Uncovering Construction Unknowns with 3D Laser Scanning


Whether you see it or not, 3D scanning is becoming a part of everyday life in America: Autonomous vehicles scan the road ahead to detect traffic, geologists use scanners to map the forest floor, and fisherman use scanners to detect fish. Because these scanners present more information in a faster, meaningful way, they increase efficiency and reduce costs in many industries, including construction. 

The History of 3D Scanning in the Construction Industry 

3D laser scanners have been deployed in the construction industry since the mid-1990s. The technology is a natural evolution of the site survey, which used distance and angles to calculate lines. 3D scanners could take measurements much faster than surveyors—up to 10,000 times per second. Surveyor data could then be used to map dirt volumes. 

Since those early days, scanning technology has improved to the point where scanners can now collect 1,000,000 points per second from anything within line of sight. Because a scanner can show where everything is installed—from pipes and valves to equipment—all critical information is quickly captured so construction crews can create accurate models and site maps. 

What are the Biggest Advantages of 3D Scanning? 

Since Adolfson & Peterson Construction (AP) adopted 3D scanning, we’ve noticed a significant time savings that benefit information gathering, efficiency, and job performance. With tenant improvement and renovation jobs, 3D scanners have brought coordination issues to light earlier, which leaves the Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) team time to develop a fix. 3D scanners improve the quality assurance phase by letting us check the design of a building against the installed location. 3D scanners have also helped in flooring jobs by letting us check the level of poured concrete at a glance, then make any adjustments before the material cures. This results in a flat floor with less hands-on work. 

Speaking of the benefits of this technology, Paul LeBaron, Director of Land Surveying at Nitsch Engineering, says that “When used appropriately it can provide a higher level of detail, safe locations in hazardous areas, and save the team time by reducing the need to send a crew back to a site to obtain more locations. Our investment in the technology has paid off for both our firm and our clients who have taken advantage of its use.” 

If you’ve ever had to send a team back to a job site, to get more locations, then you can imagine how beneficial it would be to have the additional level of detail. 

Because 3D scanning lets our construction crew collect location data in a minimally invasive manner, companies no longer need to shut down areas while a site is being surveyed. As a result, hospitals can keep wings open and schools can keep classes running while a construction crew is onsite coordinating or developing new systems. 

Construction planning and ordering processes also benefits from the use of 3D scanners. Construction waste is reduced because our team has exact measurements to guide demolition and removal or order prefabrication materials. Our customers appreciate the opportunity to save time and money by reducing waste, reducing labor, and maximizing efficiency onsite. 

We are excited to see where the technology goes and hope to use the 3D scanning process to integrate project management, coordination, and installation teams by decreasing scan preparation time and making data scans more accessible within the office. This will allow us to continue to use scan data to improve both workflow on the job site and the day-to-day experience for our crew members, while passing on the efficiency and accuracy benefits to our clients. 

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