A Complete Guide to the 3D Laser Scanning Process

A Complete Guide to the 3D Laser Scanning Process

3D laser scanners are powerful tools that can map a space with precise 3D detail. This level of reality capture offers significant benefits for various construction and engineering projects.

To help you understand more about 3D laser scanning, terrestrial laser scanners, and the steps involved in the laser scanning process, we've put together a detailed guide below.

A GPRS Project Manager works on a 3D laser scanner.
3D laser scanners are powerful tools that can map a space with precise 3D detail.

What is 3D Laser Scanning?

3D laser scanning utilizes LiDAR technology to precisely capture the three-dimensional data of a structure or site. LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, operates by emitting light as a pulsed laser to measure distances to a target. When these laser pulses bounce back to the scanner, the distances are recorded, mapping the spatial geometry of the area. This process collects millions of measurement points, each with x, y, and z coordinates, forming what is known as a point cloud.

The intricacy of these data points allows for exact measurements between any two points within the point cloud. This data can then be converted into 2D CAD drawings or 3D BIM models, which are invaluable for construction and engineering projects. To explore more about 3D laser scanning, click here.

What Scanners are Used for Data Collection?

A terrestrial laser scanner is used for data collection, as they can easily document vertical structures, such as buildings and facilities. These scanners sit on a tripod and can take 1-3 minutes to complete each scan, depending on the project requirements. Terrestrial laser scanners are known to produce the most accurate point clouds because they are stationary. Note that a laser scanner can only capture what is in its field of view. Scanners are positioned around a site and take individual scans from varying viewpoints to capture complete site data. The captured points record everything from surface detail and texture, to color, creating a direct representation of the scanned project site. Click here to read more about the equipment used for data collection.

What are the Steps of the 3D Laser Scanning Process?

3D laser scanning captures as-built documentation of buildings and sites with 2-4mm precision in most cases. Project Managers need extensive knowledge and experience to understand the 3D laser scanning process and use it successfully. GPRS’ SIM-certified Project Managers follow these steps when conducting 3D laser scans:

  1. Define Project Scope: The Project Manager meets with each client to understand their project scope and provide optimal solutions based on the project requirements.
  2. Conduct Site Walk: The Project Manager walks the project site to familiarize themselves with the scope and create a plan for complete data capture. The Project Manager will ensure coverage of the scan area from all angles and work around obstructions. This process includes determining the scanner set-up locations, planning the workflow, documenting obstacles and intricate MEP, and estimating the time needed on site.
  3. Capture Data: The Project Manager positions the scanner around the site, taking individual scans from varying viewpoints to capture complete site data.
  4. Registration: The individual scans are aligned and fitted together. GPRS’ in-house Mapping and Modeling Team registers and processes the point cloud, removing noise and setting the coordinate system to provide the most precise measurements.
  5. Quality Checks: A registration QA/QC check is performed to ensure all the scans fit together, so the point cloud and models have tight lines and accurate measurements.
  6. CAD/BIM Development: Point cloud, 2D drawings, and 3D models are created in-house, and QA/QC checked to ensure precision. Maps and models can be provided at any level of detail in a variety of formats, including Revit, AutoCAD, ReCap, Navisworks, Civil 3D, BIM 360, A360, and JetStream Viewer.
  7. Transfer Data: Data is efficiently transferred to clients via SiteMap®, Sharefile, Cloud platforms, or mailed on a hard drive.

GPRS 3D Laser Scanning Services offer an accurate solution to obtaining on-site measurement data for construction, engineering, and design projects. Terrestrial laser scanners are known to produce the most accurate point clouds. Our Project Managers ensure successful data capture, registration, and CAD/BIM deliverable creation.

From skyscrapers to water treatment plants, GPRS Intelligently Visualizes The Built World® to keep your projects on time, on budget, and safe.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin is a highly complex virtual model that is the exact counterpart (or twin) of a physical object. GPRS uses 3D laser scanners to collect real-time data for a building or facility and create a digital duplicate. Data can be easily visualized, measured and analyzed. Digital twins can be used to improve efficiencies, optimize workflows, and detect problems before they occur.

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR is a remote sensing method used to generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of an object and its surface characteristics. Much like radar systems that employ radio waves to measure objects, LiDAR uses lasers to calculate the distance of objects with light pulses from 3D laser scanners, gathering 3D information about an object.