Geo Week News

October 15, 2014

FARO CEO: We're "Just Getting Started" Democratizing 3D Scanning

FARO CEO Jay Freeland keynote from 2014 3D documentation conference

Five-Point Plan For Future Mentions UAVs, Handheld Scanning, Easier Registration

Opening up FARO’s 3D Documentation conference for the Americas in Orlando, FARO president and CEO Jay Freeland delivered a keynote to a crowd of laser-scanning converts and newcomers, telling them that “all of you are the pioneers, you’re on the front end of transforming an industry using the technology.” 

After reminding those present that 3DLS is already in wide usage for metrology (which represents the largest part of FARO’s business) he went on to speak about where FARO has been lately in terms of their 3D documentation business. 3D documentation, Freeland says, “covers the entire geospatial world and more. That’s where we’re taking the technology and trying to lead the charge in transforming the traditional geospatial world to adopt, leverage and utilize 3D technology going forward.”

FARO’s 3D documentation business may be smaller than their metrology business, but FARO is still ambitious about expanding it. In fact, if there were a mission statement for this year’s #FAROcon (as it’s been dubbed on Twitter), it’s FARO’s continuing quest to democratize the ability “to capture and document the world in 3D.” FARO, Freeland says, aims to make the technology and process of 3D documentation simple enough “so anyone can do it and do it well.” 

Stressing the growing need for 3D documentation, he then asked why “does anyone still work in two dimensions if you can make three dimensions accessible to everyone, and the entire world is transitioning to three dimensions?” 

After a short diversion to discuss how they have seen FARO scanners and 3D imaging used to “deliver customer value” — on Volvo’s production line and during a project to add piping on an offshore oil rig, for instance — Freeland began to talk about FARO’s five-point plan for bringing 3D scanning to the masses. This is where he got down to business about FARO’s future plans, as well as their recent big acquisition of CAD Zone and how they hope to leverage that technology in the future.

1) More Mobility
Though FARO’s scanners are already quite mobile, Freeland said, they are working to make them more mobile. People are attaching these scanners to cars, he said, “but the solution is not perfect yet, so there is work to be done there.” 

On top of that, FARO aims to make their scanners mobile enough to be placed on a small pre-programmable robot (something like a 3D-scanning Roomba). This would be helpful, for instance, in scanning “internal facilities, manufacturing plants, warehouses, anywhere you want to see change on some regular, repetitive basis. You could pre-program [a robot]to go out and scan every night, every other night–it knows where to stop, where to scan, where to collect the data, knows where to move on, where to do it again. It can collect all of that and do a comparison–day one to day two, day two to day three,” and so on.

For those of us excited about UAVs, it was good to hear Freeland mention the octocopter they used last year to fly a FARO Focus scanner. He noted that the solution isn’t perfect yet, but that FARO is working on it. “We know that airborne will continue to be an area of interest, and people want airborne at the same level of accessibility for the scanner itself, which requires a whole different approach.”

2) Portability 
Here’s where Freeland hinted at the future possibility of handheld 3D scanners. He noted that the scanners are already pretty small, but the problem is that you still need a tripod. It may surprise you to know, Freeland says, that FARO has been asking “what if I only had to have the hand involved? What if I didn’t have to have a tripod? What if it were so mobile that I could do what I needed to do without having the rest of that set of equipment?”

3) Greater Ease of Use
The hardware itself is already easy to use. But what about the workflow? Freeland spoke on the current process for producing a final point cloud, which involves scanning, taking the SD card to the office, doing some work, and then finally ending up with a finished product. “Everybody at FARO knows that that is not ideal,” he said, “I get it.” 

The question, he says, is why you can’t just plug the SD card in to your computer and “get the data without having to do anything else to it? Don’t have to register, don’t have to do any kind of stitching.” Or, Freeland asks, why even have to bother with the SD card? Why can’t you just scan and then already have the data the way that you want it? It’s a “universal problem” that FARO is working on.

4) Total Cost of Ownership
The price of the technology is still a barrier to a lot of people, as we all know. This is a major concern to FARO, who has already put a tremendous amount of effort into making relatively inexpensive scanners. Freeland says that FARO is “very proud of that, because that again makes it accessible to the largest potential population of people.” 

But FARO wants to make their scanners even cheaper. Freeland laid out a future where their scanners are inexpensive enough that you could purchase one with your corporate card, or even a handful of cash. This would democratize scanning even further.

5) Personalization
The scanner is a fixed thing, Freeland tells us, but the software doesn’t have to be. FARO plans to allow you to personalize the application layers that go with the scanner. Here “there is tremendous opportunity to have different application layers for all different verticals.” 

This means you could be able to configure FARO application layers to your particular industry because your industry likely has unique demands that cannot be met by more generalized software. FARO also hopes to allow you to customize down to your particular application. 

This is where CAD Zone comes in. CAD Zone, Freeland says, is the first step toward this goal. That software suite, you may remember, includes the Fire Zone, Crash Zone, Insurance Zone, and more. That sort of specialization will be key to FARO’s strategy going forward. FARO’s ultimate goal, he says, “is taking the user experience for everyone here and truly tailoring it to the world we live in, so that it makes it as easy as possible for everyone here to use day in and day out.”

Freeland concluded by reminding us that the “3D revolution is well underway” and that the spread of the technology is inevitable. “No wants to go back to 2D once that door is open.” 

Stay tuned for more coverage of FARO’s 3D Documentation conference from SPAR.

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