Another year has passed, and what have we learned? Well, I won’t speak for all of us by I, for one, learned quite a bit. Mostly, that my 9th grade Humanities teacher was on to something when he told me of Aristotle and introduced me to the idea of the Golden Mean. Because, let’s face it, the news this past year seemed to be full of extremes. Faster Scanners! BIM will take over! Everyone will have a 3D printer! Thankfully, reality seemed a bit more moderated to me!
3D Printing Cools down a Bit
I mean that in every way. The prices for models have dropped precipitously with features found on $2000-3000 models last year now available for <$1000. However, the buzz seems to be cooling off a bit as many of us wonder what we would actually do with it…
UAVs, UAVs, and UAVs!
I thought they made a big splash in 2014 but this year we saw multiple conferences launch, the FAA announced a licensing program and a story involving them at least every other news cycle. However, the stories of mass commercial adoption and Amazon using them for delivery still seem extremely optimistic at the moment. You cannot deny the interest, though. Diversified Communications inaugural UAV conference is already larger than SPAR International and the number of players in every vertical of the market seems to grow by the moment.
The Pace of Laser Scanning Development Seems to Slow
Many of us became accustomed to scanning hardware becoming outdated faster than we could pay for it. It seems like that is slowing a bit. While new models are being launched, the differences between them and the previous model are not as great as was once expected. FARO’s entry into the market does not seem to have knocked the price point down across the board, and their current shake up does not bode well for new products in the near term. It seems that incremental upgrades while holding the current price point is the name of the game this year.
More Point Clouds than Ever
That’s right, point clouds. Not BIM or fancy animations but point clouds topped the list for me this year as the most delivered format. I think it is due to three factors. First, more petrochemical firms are bringing modeling talent in-house. Second, A&E firms now have the software (ReCap, mostly) to view the clouds. Lastly, the faster scan times allow for greater point density so that modeling is not needed for a lot of design projects.
Lots of Behind the Scenes Restructuring
It seems as though the manufacturers spent a bit of time restructuring things this year. While I hesitate to provide a single reason to account for all of the shake-up there is no doubt that it’s not due to overwhelming success with the status quo. As I mentioned earlier, FARO is looking to new people from the top down. I’ve also heard from a few Faro dealers that they are trimming their dealership ranks a bit. Leica has mounted a campaign to exercise more control and/or trim down their distribution network as well. Essentially, they are demanding that you sell only Leica equipment or lose your dealership. To be clear, I’m not claiming to know all of the reasons behind these moves but they certainly look like moves toward cost cutting.
Oil Prices Continue to Fall
Being with a firm based in Houston, I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t mention the price of oil. While we have been fortunate enough to be diversified with offices in other regions that are far less dependent on petrochemical work many others have not been so fortunate. I was surprised to see wages and equipment resell prices maintain themselves in 2015 given the drop in oil prices and its effect on capital projects within that sector. However, all indicators lead most to assume that the price of oil will stay low for the foreseeable future. If that comes to be, we may see a glut of available personnel and equipment in some regions. Let’s just hope that the market in Texas doesn’t start looking like North Dakota looks today.
…and on that happy thought, I would like to wish you all a very happy holiday season! I certainly look forward to seeing you (well, most of you) when the conference schedule starts up again in 2016 and all of the amazing technology, ideas, and projects that you introduce to us all.