Laser scanning is standard in industries like manufacturing, but more people are now using it in building construction applications due to its accuracy. The demand for laser scanning in construction increased by 57%, according to research. This market is expected to grow to $10 billion by 2024, so what has made laser scanning so prevalent in construction?
The benefits of laser scanning in construction are that it provides immediate information, improves accuracy and quality, and helps to cut costs since it’s quicker than traditional mapping methods. Laser scanning also streamlines coordination on a project site, leading to better decision making.
Nonetheless, how is laser scanning used in construction? Read on to learn more about what laser scanning is, its applications, and some of the benefits of using laser scanning in your construction projects.
What Is Laser Scanning in Construction?
Laser scanning or high definition surveying involves using a laser to capture detailed data and get accurate information for every detail on a construction site. The technology captures the dimensions and spatial relationship of objects with a line of laser light.
A point cloud image is produced by the scanner that replicates the scanned items accurately. Items can be scanned from a hundred meters depending on the make of the scanner. The data is then exported to BIM, modeling, and CAD programs to develop 2D CAD drawings or a 3D model.
Applications of Laser Scanning in Construction
Laser scanning comes in handy during construction, but how is it applied? Below is a look at how this modern technology is used in a construction project.
You can use laser scanning for site design. Some architects use the scan-to-BIM method to get detailed information to start the construction process and manage the process. After scanning, the point-cloud data is converted to a 3D model. At this stage, you can opt for complex MEP models or settle for finely detailed models.
Retrofits, Renovations, and Operations
Laser scanning captures every detail, which means you get an as-built record. You can use this data for demolitions, building additions, renovations, and building operations.
3D laser scanning is used to reduce clashes within a project. That could include equipment that is not the correct size or improper placement of pipes. These scans allow you to detect any possible issues.
Laser scanning is applied in construction coordination, particularly when you need to avoid conflict between various systems like plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and more. Data is then shared among parties to help with remote coordination. Scanning can be done at any point within the construction timeline to document milestones and lower the need to change orders. This scanning can help document where errors are made and come up with a fast solution.
3D laser scanning can also be used on other applications like comparing design intent to as-built conditions, pre-construction as-builts, virtual design construction, quality control during construction, and building information modeling.
Using laser scanning on your next construction project has plenty of advantages. Let us find out some of these benefits.
1. Improves Accuracy and Quality
Laser scanners in project planning help to capture information. Deploying laser scanning helps create accurate models from the start, which reduces the need to redo the plans. With its high accuracy levels, you get to reduce overhead, delays and ensure flexible planning. The improved accuracy also leads to flexible communication among the parties involved.
Laser scanning captures a 3D model that helps in the prevention of mistakes. Something that prevents errors and saves on money and time. Furthermore, a 3D model created by a laser scan can determine any measurement differences between what is listed on the design and what’s on the site. That will prevent any problems that may arise due to inaccuracy.
Another significant aspect is that you can embed sensors in and around the area to monitor progress and performance.
2. Offers Immediate Information
Laser scans are performed whenever you are ready, and you can access them immediately. That helps to streamline productivity, improve operations, and reduce chances of redoing the work.
Incorporating laser scanning lowers any chances for mistakes in the drawings. Scanning gives you the exact measurements and location, which also saves time.
3. Improves Planning and Design
You can use 3D models and built drawings that are cloud-based to analyze any clashes between newly added design elements and the existing conditions. You can also assess the pictures before construction and decide if you want to continue with the same drawings or change to something else.
Laser scanning also improves planning as it provides you with exact measurements that you can use to prefabricate materials and minimize waste. These measurements also come in handy when you need to remove specific components or during demolition. That ensures the changes experienced in the field are reduced. The use of laser scans ensures the project is finished on time.
4. Complies With Health and Safety Measures
Unlike manual data capture that may miss out on some elements, laser scanning is more accurate and safe. People in the construction industry are fast adopting this technology to ensure they comply with health and safety regulations.
With the laser scanner’s fast data capture and remote sensing ability, your construction crew exposure to a harmful environment is minimized.
5. Reduces Schedule and Cost
3D laser scanning can reduce the schedule by 10% on industrial projects. It can also reduce the total project costs by up to 7%. Traditional data collection methods can take several weeks, but laser scanning takes a few hours to some days, depending on the project’s scope.
Furthermore, the scans are created to enable the teams to develop detailed workflows. Cost reduction guarantees a project’s profitability. The most gains come from the reduced time used in the design and planning stages.
Laser scanning also lowers the need for multiple hires. You don’t have to spend money hiring surveyors, engineers, or architects to verify the plans. That helps with cost reduction.
6. Eliminates the Need for Manual Labor
Although manual labor can be beneficial, sometimes it slows down the project as humans are prone to error. Laser scanning is more accurate and reduces any chances of making errors in the process. With this new technology, you won’t need to hire several people for a construction project.
7. Provides Better Collaboration and Coordination on a Construction Site
Another benefit of laser scanning is that it streamlines coordination and improves collaboration. That ensures the parties involved make better and fast decisions. When all the people collaborate, that enhances communication, fosters team relationships, and keeps everyone focused on the end vision that is to create a successful project.
8. Has Flexible Workflows
The use of 3D laser scanning reduces the need for frequent site visits. This technology uses cloud integration that allows remote cloud access. You can add private specialists to your construction project.
These specialists access data remotely and make decisions without a site visit. They can also make accurate measurements in 3D models based on the actual site.
9. Evaluates Project Stages
The scan-to-Bim is used for the application of scans that upload data into BIM schematics. You can use scan data with BIM to compare the stages of a construction project. It’s also possible to see the execution stages.
With this, you can quickly spot errors and use manufacturing techniques to prefabricate materials.
10. Ensures Worker Safety
One of the major concerns on any construction site is worker safety. 3D laser scanning can improve safety, especially during surveying. Portable laser scanners can be used to survey and record measurements from a distance. Some can scan a site from a distance of up to 500 meters.
That keeps the workers safe when the area is dangerous due to proximity to nuclear or chemical facilities. The technology is also fast, which reduces the time the operators are exposed to these conditions.
11. Builds 3D Models
A laser scanner allows you to evaluate the construction site. With the scan data, you can create 3D models. A 3D model capture is essential when considering a construction site affected by renovations or an area regarded as dangerous due to heavy traffic or hazardous weather or geography. The 3D models also help you work around a location surrounded by a historic building.
3D models are also useful in identifying coordination problems before they become time-consuming or costly mistakes. You can tell if there is enough space to place an electrical or plumbing unit with a 3D model. What’s more, you can tell whether her elements like plumbing or electrical exist to avoid adding more.
12. Uses Software Integration
Laser scanners capture point clouds that can be improved with well-integrated software applications used on different point clouds to develop a 3D rendering of the space.
13. Allows for Non-Contact Scanning
Some places are delicate and sensitive, which means you cannot do any conventional scanning. Also, exposing your construction workers to a high-risk area could be unsafe and could lead to fatalities. However, 3D laser scanning enables non-contact scanning, which makes it less risky. With this new technology, you can get the scans and 3D models in the least invasive way.
Laser Scanning Challenges
Just like any technology, laser scanning has its challenges. While laser scanning has plenty of benefits and pays off in the long run, there are some things you need to be aware of when implementing this technology in your construction project.
Below are some challenges you may experience.
Practice Is Required
Your construction workers need training on how to use technology. If there’s a considerable skills gap within the company, you’ll need to train them to learn how to use this technology successfully. Unfortunately, this could add up to the upfront costs and make this an expensive venture.
Although scanning produces detailed and accurate site plans, your surveyor or architect needs to be familiar with the location to get the best results. Sometimes you may have to deal with limited accessibility to the construction site for daily scans.
A good example is a busy construction site where workers are hard at work and cannot afford interruption, delaying the construction timeline. That can be a challenge when you need to incorporate laser scanning in your construction project.
While 3D laser scanning can help reduce the overall project costs, it takes a considerable cost to implement this technology. However, most companies cannot afford this high upfront cost. The need for increased initial investment is a turnoff for most companies. What’s more, these companies will need to invest in high-end hardware for data processing, which quickly adds up these costs.
If you’re not planning on outsourcing your 3D laser scanning, you may have to part with $50,000 to over $100,000. That cost doesn’t include operator training or accessories. Moreover, the cost of training a worker to operate the scanner is more expensive than outsourcing.
The best option is to outsource 3D laser scanning services if you’re planning on using it regularly.
The Weather May Be a Hindrance
3D laser scanning records data once the scanner reads the light of a laser. In a case where ambient light blends with the laser, this could cause interference. The result is an unusable scan. You may need to take a scan in a place where lighting is controlled and monitored. Factors like humidity and ambient temperature could also make it challenging to get excellent scans.
Laser Scans Cannot Measure Places or Objects With Hidden Geometry
3D laser scanning is optical, which means it’s difficult to measure a surface out of the scanner’s line of sight. You cannot ensure anything that is hidden or a surface with internal geometry. Although laser scans are taken from various angles, any complex geometry may prove to be a problem. You may need to use a CT scanner when measuring places or items with hidden geometry.
Being Overwhelmed by Data
A laser scanning project can grow in complexity, given the amount of data collected over time. When you need to update an existing building scan, you’ll need to sort incoming datasets and combine data from various sources. Sometimes it can be challenging to sort through the data from a hard drive and other storage media to identify the exact section of the scan that needs extraction. The process can be cumbersome and slow.
Implementing Laser Scanning in Construction
Incorporating laser scanning in your construction projects improves accuracy, saves time, it’s safe, and with time becomes a cost-effective plan.
Below are some tips on how to implement laser scanning in your construction project successfully.
Preparation is critical when dealing with laser scanning. You need a good site map and a survey control grid for laser scans and a 3D modeling project. Ensure that you have enough time to understand the site and develop a site map that will generate a site reference checklist. You need to ensure the highest level of accuracy, and this starts from the beginning.
Decide if You Want to Outsource the Service or Buy the Equipment
Laser scanning technology doesn’t come cheap, given the equipment and accessories involved. If you’re new to this technology, you may want to consider renting or outsourcing this service. Once you’ve gotten your return on investment and see the benefits of this technology on your construction projects, you’ll decide whether you want to invest in the technology.
Use it With Other Tech
Despite being a detailed and accurate technology, laser scanning cannot rely on it alone for your projects. You need to use 3D laser scanning together with another technology for your construction projects. Using laser scans with BIM can also help create accurate and detailed BIM models.
Look for a Scanning Position That Can Avoid Disruption and Instability
3D laser scanning requires stability for precision scanning. You’ll need to find a position that is free from disruption and instability to get accurate scans.
Have a Small Team and Reduce the Hours to Lower Operational Risks
Some construction sites are high risk and can put the workers’ health at risk. Ensure that you have a small team to reduce operational risk. Moreover, reducing the time spent on the site leads to more savings in the long run.
Limit the Errors
Sometimes using different scanners can lead to propagation errors. That’s because there are other steps in any scan that can lead to mistakes. While it’s challenging to eliminate these errors, you can minimize them.
You can limit the errors by completing a site map and capturing the survey control points. That will help you match your control points to the point cloud, creating a concise point cloud. By being aware of the number of scans you make, you can reduce the need to develop a site grid.
Laser scanning is evolving, which has led to improved design accuracy, collaboration, and reduced survey time. Implementing laser scanning in your construction projects is a learning curve, but the adoption of this technology by more people in the construction industry will contribute to cost reduction and ensure everyone complies with the set safety and environmental imperatives.