Geo Week News

March 21, 2011

Kubit launches first industry-oriented product at SPAR


PointSense family of products comes out of the gate with PointSense Plant

HOUSTON—Day one of the SPAR International Conference was a hive of activity, even if the exhibition hall and educational programming don’t start until tomorrow. Not only was the American Society of Civil Engineers holding a day long workshop, and SPAR advisory board members conducting primers on using 3D imaging for plant and process and civil engineering applications, but ESRI and kubit also both held user meetings in the afternoon. 

Kubit took the opportunity to launch a new product, finished just for SPAR International. PointSense is the first product from kubit to address specific vertical applications, rather than simply be a catch-all point cloud engine like previous kubit releases. First in the PointSense family is PointSense Plant, for industrial and process facility design. 

“Basically, one year ago we promised the user community that we’d come out with an industry specific product,” said kubit USA owner Scott Diaz, and this is it.

See an interview with kubit’s Scott Diaz and John Bunn conducted from the SPAR show today:

The product allows users to work with point clouds in an AutoCAD environment and more rapidly perform modeling and feature-extraction tasks. Kubit programmers have focused on a “semi-automatic” approach to feature extraction, said Diaz. 

“You need to prompt the user,” Diaz explained. “If you over-automate, you’ll end up creating mistakes that the user will have to take time to fix. I think that’s the biggest problem in our part of the software market today.”

For example, as part of the software’s “Walk the Run” functionality, users can move down a run of piping and allow the software to automatically model some portions of the point cloud, like a straight six-inch pipe for which there is no likely alternative. Then, as you get to a reducer, or a flange, the user is presented with options, alongside which are percentages that reflect the software’s confidence that the part in its database catalog is indeed the part the point cloud has captured. 

After selecting the part, the user can place it directly, or allow the software to do the work. Even after all that placing is done, there is an even further “apply constraints” functionality that makes sure there are not gaps been pieces of the model and that everything fits snugly together in accordance with the point cloud. 

Other features include “tagging,” where notes can be made about individual pieces of piping, and those tags self-orient no matter how you look at the 3D model; as well as an export function that allows for center-line data to be sent to other programs such as AutoPlant or MEP.

“And this is only step one,” said John Bunn, head of technical and sales support at kubit USA. “In the future, it will be ‘export to AutoPlant,’ ‘export to MEP,’ whatever you’re looking for. But that takes cooperation from more than just us, so if you like what you see and want to use this in other intelligent design software, let them know.”

Diaz and Bunn emphasized, though, that they are not looking to duplicate what other intelligent piping design software does. That’s why their part catalog just uses generic industry-standard shapes, and not those from specific manufacturers. 

Mike Pfaff, who is a kubit user wth Bowman Consulting, thinks that’s where kubit will eventually go, though. “Ultimately it’s more usable if it’s being correlated to actual products,” Pfaff said. However, he said, kubit is clearly moving in the right direction. 

“It’s timely, it’s pretty accurate. It lets you know what your tolerances are, and you can feel comfortable with that,” he said. 

If anything, the biggest problem with kubit’s software might be the fact that it works with AutoCAD, said Pfaff, which chokes down the amount of points you can see at any one time. 

Kubit understands this limitation. “They decimate the point cloud so that it only ever shows you 1.5 million points,” Diaz said, “that’s why you should take smart sections.” Kubit has functionality that allows you to work with just a portion of the point cloud at any one time, so that you get a more robust look at that section, which obviously contains far fewer points than the entire piping cloud. 

As for what else is new from kubit, Diaz said there is now a point cloud x-ray feature that allows users to derive raster images from the cloud, and use that for edge detection and then export that to any CAD program, even ones that don’t handle point clouds. 

Also, kubit’s PhoToPlan software, which allows for photogrammetry integration with AutoCAD, now has the ability to “unwrap” a cylindrical object and show it on a flat plane – something users with heritage-preservation applications might appreciate.

Going forward, said Diaz, kubit will be working on adding steel, tubing, fittings, ducting and all sorts of other elements to its catalog of objects that can be semi-automatically detected. 

“And we’ll have improved clash detection,” he promised. “It’s already in the product for clouds to solid objects, but we’ll add more options for hard and soft clashes.”

Judging by the reaction of the roughly 50 users in the room here at SPAR, those ought to be additions that are eagerly awaited.

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