Geo Week News

December 1, 2008

Leica HDS Users Prove Ingenuity at 2008 Conference: TruView Everywhere You Look

Leica HDS Users Prove Ingenuity - Image 1

Leica HDS Users Prove Ingenuity - Image 1Despite all the grim talk of worldwide recession, the 3D laser scanning industry is very much alive. More than 400 of us who attended the 2008 Leica HDS Conference held in San Ramon Oct. 26-29 could see this first hand. Conference attendance grew 30% (20% from the airborne LIDAR side and 10% from the HDS side). Some markets seem to be particularly healthy, including energy/oil and gas, BIM and some transportation sectors.

How is this possible? One reason, we think, is that laser scanning clients have even greater incentives to try something new. The value of scanning—especially valuable in hard times—is that it allows service providers and customers to be more productive by shortening schedules, reducing cost, and, more importantly, reducing risk. It may not be the answer for every customer right now –selling to Ford, General Motors and Chrysler in Detroit must be near impossible these days — but the refining, power and energy sectors continue to invest, even with plunging oil prices.

Another silver lining is that there continues to be quite a bit of innovation with solutions that add value to 3D laser scan data. A highlight of the conference was the numerous case studies on how TruView has been deployed across multiple market sectors as portal solutions. TruView is not new of course, but it is becoming widely accepted. The TruView-based portal advancement speaks to both the capabilities of the technology and the absolute ingenuity of service providers in this industry who have recognized how TruView can be used as a platform to offer new services to clients.

Why is TruView successful? It allows non-technical users the ability to view and interact with point clouds. Point clouds can otherwise be ugly and complex to interpret. TruView serves up photorealistic point cloud bubble views together with the ability to make simple measurements. And being able to serve that up over the Web means that other stakeholders can use the information. Leica was smart to price the TruView reader for free (taking a page out of Adobe Acrobat’s playbook). The company makes money by selling the publishing engine for $5,000 a pop, and service providers are making money by configuring portals based on TruView deliverables and billing their clients to both set up and maintain these portals.

Some Leica customers saw this opportunity early on. Point Geomatics’ President Chris Tucker, in a sidebar conversation, told me he had to put Geoff Jacobs in a headlock (figuratively, of course) to get him to price TruView for free. Clearly this was the right decision no matter who gets or takes credit for it. TruView users are tomorrow’s advocate for scanning workflows. These new advocates may never see a scanner in action and they may never wade through a multibazillion point database, but show them a TruView and they get the value immediately.

With multiple tracks, there were plenty of sessions to choose from, so I couldn’t get to attend every presentation. And while several sessions were of great value, including Tucker’s excellent presentation on survey control and registration methods that combine phase-based data and time-of-flight data, some themes rang right out loud.

Chris Zmijewski, a principal with Stantec, in his keynote, shared the success of getting multiple Stantec field offices to adopt scanning workflows by taking advantage of TruView. As a wonderful visual solution, TruView capabilities convinced project managers (a good number who are more or less old school) to overcome skepticism about being able to get really useful deliverables. He cited examples ranging from a planning study for a Tucson light rail project to forensic analysis of crane failures. According to Zmijewski, another key to the his success was getting the field office crews to do the scanning work. This means that the scanning revenues stay with the local offices rather than filling the corporate coffers confirming once again that you can achieve anything as long as you don’t need to get credit for it.

Odd Erik Mjorlund with Norway’s Geoplan spoke about using laser scanning technology to capture geometry of Oslo’s 1697 Domkirke cathedral in order to populate a Revit BIM model for historical preservation. This was another theme from the conference: if you like the idea of BIM, you’ll love dimensionally correct BIM. The project resulted in 162 scans, 607 targets, 2,000 objects modeled and two weeks of collection. Modeled in Cyclone, the complex wooden structure included a particularly congested belfry and deformation that was discovered in the middle of the church. The Revit deliverable was generated by importing data in COE format to AutoCAD IFC format, which are readable by Revit. This workflow has removed the distance between the engineer and the architect; the renderings that Revit produces come directly from the 3D model. So, while some architects don’t like BIM, you can’t deny the incredibly accurate measurements afforded by laser scanning.

Leandros Zeppos, managing director of Berlin’s Unison Engineering and Consultants GmbH, demonstrated how he and his team pushes the limits of what is possible with TruView for process and power applications. Capturing photographs in raw mode allows adjustment of the exposure levels in Adobe Photoshop. These images are then registered using Autodesk REALVIZ. This allows presentation of both well-lit and dark areas in the same image. Zeppos uses Intergraph SmartPlant Isometrics product for some selective modeling and takes all collected information, including scanning data, and serves it up over a portal to his client. Zeppos’s clients apparently really like working with full color images registered with the scan data. This approach is particularly valuable for plant operations and maintenance. Many plants use advanced simulation to train their operators, but a limitation has been the gap between what the operator sees on the simulator screen and what is actually in the plant. Benefits to customers from this model include reduced elevation work (increasing safety), reduced field time (reducing risk), improved measurement accuracy and better communication between owners and contractors.

Arik Degani, CEO of Israel’s Mabat 3D Technologies Ltd., spoke on using an HDS6000 to scan the insides of and calibrate fuel tanks to standard. He claims that he attains only a few percent error with his well laid-out business model, which, in these economic times especially, being off a few percent can mean tens of thousands of dollars to independent tank owners. This, too, like many of the sessions, speaks to the ingenuity of the laser scanning service provider community, who come up with new solutions to old problems.

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