scanner help provide the necessary steps to get the piping supports built, but it also cut down the time needed to complete the project. “The data acquired through the use of the laser scanner improved our modeling accuracy and efficiency and saved weeks of labor in field measuring time. All of the scanning necessary to model the project took about 20 hours” he says.

To read more click here.

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