Reality capture plays an essential role in optimizing on-site projects

Technology has grown rapidly in the field of capturing reality in recent years.

The use of laser scanners has increased in particular, with the growing popularity of versatile mobile scanners in many industries. That was the message from Jon Tough, Director of Technology at Engineering and Inspection Services (EIS), during a A webinar recently presented jointly with BIC Magazine.

Reality capture is described as the use of hardware and software to create 3D environments outside of infrastructure or terrain. Laser scanning is a form of reality capture that has gained popularity in recent years, according to Tav. Technology is becoming increasingly more prevalent as COVID “accelerates things,” and the requirements for remote work have been pushed across all industries.

“This is how we got to the current situation where we have multiple tools,” Taff explained.

There are five main types of reality capture devices: light detectors and meter arrays (LiDAR), ground scanners, handheld scanners, virtual tour imaging, and drone/aerial capture devices. Each type has its own unique functions and outcomes, according to Tav.

Taff said gauge-grade LiDAR scanners are “typically used for reverse engineering, partial validation, and inspection of pipelines or vessels.” While accuracy is the best feature of a LiDAR scanner, ground-based scanners are often set up on a tripod and have an accuracy of eight to sixteenths of an inch.

Mobile scanners are ideal for scanning large areas such as industrial facilities, buildings, streets, bridges, and other infrastructure. The latest portable scanner models feature an over-the-shoulder device with a screen placed in front of the technician to view and verify the capture as it happens in real time. The only drawback that handheld scanners versus land-based scanners have is accuracy, with a mobile phone resolution approaching a quarter of an inch.

According to Tav, mobile scanners offer the kind of “more street view from Google” through the site. “For most clients, this is good enough for their purposes with a focus on digitizing the site,” Taff added.

Despite their accuracy, current models of mobile scanners are five to 10 times faster than land-based scanners and have the potential to produce more images, which can “help save time and money, while producing a really powerful virtual site walkthrough as one would expect from a twin Digital “.

Virtual tour imaging scanners are not technically laser scanners, but panoramic imaging devices. However, the resolution of the images produced is high, and they are often used to display real estate listings.

Unlike the first four examples, drones/antennas are used to capture reality from above. The advantage of this type is the ability to capture large areas in a short period of time.

There are safety benefits to laser scanners, too. Laser scanners can help reduce exposure to hazardous field items such as areas that are obscured by liberated items or overhead work, such as scaffolding and other temporary equipment. Eliminating delays due to weather or additional site visits is another efficiency created through the use of laser scanning.

Other advantages include providing images through a web viewer. Modern cloud-based software enables easy storage, file sharing, and real-time collaboration with clients or contractors. Virtual Reality (VR) is perhaps the latest technology introduced through the use of laser scanners, and is useful for risk-free training purposes.

“We created this unit where you can rotate the valves; you can assemble and disassemble things that you wouldn’t get a chance of in real life,” Taff said.

He added that virtual reality is a tool to help employees gain muscle memory for various job site tasks, before they have a chance to perform those tasks in real life. It doesn’t apply to everything, but it’s a good tool when needed,” Taff said.

Regardless of the instrument used, laser scanning is a critical first step in the work that Taff and the crew did at EIS. “In our world, it all starts with laser scanning,” Taff said.

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