3D Laser Scanning for Design

Jim BaldingTechnology, The InformANT

Leica BLK306

Where are your drawings?

What homeowner keeps a copy of their as-built drawings on hand? Almost no one, it seems. Over the years, as properties are bought and sold, official records and documentation scatter. Most owners of production-built homes have never seen any plans at all. Surprisingly, as-builts for commercial buildings can be just as tough to come by.

So what happens when owners want to expand, remodel, or renovate? Back in the early days of The ANT Group, we had to go out and measure—yes, using a tape measure, pad, and pencil. Not only was this a big-time commitment, but details were easy to miss.

It was embarrassing to forget a critical piece of information, have to arrange a new time to visit, and drive back out to meet again. Even when I started carrying a laptop computer with me to take down the information, reproducing as-builts for projects was still a frustrating exercise.

3D Laser Scanning: A Worthwhile Investment

A few years ago, we bought at Leica Disto D5, a digital laser distance meter that made the measuring process far simpler. Like a lot of the other technology we use, it was an investment meant to save us valuable time. We save between two and four hours on each property we measure and return visits are almost never necessary.

When we remodeled the Newport Rib Company in 2010, we had experimented with getting 3D laser scans. The data was great and we were hooked on the time savings. The problem we ran into was the investment. The equipment was over $140,000 and the stitching of the files together was not a small sum either.

Leica BLK360 & Ed Tallmadge

This year, Leica came out with the BLK360, a 3D imaging scanner system that will revolutionize the process of documenting any existing built environment. Not only does it capture a high-res spherical photograph of anything in sight, but it also creates a point cloud integral to producing accurate building information models.

As it is with any new technology, the BLK360 isn’t cheap. It’s a $15,900 investment that The ANT Group isn’t quite ready to make. Instead, we’re contracting with Ed Tallmadge, of Carlsbad, CA, who provides the 3D laser scanning services to architects, engineers, and builders up and down the West Coast.

Working with the model produced by the BLK360 is awesome. We’re using data from a scan of a private residence right now. Ceilings throughout the building are all kinds of varying heights, including slopes and exposed beams. Measuring that project with the old laser distance meter, let alone with a tape measure, would have been incredibly time-intensive. It’s great to work within a virtual copy of the existing space that’s captured quickly and true to life.

(click the images below to enlarge)

Leica BLK306

Download a Copy of the Point Cloud

Plans are in the works to use the BLK360 on several upcoming projects. We look forward to reporting on our progress as we move forward. We would also like to share a sample of this data with you. We scanned The ANT Group offices and have cropped out the building we call the Casita. You can access the scan data here (note: the zip file is 3.3GB). Check it out and let us know if you have any questions or feedback!

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