The Ultimate Guide To A Point Cloud Survey
Interested to learn more about point clouds, but not sure where to start? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about a point cloud survey, from A to Z. Read on and learn everything including what exactly it is, the benefits, use cases, what a laser scanner does, and the different file types they can be converted to.
What Is A Point Cloud Survey?
A point cloud survey is basically a 3D scan of a building, with a set of data points that are combined together to form survey data. These data points are collected with a laser scanner that captures spacial information in 3 dimensions. So how does this work? The scanner beams out a laser in all directions, once the laser hits a surface it then bounces back to a sensor on the scanner. These points of information are used to calculate the distance, size and shape of a surface, accurately creating a ‘point cloud’ survey data set.
Depending on the structure or surface that’s being surveyed, as well as which laser scanner you use, it’ll probably be necessary to move the scanner a couple of times to capture every element of the space. When you get every angle, you’ll have the most accurate 3D model of the object with even the smallest details, whether it’s a building or surroundings.
What Are The Benefits?
There are a couple of good reasons why a point cloud survey has become the industry standard. One of the main reasons is definitely flexibility, especially in terms of meeting the project requirements and tailoring the deliverables to suit your needs. Let’s take a look at some of the other benefits:
- They are precise, quick and cost-effective
- Due to the accuracy of the data-set, it can be used to make decisions quickly and effectively
- The data-set can be extracted to create a range of outputs such as
- A digital twin (3D model) of the structure
- CAD outputs such as Revit, Archicad, Solidworks and others
- Faster project turnaround
- Eliminate back-and-forth on-site inspections
- Efficient with little room for errors
Compared to other surveying methods, the point cloud survey definitely emerges as a winner due to its accuracy and efficiency.
What Are The Use Cases?
A point cloud is a valuable asset when working on various projects but it’s predominantly found great use in the architecture and construction industries. This kind of laser survey have become standard practice in these industries because of the benefits we’ve mentioned, especially when working on a project that includes renovation or when you need accurate data to present before/after and actual construction compared to the initial project.
When the technology first emerged, cloud point surveying was widely used to analyse terrains or in very specific use cases. But the technology has continued to develop rapidly, with smaller, cheaper and more user friendly equipment making the barrier to entry much lower. Recently, automated robot and drone options are beginning to appear on the market. Only the sky’s the limit when thinking how this technology will continue to evolve.
As mentioned above, there are plenty of advantages to a laser survey when renovating a building, or to scan the surroundings for a building that’s yet to be built. Many architectural projects often don’t go as planned, with small changes in the design necessary during construction. A point cloud survey can help to align the finished construction with the original architectural plans, creating accurate documentation of the real life structure.
Point Cloud Scanner
There are various types of point cloud scanner, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. At Scene3D we use a variety of top-of-the-range terrestrial laser scanners which use a lidar point cloud technology. Sometimes when there are details that can’t be captured from the ground, we also use drones depending on the requirements of the project.
A terrestrial laser scanner is fixed in one spot on the ground during each scan and can then be moved to capture another scan at every angle. As it’s fixed on a tripod on the ground, a terrestrial scanner captures extremely accurate data with no ‘wobble’ or movement during a scan when compared to drone or helicopter scanning, which can have a lower tolerance for accuracy. A terrestrial laser scanner also has a range of up to several hundred metres with high precision to capture every detail.
Laser scanning technology is more accurate compared to photogrammetry (using software to turn 2D photos into 3D data). So if you want to get as much detail and accuracy as possible, it’s highly recommended to hire a professional with lidar technology to do a point cloud survey to ensure the survey is carried out properly. Equipment is pricey, so it’s highly unlikely buying your own scanner will pay off for a few projects.
How To View Point Cloud Data
Point cloud data consist of various sets of data such as X, Y, and Z coordinates, RGB color codes, and brightness depending on the equipment used, they can even capture data about temperature. There are multiple free online software to view the data.
You can download and use TrueView which is a software developed by Autodesk specifically designed to view point cloud data. Be aware however, depending on the size of the project you may need a pretty powerful computer to view a point cloud in this way. A point cloud can also be processed into DWG / DXF files, but you’ll learn about point cloud file types later in this article.
How To Process Point Cloud Data
Once all the point cloud survey data has been gathered, it will often need to be processed into a usable 3D model or 2D file. The information initially captured is raw and will need to be cleaned to only include the relevant data. The data-set is then processed ready to output for use.
End result is usually a mesh or a CAD model, depending on the project requirements. Using, for example, Autodesk ReCap you can process point cloud data and create a file that’s easily imported to Autocad or Revit.
Point Cloud Output File Types
One of the great advantages to point cloud data is how malleable it is. Depending on project requirements, it can be converted into a range of 2D or 3D file types. Most of the time, we provide our clients with the following point cloud file types:
- 2D Architectural drawings:
- Autocad DWG / DXF files
- 3D file types:
- Revit or SketchUp (RCS and RVP files)
Point Cloud Survey Cost
The point cloud survey cost largely depends on the scope of the project and its complexity. Every project has individual features that make it unique, so it can be tough to provide a ballpark figure. A point cloud survey cost can start from as low as £400 for a simple structure, to several thousand pounds for larger and more complex projects.
Get a free quote
Working on a project and you need a point cloud survey? Scene3D have got you covered. Talk to our experts and get a free quote today with no obligation. To help us provide you with an accurate quote we just need a few key pieces of information:
- What is the space (is it home, a commercial office or a listed building for example)?
- Do you have an estimate Sq Ft of the space?
- Where is the property located?
- Is there any other important info (out of hours access, property condition or parking restrictions for example)?
Once we have the above info we can provide a point cloud survey cost for your project in less than 24 hours.