Geo Week News

January 7, 2011

Online Systems is now Control Point Design



Process industry piping apps drive demand for laser scanning services

MINNETONKA, Minn.—Back in the 1980s, Online Systems had a different connotation. It implied the business was invested in keeping your facility “online,” as in up and running. Today, “everyone thought we were an Internet company,” said Frank Latz, who’s owned the piping design company, which specializes in laser scanning and 3D CAD modeling, since he founded it 21 years ago.

Hence the new name, Control Point Design, which comes with a spiffy new web site and a new push to tout the company’s capabilities in piping design for the process plant and refinery business. 

It’s a good time to rebrand, Latz said, “because I’m seeing an upturn in the amount of people who are gravitating toward using laser scanning for industrial design … Until recently, a lot of the scanning was only done for the big mega projects, and that’s not our thing. Our thing is the smaller projects. And now we’re seeing everyday laser scanning become more mainstream. We’re getting a lot busier. We’re seeing a lot more action. That’s a good thing.”

Whereas it used to be only the $50 to $80 million piping projects that saw the value laser scanning, Latz said, “now a $1 million or $2 million project might see the value of the service.” He estimates an overall project as small as $200,000 might even see a positive ROI with laser scanning services. 

Further, while Latz emphasizes that his firm is a piping design firm first, laser scanning company second, he said, “we’re so integrated with the scanner now, if we didn’t have it, I’d be retired. I’d have nothing to do … We can spend three or four days scanning in a place and then have enough work to keep two or three designers busy for months. The scanner is worth its weight in gold.”

Not that there aren’t improvements that could be made to the work process. Control Point is currently a Leica house, operating an HDS6000. Latz wishes the scanner were a little lighter, making hauling it up to high platforms a bit easier, and he wouldn’t mind a great temperature range for operation (jobs in Alaska are good jobs, too). And “everyone wishes they had the model button,” he said, but he discourages using a model as a deliverable, saying, “the power is in the scan itself … modeling only makes the point cloud less accurate.”

Because Control Point’s end deliverable is generally the piping design, they are, in effect, their own service providers, and Latz prefers to operate as much as possible with the point cloud in a CAD program like CloudWorx or Navisworks. 

“People are really mislead in thinking that they’ll take the point cloud and make a model,” Latz said. “It’s already a model.”

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