One of the great promises of 3D data capture is the ability to have a digital representation of your facility right down to the last bolt. No longer will you have to rely on the as-built drawings handed over to you (if they were) at the time of construction. Now you can simply scan your facility, bring it into CAD, and there you have your as-is model, ready for use in maintenance and operations.
Except that your facility will probably change significantly just in the time between the scanning being performed and the modeling being completed. And it’s nearly impossible to scan every nook and cranny of your facility anyway if you’re operating a significant operation. And the CAD modeling basically defeats the purpose of the scanning, since as soon as you start modeling you start getting further and further away from the reality you just tried to capture. Oh, and even if you could scan the whole facility, the point cloud would be, like, a trillion points and you don’t have a good way of managing that anyway.
What’s a nuclear power plant operator to do?
Well, that’s basically what I asked Jim Newman, worldwide manager for CAD tools and methods for Areva, a $10 billion energy company known for its nuclear interests. Basically, they’re the only company in the world that has its fingers in every single piece of the nuclear industry, from the actual mining of the raw materials all the way through decommissioning. (They also have like $4 billion in debt and are struggling a little bit, but I’m fairly certain Jim doesn’t have much to do with that.)
It’s interesting to hear him talk about the trends he’s seeing in moving from as-built to as-is and what he sees as useful in 3D data capture. Here’s our conversation, live from the SPAR Europe floor: