Scanning Technology Improves Accuracy, Efficiency, Cost

Aug. 8, 2016
Machines like the Leica Scanstation P40 and iStar panoramic camera make it easier to plan for conduits, saving time and money on new projects.

Technology continues to revolutionize operations for the Planning Design Prefabrication (PDP) team at Interstates, benefiting forward-thinking clients at the same time. The Leica Scanstation P40 has been making the rounds over the past several months. A laser scanner able to scan the 3D geometry of civil infrastructures, the P40 creates an as-built representation of large industry complexes and generates 3D data for integration into building information modeling (BIM). This technology allows the PDP team to take measuring and modeling to new levels of accuracy and efficiency in order to save time and money on projects.

Scanner technology is cutting-edge, but not overly complicated. It uses lasers to determine the distance and shape of objects, creating an image from the data that is returned to the scanner. This gives us a highly accurate image of the area we’re scanning, ultimately creating a model. The model is then used to verify measurements, allow off-site employees visual access to a site that might be hundreds of miles away, and aid in drafting and fabricating conduit. Customers dedicated to embracing technology that increases accuracy and takes labor off-site can use these models to hasten job schedules and reduce costs.

Interstates also recently purchased an iStar panoramic camera, which captures a 360-degree image in about 5 seconds, allowing us to apply color to scans. Though the P40 scanner has the same capability, it takes much longer than this external camera does. The other option is for a scan only with no images, which either renders in gray scale or a hue intensity color map. The hue intensity map relies on the amount of the laser that is absorbed or reflected by the object scanned, which is affected by a few factors, mainly the color of the object. The images we take are rendered over the scan, replacing the hue intensity with the color from the image and creating a point cloud with the real-life colors of the area scanned.

Life before the 3D scanner looked much different. Planners would go to a site and be there for weeks, taking measurements on paper. They would return and manually enter all the data in order to begin drafting and routing conduit. This process allowed too many opportunities for mistakes to occur. With the scanner, all that potential for error is eliminated, and the entire process can be completed in a fraction of the time.

Having a complete and correct as-built documentation benefits the customer, the planners, and everyone else involved on a project. We can match the scans with the model in our drafting software, allowing planners to see the facility as it is and know whether the new equipment they’re drawing will fit with existing equipment. They can verify their conduit routes in the point cloud, making sure the route is clear of any obstructions. This makes it much easier to complete prefabrication quickly and correctly, minimizing rework in the field and saving money for the client. Rework can be a serious problem if the prefabrication is done incorrectly or incompletely, resulting in extra costs in time and money.

In the past year, Interstates has made great strides on the technological front, investing to ensure we have the latest innovations and can better serve our customers. This focus has yielded extremely positive results so far, even converting some reluctant, long-time field leaders into technology believers. Customers who prioritize technological advances will inevitably glean the benefits of scanning, BIM, and the cost savings within.

Dustin Geissert is with Interstates Control Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. See Interstates’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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