Laser Scanning for Facilities Management

Pointfuse automatically converts point cloud data into usable 3D models for asset management, using their SimpleBIM (sBIM) solution

Reality capture for space and facilities management is a rapidly growing opportunity. It is often the case that any existing floorplans are old and out of date and not a fair representation of real estate, and therefore certainly not a sound basis for good decision making.

Government, academic, leisure and health amenities as well as retail outlets and manufacturing facilities, are all sectors that need up to date information about their real estate. Space optimisation and optimal layout are strong business drivers that can lead to the large-scale capture of data about a space. However, this information needs to be quick and easy to generate in order to be an effective business tool of use within an organisation. Something as simple as having up to date information on total square footage by actual use is essential in ensuring that the appropriate insurance is in place, for example.

This requirement has seen the trend for recording existing infrastructure and ongoing developments through laser scanning or photogrammetry within the AEC sector making the move indoors. A new breed of mobile mapping systems, specifically designed for urban and inside use where the GPS signal may be lost, is coming into mainstream use. Utilising SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping), with its root in robotics, these use a variety of complex algorithms to create a map of their location and correctly orient themselves within the map, all in real time.

A number of systems are available offering compact and handheld designs which allow a much greater degree of mobility, as well as access to spaces and objects that may have been difficult or impossible to scan before, such as complex interiors. Systems are simple to operate with automatic registration of data and one-button operation making them an option for professional and casual users alike.

However, one lesson already learnt and therefore transferable between in use applications is that, in order to derive real value from data capture technologies, recorded measurements need to usable and compatible with existing workflows and software. Many advancements have already been made to achieve this ease of use including software to reduce the large data volumes usually associated with point clouds, such as Pointfuse.

Pointfuse is a powerful modeling engine that delivers an automatic, precise and flexible way of converting the vast point cloud datasets generated by laser scanners or photogrammetry into usable 3D models. Auto classification features automatically detect both horizontal and vertical planar surfaces, separating them into layers. This automatic segmentation of the mesh model into discrete, selectable surfaces makes the ongoing classification of objects easier and faster, reducing potential bottlenecks in the modelling process, further speeding workflows and producing repeatable, consistent results.

Pointfuse can also significantly reduce the file size of 3D models created from point clouds. In simple terms, the data density within each surface is reduced whilst still maintaining the fidelity of the model. This results in a significant reduction in model size making ongoing use of the model easier, faster and more efficient.

Pointfuse has now launched a solution that automates the identification and classification of objects for space and facilities management applications using data from mobile mapping systems like the new Leica BLK2GO. Pointfuse 'Simple BIM' (sBIM) leverages the core functionality of Pointfuse - the segmented mesh model; automatically converting classified mesh models into 'family' groups, such as walls, floors, doors, windows, etc. for use with popular downstream BIM and FM software.

Data can then be exported as IFC (Industry Foundation Class) parametrised objects and 2D floors plans and space management reports easily derived. Pointfuse sBIM also automatically calculates quantities, areas and dimensions, producing an easy to read PDF report.

sBIM was developed in response to a large scale client opportunity that saw the scanning of millions of square feet of facilities with the final deployment of data in Archibus facilities management software, using Autodesk Revit as a bridge. Early testing identified that 3D was as quick to create as traditional 2D workflows and exported data was in the region of hundreds of Kbs compared to the Gb volumes of the original point cloud.

Taking the process one step further, Pointfuse provides an accurate record of the as-built scene by allowing users to create Hybrid meshes combining Pointfuse models with the sBIM IFC container.

Pointfuse sBIM, in combination with the new breed of mobile mapping systems that are specifically designed for indoor mapping, will enable the rapid creation of space management BIM models that can be repurposed within software, such as Archibus. In fact, the benefits of 3D data representation of space develop additional ROI beyond simple 2D, and are no more expensive or difficult to capture and process with this optimised workflow.

"This ability to convert classified objects into family placeholders has a huge impact on how as-built data is used within a Scan2BIM workflow with the potential for a real return on investment for facilities and space management applications," said Mark Senior, Regional Sales Director at Pointfuse. "The combination of ease and speed of data capture, as offered by modern handheld indoor mapping systems like the newly launched Leica BLK2GO, with the automation of Pointfuse processing will, it is hoped, release the potential of laser scanning across this sector."