What is a Point Cloud?

If you're interested in 3D laser scanning your site’s as-built conditions, you might want to understand what a point cloud is.

When you take a 3d laser scan, the laser scanner records a huge number of data points returned from the surfaces in the area you are scanning. These include objects like doors, windows, walls, MEP equipment, ductwork and steel structures, to name a few. The data points exist along the x, y, and z coordinates within the 3D scanned space. The point cloud is the output of the 3D scanning process, it is the set of data points in the scanned space. Taken together, they represent the site scanned, containing every visible detail there is to be known.

Data acquisition of such point clouds are obtained from LIDAR (Light Detection & Ranging) scanners. For construction projects, it is important that data is obtained by high-end survey-grade laser scanners and equipment. To get a complete view of your target area, scans must be taken from multiple locations. This process is completed by a trained technician to ensure proper collection of data and efficient scanning methods.

Once the area is laser scanned, it must properly be registered by an experienced individual. This is an important part of the process. Registration is the process of compiling individual scans into a cohesive point cloud accurately. It involves taking the raw scan data collected onsite and producing a point cloud that can be used for modeling and measuring. Getting the registration right ensures the most accurate measurements, and the best drawings and models. Once complete, the registered point cloud provides accurate documentation of the as-built space with millimeter accuracy.

Once registered, you can import the point cloud into software to visualize the area. The data will look like a pixelated, digital version of your site. The image is made of individual points, objects can be picked out to obtain dimensions of that object or the scale of the room itself. Once imported, point cloud data can be parsed, manipulated, and modified to suit a user’s needs.

To create advanced deliverables, data is imported into a CAD/BIM software, such as Autodesk, where the data is turned into 3D solids and surfaces. The process of transforming point clouds into 3D models or digital twins takes time and requires an experienced CAD technician. Custom deliverables, such as 2D drawings and 3D models, can be provided at any level of detail and are used for analysis, design, construction, renovation, prefabrication and facility modifications.

Point clouds provide an immense amount of information for a project. The visualization and analysis from this data is invaluable for decision making. For more information on point clouds or the 3d laser scanning process, contact TruePoint at info@truepointscanning.com.

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Technician 3d laser scanning a jobsite.

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Point cloud example inside a manufacturing facility.

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Point cloud example of building exterior.

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Registration example door openings.

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CAD Technician creating a 3d model of a project.

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