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Explore the Top 6 Benefits of 3D Laser Scanning in the AEC Industry

Juhi Goyal

9 min read

August 11, 2023


Table of Contents

Laser scanning is not a new technology, albeit it only started getting implemented in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry around the 1990s. According to industry research, owing to the accuracy of 3D laser scanning of buildings in the construction industry, the demand for the technology has increased by 57%, with the market expected to grow by 10 billion USD by 2024.

What is Laser Scanning in Construction Industry?

The process of documenting buildings using 3D laser scanning

3D laser scanning technology enables accurate documentation of physical objects and spaces through the use of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging)- that is how 3D laser scanning works. 3D laser scanners emit laser pulses or beams and measure the time it takes for the laser beam to reflect back from surfaces in the scanned environment. 

The scan produces innumerable " coordinates”, each containing an X, Y, and Z value for every dimension of a  building. This information is used to calculate the distance to each and every point, creating a point cloud representation of the scanned area. It allows faster, more efficient, and more precise data capturing of structures and objects in real-time. 

With an unparalleled ability to capture intricate details and complex geometries, 3D scanning has become an invaluable tool for the construction industry. AEC professionals utilize laser scanning for a multitude of purposes, including as-built documentation, quality control, clash detection, and site analysis. Thanks to this advanced technology, it is now easier to document buildings that are inaccessible, large-scale, or dilapidated.

Read: Site Analysis Categories You Need to Cover For Your Architecture Thesis Project

6 Benefits of 3D Laser Scanning in Construction Industry

3D laser scanning of a refinery

3D laser scanning is empowering the AEC industry to think, design, and build better, one scan at a time. Leica Geosystems, Trimble Inc., Topcon Corporation, and Autodesk Inc. are some of the fundamental global companies leading the way forward for 3D laser scanning in the AEC industry. 

Let’s have a look at the benefits of 3D laser scanning in construction industry.

1. Time-Saving

3D laser scanning accelerates the data capture process compared to traditional surveying methods. Laser scanners can quickly capture millions of data points within minutes, providing a comprehensive scan of the site or structure. This speed enables project teams to obtain accurate as-built information efficiently, saving time during the project's initial stages and expediting decision-making processes.

2. Accurate Measurements

One of the most significant benefits of 3D laser scanning in construction industry is that it delivers unmatched surveying precision. The scanners capture dimensions with high levels of accuracy, resulting in detailed point cloud data. This data can be transformed into accurate 3D models that serve as a reliable foundation for design, construction, and analysis. The precise measurements obtained from laser scanning significantly reduce errors and improve the overall quality of project deliverables.

3. Detailed Documentation

Another one of the unique benefits of 3D laser scanning in construction industry, professionals can avail of detailed documentation of the existing site or structure, capturing intricate details and dimensions. The point cloud data and 3D models generated from scanning serve as a digital record, facilitating design modifications, facility management, and ongoing maintenance. Such detailed documentation helps streamline decision-making processes, thus ensuring that future expansion work aligns seamlessly with the existing conditions.

3D laser scanning of the Taj Mahal, India

4. Economical

By capturing accurate as-built data, project teams can minimize errors, clashes, and rework during the design and construction phases. This is one of the strongest benefits of 3D laser scanning in construction. The precise information obtained from laser scanning enables better coordination among stakeholders, reducing the likelihood of costly changes and modifications. Additionally, the ability to identify and address potential issues early on leads to more efficient project schedules and budget management.

5. Site Safety

3D laser scanners can remotely capture structural data thereby minimizing the need for manual measurements and reducing the time spent in potentially dangerous spaces and locations. It enables the project team to assess and plan tasks from a safer place. This helps in mitigating risks associated with working at heights, unstable structures, or confined spaces. Enhanced safety measures lead to a healthier work environment and fewer on-site accidents.

6. Minimize Shutdown Times

The benefits of 3D laser scanning in construction industry is immense, In a work sector where shutdowns or facility downtime are costly and disruptive, 3D laser scanning plays a crucial role in minimizing these periods. By capturing the as-built conditions quickly and accurately, laser scanning enables project teams to plan and execute retrofits, renovations, or upgrades with minimal interruption. The precise measurements and detailed information obtained from scanning allow for precise prefabrication and efficient installation, reducing the overall shutdown time and ensuring a smooth transition.

Application of 3D Laser Scanning in the AEC Industry

3D laser scanning of a building-1

Ranging from site documentation and design to construction sequencing and building systems management, 3D laser scanning has wide applications in the AEC industry. Let’s have a look at the fundamental 3D laser scanning applications in the design and build sector.

1. As-Built Documentation Drawings

3D laser scanning is a speedy and accurate method for conducting as-built surveys. It enables professionals to capture existing building conditions and generate highly detailed point cloud data. This information serves as the foundation for structural modifications, renovations, and retrofitting projects, enhancing space usage optimization and eliminating the need for manual measurements and minimizing errors in project documentation.

2. Construction Planning and Management

3D laser scanning plays a vital role in verifying construction progress and ensuring adherence to design intent. By comparing point cloud data with working drawings, professionals can identify discrepancies, clashes, or deviations early in the construction process. 3D laser scanning can also help in manufacturing rightly-sized and shaped prefabricated building components. It also enables sequencing and scheduling thereby allowing project stakeholders to reduce conflicts, optimize construction workflows, and improve overall project efficiency. 

Read: BIM 360: The Essential BIM Construction Management Tool For All Stakeholders

3. Architectural Documentation and Historical Preservation

In architectural documentation and historical preservation projects, 3D laser scanning is invaluable. It captures intricate details of heritage sites, buildings, or artifacts with exceptional accuracy. This data serves as a comprehensive digital archive, aiding in documentation, analysis, restoration, and preservation efforts. 3D laser scanning for heritage buildings ensures the preservation of cultural heritage while enabling experts to study and restore structures appropriately.

3D laser scanning of temples in Hampi

Read: The Powerful Influence of Colonization in India: History and Architecture

4. Virtual Design and Construction (VDC)

3D laser scanning integrates seamlessly with Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) workflows. By combining point cloud data with BIM models, professionals can create immersive virtual environments for design visualization, stakeholder engagement, and project coordination. This technology enhances communication and collaboration among project teams, resulting in improved project outcomes.

5. Facility Coordination

In large-scale facilities, such as factories, warehouses, or hospitals, 3D laser scanning assists in facility coordination. It enables professionals to capture precise measurements of complex built environments, including equipment, utilities, and structural elements. This data aids in facility management, maintenance planning, and operational efficiency.

6. Collecting Geospatial Data

3D laser scanning is instrumental in collecting geospatial data for various applications. By combining laser scanning with Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) or aerial LiDAR, professionals can create highly accurate 3D models of terrain, landscapes, or infrastructure. This data is essential for urban planning, environmental analysis, and geospatial mapping.

7. Creating Digital Twin Solutions

In recent times, the concept of digital twins has gained traction in the AEC industry. 3D laser scanning can play a crucial role in creating digital twin solutions by capturing the as-built conditions of structures. These digital twins provide real-time insights, allowing stakeholders to monitor performance, conduct simulations, and optimize operations throughout the lifecycle of a project.

Essential 3D Laser Scanning Equipment for the AEC Industry

3D laser scanning in progress

The equipment required for scanning a building with a 3D laser scanner would depend upon the scale of a structure, the desired level of detail, and project requirements. Having said that, below are the key equipment that are vital to undertake a 3D laser scanning job.

1. 3D Laser Scanner

A 3D laser scanner is the primary device used to capture detailed 3D measurements of objects and structures. There are various types of laser scanners available such as terrestrial scanners, handheld scanners, and mobile scanners, each with different capabilities and applications.

2. Tripod or Mounting System

A stable tripod or mounting system is used to securely position the laser scanner at the desired height and angle during scanning. It ensures consistent and accurate data capture.

3. Targets or Reference Points

These are markers placed strategically in the scanning area to aid in the registration and alignment of multiple scans. Targets can be retro-reflective spheres or specialized targets recognized by the scanning software.

4. Laptop or Tablet

A high-performance laptop or tablet is required to control the scanner, manage the scanning process, and store the captured data. It should meet the system requirements specified by the scanner manufacturer and have sufficient storage capacity.

5. Batteries and Chargers

Laser scanners are typically powered by rechargeable batteries. It's important to have spare batteries and chargers to ensure uninterrupted scanning sessions, especially when working in remote locations.

6. Data Storage

Since 3D laser scanning generates large datasets, it's crucial to have ample storage capacity. External hard drives, solid-state drives (SSDs), or network storage solutions can be used to store and manage the captured point cloud data.

7. Software

Specialized 3D scanning software is required to control the scanner, process the captured data, and create detailed 3D models. Examples of popular software include Autodesk ReCap, Leica Cyclone, and Faro Scene.

In Conclusion,

Technologies such as 3D laser scanning are enabling the AEC industry to become smarter. With time, the portability and accessibility of 3D laser scanning technology is expected to improve, thus making it more feasible for on-site and remote scanning applications. Additionally, the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms with 3D laser scanners will also contribute to automated data interpretation. This will enable faster and more accurate analysis of complex datasets thereby opening new avenues for design thinking and construction. 

If 3D laser scanning processes interest you, you must check out Novatr’s cohort-based program called BIM Professional Course. By enrolling for the course, you can master 7+ BIM software and industry workflows, learn from industry stalwarts, and work on a capstone project to hone your skills. Explore the course today. 



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